Apple’s iCloud isn’t as exciting as it seems

The Apple iCloud. It’s not as exciting as it sounds. But that said, you’ve got to take your hat off to Apple for doing what everybody else has so far failed to achieve.

What we have with iCloud is more or less a Me.com rebadge (but with 5GB of free storage). There is no ground-breaking technology or revolutionary ideas, but what Apple has cleverly managed to do, is bring together the technologies of Dropbox, Flickr, Evernote and Picasa under one global canopy.

In typical Apple fashion, pre-existing technology is being taken, and made better. And it will be better – that goes without saying. The finished iCloud will undoubtedly be highly polished, and integrate seamlessly with Apple hardware.

So from a technology point of view, iCloud isn’t exciting at all. Not unless you’re an avid Apple fan. But what’s crucial for Apple is that they’ve done it first. Not even Microsoft has yet attempted to bring together their versions of the same technology with Zune, Hotmail and Xbox LIVE all functioning separately.

Windows Mobile 7 is set up to work with Office 365, but this is a business-orientated feature and hardly competition for Apple iCloud.

What Apple has achieved, is a way to retain customers with a single account method for users to store music, photos, documents and contacts and access them all under the same ID from their iPads and iPhones. The 5GB of free storage will soon be filled, and there will be charges at that point with pricing still to be finalised.

But will users pay it? Of course they will. Will iCloud be a big hit? Undoubtedly. And one thing that is for sure – there will be one heck of a lot of Apple fans out there waiting to try iCloud out this Autumn.

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In 2001 Graham Fern founded Axon IT along with business partner Mike Agutter, with a limited budget and zero investment. Within just a few months the company had won major accounts including Tarmac and British Gypsum, and in the 9 years since, the business has grown successfully to boast a turnover of more than £800,000 and 12 employees.

  • Apple has revealed the pricing for additional storage to the iCloud.

    10GB $20/year (15GB total iCloud storage), 20GB $40/year (25GB total iCloud storage), 50GB $100/year (55GB total iCloud storage)

  • Sblock

    One of the main things most people are overlooking is the additional fees it’s going to cost them to be uploading and downloading all that data from the cloud constantly.  Those ISP’s aren’t going to do it for nothing.  Rest assured, people who continually access the cloud via their iPhones, iPads, and various devices are going to have to pay monthly Data fees in addition to whatever they’re paying Apple for cloud services.  And depending on how much data they download, it could get expensive.  Maybe you’re someone who can afford to pay and extra $100 per month for cloud services and data fees.  But I’m not one of those people.  I prefer to stick to the old way and just keep all my data stored on my computer rather than in some cloud.  I can view that data as much as I want and it doesn’t cost me a thing…

    • Great point Sblock. You’re absolutely right with creeping cloud costs. I recently had to cut back on some of my subscriptions because the costs just weren’t justifiable. A tip I have for people is not to get carried away with the excitement of the cloud. Sure there are some awesome services (my current favourite is BlinkSale), but often you’ll find the old ways are the best ways – or at least the cheapest ; )

    • Obsidian71

      Sblock only data that has changed will be sent up to iCloud.  So if I modify a 40MB file yet the actually data changed is only 5MB I only send that 5MB up into the cloud.  In many cases I won’t even have to send that 5MB across a WAN because the destination computing device may be on my LAN.  iCloud takes the shortest route possible.  Hope this helps

      • SBlock

        Do you really think that most people are going to be using iCloud for only storing simple documents?  I think not.  Rest assured, the vast majority of people who will be using iCloud (and the angle that Apple will be strongly pushing) will be those who upload their entire music collections and personal movie files and other such data files to the iCloud, and then can stream those files to any device they have wherever they are. Such people are going to run up HUGE data bills each month, on top of the measly $30 a month Apple charges them for Cloud services.  Understand, it doesn’t take but a few minutes of streaming video to stream over a gigabite of data.  And consider this, Apple is making preparations for people to be able to store from 20GB to 50GB of data directly in the iCloud.  And people are going to want to access that data, right?  So you do the math?…

        • Obsidian71

          Sblock any music content that was purchase on iTunes doesn’t factor into the iCloud storage amount and if content was purchased outside of the store yet someone wants to leverage the benefits of iCloud iTunes Match will allows this content to be kept in sync across devices for $25 a year.  iCloud is not a streaming service it’s purpose and function is to synchronize data across Macs, PC and iOS 5 based mobile devices.  Apple charges nothing for the first 5GB of iCloud…I don’t know where you are getting $30 a month from. 

          Let me summarize.  iCloud is not a video or audio streaming service.  There are other tools to do that.  iCloud is for backing up content from iOS devices and synchronizing data across the devices.  Music can be stored but if it’s from iTunes or someone elects to utilize iTunes Match that music does not count against the storage total. Only those on severely metered broadband service risk the potential of expensive bills but with delta changes it’s harder to move a lot of content across because only changed data is sent. 

          • SBlock

            First, I’m not really talking about the cost of iCloud services.  Most people can afford that.  And for the record, it has been stated down below that Apple will charge $20/year for 10GB (15GB total iCloud storage), $40/year for 20GB (25GB total iCloud Storage), etc.  My whole complaint and point is that most people will incur charges far beyond what Apple intends to charge each month, and to assume that what Apples intends to charge is only what it will cost you for iCloud services – is misleading.  I even stated specifically that the reason was because most people are NOT factoring in the cost of an ISP data plan.  So what part of that did you not understand?…

            It is a well known fact that ISP data plans are NOT cheap.  If you have an iPhone, iPad or anything else that work over a cellular network for accessing data, you’re going to need a “data plan”.  And this his nothing at all to do with your home wi-fi broadband network.  For example, Verizon currently offers a 2GB monthly data plan for about $30 a month.  (I personally have a 3GB monthly data plan, and I know how easy it is to blow through it).  And the cost goes up from there.  And that is only for a data plan, and is on top of any cellular plan you may also need, and on top of any iCloud services you will also have to pay for.  In the grand scheme of things, a paltry 2GB per month data plan is nothing.  You can blow through that extremely easily.  For example, if an average person has just 20GB of data stored in iCloud to sync with, I find it difficult to believe that in a typical month, they won’t blow through 2GB of data even for what you call “synchronization.”  And for those who do, it will start to get expensive after that.

            I see you like to sugarcoat things rather than give people the real numbers and tell them the truth.  You like to stress “synchronization”, but the reality is, if a person has a 6MB pdf file stored in the iCloud they need to look at (and lets assume that document is not already on their computer anywhere).  To view that document, they will have to stream and download that whole 6MB file to that device.   And it will be impossible for them to view the whole document without downloading it.  That is a fact.  And that applies to any file that is not already on their computer.  So every file you access in the iCloud (each and every one), it will subtract from your monthly ISP data limit.  Once that limit has been exceeded, it will get expensive.

            Do you really think Apple would be literally spending “billion” of dollars and building huge data centers to store people files in some cloud if they figured that people would have no need to actually access those files once stored?  But that people would simply upload all their files and then those files would just sit there, un-accessed and unused?  If that was the case, then things could remain as they are, and they’re be no need for iCloud at all.  Do not kid yourself.  Apple’s plans and whole business model is based around people heavily accessing those files and doing so on a regular basis.  And for anyone who do – when you factor in ISP data rates – it’s going to get expensive.  Trust me on that fact….

  • Obsidian71

    Graham I’m gonna have to respectfully disagree with you here.   Sadly all the juicy information isn’t being discussed because it is under NDA.  Judging from what’s available at developer.apple.com regarding iCloud we see some substantial differentiation from mobileme.   One is that the logic of sync is moved to the cloud.  This means where Mobileme sent data up to a server and then back to your devices.  iCloud is smart enough to send the data from device to device in the shortest manner possible.  If the devices are on the same LAN then the transfer of data is done via the LAN but the Cloud ALWAYS stores the metadata.  It is here in this cloud that conflict resolution happens.  Far different from Mobile me. 

    Secondly MobileMe was a pain for developers to code for so many just skipped it.  iCloud is built right into standard Cocoa API meaning the developer doesn’t have to do much.  The API handles locking the data so only one app is writing, it handles chunking the app into bits and then sending only changed portions (Delta changes) and it handles co-ordinating all of this data so that a user never has to make a decision to keep old/new data.  The decision is made by the Cloud. 

    MobileMe didn’t handle Delta data nor did it work with Key Value data (really small bits of info like game levels, stock quotes bookmarks for a book).  It was pretty much a one trick pony.  iCloud handles delta changes for documents, key value data and packages.  So regardless of how your app stores or maintains data iCloud has an option that will work. 

    Cheers