Is Apple’s iCloud the future of the enterprise?

Apple’s iCloud.com beta website has just gone live, and we’re closer than ever to launch. The nebulous hosted data environment has obviously existed for several years, with SaaS and hosted systems well-established as tools to make workforces more mobile.

Certainly Google and Amazon have also been instrumental in taking the principle to a more mainstream consumer audience; however Apple’s investment and evident belief that the cloud is the future of computing surely marks its transformation into a mass market product which will see consumers seamlessly start to share their content online far more easily.

But what’s really interesting about the launch of iCloud is what it means for businesses. The moment Apple embraces a technological movement is usually the moment when it enters the wider public consciousness, and that means that in the next six months we’re going to see many more brands and businesses asking how they can make the best use of remotely-hosted services.

Smaller businesses that use Apple’s software, iOS and Mac, will get particular value from iCloud services in the form of simplified file management systems and distribution, allowing a cost effective storage solution.

If we get to the point where >90% of personal data is held in the cloud, the mobile devices needed to use the data will be substantially thinner, requiring less components and reducing the cost of making devices – which will make it difficult for rival manufacturers to undercut Apple with alternative tablets.

However, the current free storage limit, which has been set at 5GB for consumers, isn’t much at all and won’t provide the space needed for most people who are used to iPods with higher storage capacity – let alone businesses!

Critics are already highlighting the lack of bulk storage deals available as part of Apple’s pay-for-space strategy, and while it remains to be seen what kind of enterprise packages Apple will offer, this could well be a sticking point for businesses. As such, Apple would have a significant competitive advantage if it started to give the cloud space away now.

Rest assured that Google and Android will have no qualms about doing the same. The pay-for-space strategy might seem wise in the short term, but Apple could find it loses its market edge for business further down the line.

Using the cloud will allow Apple to keep up its game in terms of intensively controlling the user experience and businesses are likely to jump at the chance to follow that lead and deliver secure, customized, and consistent branded mobile experiences to their employees’ personal handsets.

However, by using the iCloud, rather than a privately-owned network, many businesses may have concerns about not having complete control over the service. There are also, of course, other security and data concerns that will need to be allayed; but Apple’s backing of the cloud will undoubtedly reassure CIOs that investing in cloud-based services for an increasingly mobile workforce will be the future of the enterprise.

Mark Watson is EVP & General Manager at Antenna, having stepped down as CEO of Volantis Systems following that company's acquisition by Antenna in January 2011. He oversees technology planning, development and delivery for the Volantis product lines, which now form part of Antenna's product portfolio. Prior to co-founding Volantis, Mark spent 15 years at IBM in a variety of positions, including research and development, sales and management. Mark holds an honors degree in politics from the University of Nottingham.

  • Mark – Interesting perspective on the benefits of the iCloud.  However, the beginning of your last sentence is my biggest concern about how the iCloud will co-exist in the enterprise.  The data and application synchronization has many potential risks in the context of governance and compliance.  You can see more of my thoughts on the matter here:  http://bit.ly/kY86IT