Apple’s iCloud will succeed because it makes cloud computing effortless

The ‘cloud’ is the next big disrupter – but to a much greater extent than any of us in the industry have witnessed before.

Unfortunately we are also seeing a lot of hype around cloud currently – sometimes from people who know what they are talking about, but also from people unqualified to comment, or those simply jumping on a bandwagon. The problem with cloud computing is that it is so poorly understood, and so many people are at different stages along the road to grasping the concept.

In enterprises, and even among SMEs, SaaS is now quite well understood. Everybody can relate to and understand GMail and how it works for them. Companies like Salesforce.com, Google and more recently, Microsoft, are educating people about what SaaS is.

But, SaaS and cloud are not interchangeable terms. SaaS is a subset of cloud. The ‘Web’ is a subset of cloud. The ‘Internet’ is also a subset of cloud. The cloud is not about online storage.

The Apple iCloud announcement is very exciting. Not only is Apple the great marketer of the current age, it’s also a great technology company. Through Apple, ordinary people understand how things can be with well-designed, cloud-based applications.

There are two key attributes to Apple’s announcement that are noteworthy:

1. The intelligence resides in the Cloud

This is not about storage, which is what most people believe. This is about information management and delivery, and in some cases, analysis. Apple will illustrate in their own way how the desktop or mobile device should really just be used for information presentation – whether this is text, sound or video is immaterial. The real benefits of this will become apparent if they add functionality in the cloud.

Because the complexity is kept in the cloud, more and more new functions will be deliverable to these ‘presentation devices’ without having to change the device itself. The closest analogy is landline phone companies.

They kept complexity at the back-end and made the presentation device as simple as possible – a numeric keypad. When you wanted ‘call waiting’, you didn’t have to upgrade from one device to another, you just rang them and asked them to turn it on at the back-end.

2. Apple has 200m intelligent mobile devices out there

At the current stage of connectivity, it’s important to recognise that we are only ‘occasionally connected’ to the cloud. So, it’s important to have some local storage capability to hand. Apple recognises this and will undoubtedly exploit it. It may seem to contradict the purist view of keeping the intelligence in the back-end, but who’s complaining!

Current connectivity levels and speeds are a fact. If Apple can show the world the benefits of the cloud, even at this interim level, life will be good and the current purveyors of the ‘false’ cloud will be exposed by people’s new understanding and expectations.

John Appleby has 28 years experience in the European IT industry. John was the original founder of Salesforce.com's international business in 1999, and so has been working with Enterprise Cloud Computing for more than a decade now. John co-founded Saaspoint in 2005. Prior to this, he was Managing Director and main board member for Oracle EMEA, Country Manager for Sun Microsystems and led large systems specialist sales for IBM.