We’ve been using so called “cloud storage” for quite some time now – sharing photos on flickr, documents on our iDisks and all manner of files in our dropboxes. We’ve also been able to surf and work online using our iDevices for years, but now we’re starting to see devices such as Google’s Chromebook which let you do regular computing tasks online without the need for a regular computer. Sounds good, but are we ready to move the desktop online, and does Apple have something similar up its sleeve for iCloud and next-generation iOS devices?
In a nutshell, no. Apart from the fact that we still need desktop computers for our power-computing moments and working with large media files, such a bold move would require a stable, reliable and fast internet connection. High-speed broadband is nothing of the sort – for file transfer it’s painfully slow compared to a physically wired local network connection. The best service I can get in my home is an “up to 8Mb” BT solution with no cable, fibre or even LLU equipment to speak of in my exchange, and whilst I do get connected at a reasonable speed, my data transfer rate is always at the mercy of ISP throttling and sharing bottlenecks.
Some homes in rural Scotland still struggle to get a 2Mb service whilst of course those living in the bigger towns and cities have the option and luxury of faster and more stable connections, but that’s an argument for another day. Not all ISP’s are created equal either, and whilst I’ve never had any real trouble with my service from PlusNet, it is curious in this modern digital telecommunications era, that something as unpredictable as the weather can still have an impact on the quality of your broadband service depending on where you live.
Which brings me nicely to iCloud. So what’s it going to be, and what happens if it rains? Well, nobody knows for sure – speculation and rumours suggest some form of iTunes vault for storing and sharing your own media, or enhanced sync and storage for mobile applications, or even a dropbox killer. It could be all of the above, or of course, it could just be the new name for a beefed-up, more advanced MobileMe service.
I’m not entirely convinced about the iTunes vault thing, but whatever iCloud turns out to be, with Apple already bringing iOS DNA to the desktop in OS X Lion later this year, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it being the missing ‘sync’ between our desktop and mobile Apple devices. Hang on a minute….
What if iCloud is the new iTunes? Gone are the days when iTunes only served up your .mp3 files and let you transfer them to your iPod – now we’ve got movies, TV shows, applications, games, books, PDFs and more. Add in all that application data, calendars, notes and contacts syncing and that’s starting to sound awfully like precisely the sort of stuff you might want to store in a cloud to me…. or more precisely, an iCloud.
Furthermore, from an end-user perspective there are a couple of ‘niggles’ with our mobile Apple devices – the first is the fact that you need iTunes in the first place to set up your shiny new iDevice and sync your data, and secondly, getting media on to it without iTunes isn’t exactly straightforward, nor is it that intuitive using iTunes.
That could be eradicated with a new iCloud software/service combination that lets you not only setup your new ‘it-finally-arrived’ white iPhone online, but also update it, stream media to it, easily load files onto it and take them off it too. What about purchasing then syncing and transferring music, videos, books and apps seamlessly between desktop and mobile devices without the use of a dock connector? Everything, everywhere, in sync.
Sounds plausible to me, and only begs one question – what happens when it rains?
Just make sure you have an iUmbrella of course 😉