iCloud hurdles an impossibly low bar

It’s been two weeks and three days since Steve Jobs took a break from designing Apple’s new mothership campus to almost unleash iCloud upon the world. I say "almost" because the new magic collection of binary water vapor doesn’t actually get seeded until Apple spits out iOS 5 some time this fall—along with, hopefully, an A5-powered iPhone. Until then, you can sample one sorta-new feature if your iPhone or iPad sports iOS 4.3. That’s right: you can use the iTunes Store’s "Purchased" tab to download songs that you bought on another device but haven’t bothered syncing to the device you’re currently using yet. Or something. Yes, it works—I just grabbed Steve Martin’s King Tut from the ether—but it’s not exactly exciting. Or even mildly neat.

Granted, this current feature tease will work much better in The Future by automatically pushing content to your assorted devices and Macs. Okay, that’s nifty. But on the whole, iCloud feels a bit more cirrus than cumulonimbus to me. Here’s why:

Automagical backups — Members of the iCloud collective will enjoy automatic backup of certain things. But not all things. Daily, wireless backups of your iOS devices? Check. Any backup whatsoever of the stuff on your Mac that’s probably more valuable than your high score on Daredevil Dave? So yeah, great for not having to worry about syncing my phone to my computer just to backup, but not exactly a replacement for my CrashPlan account. Which is actually okay since I’m paid up for two years.

Documents you probably don’t use offline let alone in the cloud — Create a doc in Pages, Numbers or Keynote and that file will be distributed via the Cloud to your other devices. That’d be pretty sweet if I actually used Pages or Numbers. Or wanted to edit a spreadsheet on my 3GS. Maybe that’s why Apple’s prepping a Retina display for the next iPad—cells, cells, cells!

Photos in the stream — Okay, Apple didn’t pay homage to Kenny and Dolly with this feature; they just call it Photo Stream. Basically, snap a pic on your iOS device and the photo gets (you guessed it) shot up into the iCloud and disseminated amongst your devices. Your iPhad will keep up to the latest 1,000 shots, while your iPhoto library keeps them forever. Because you will forget to go back and delete those snaps from your "Mardi Gras in Grandview" party. Sad.

iTunes-approved piracy — Hey, remember all those CDs you borrowed from your ex (no, the really, really crazy one) and accidentally ripped into your iTunes library back in 2003? Well now, for the low, low price of $25 (per year, sucka), Crazy Uncle Woz will basically give you all those tracks in sweet, 256Kbps, AAC form. Assuming he can find them in the iTunes library of over 18 million songs. Then they can join all the tracks you really did buy from Apple in atmosphere. If Apple doesn’t have your particular collection of washtub funk, you can simply upload those files yourself. Then you can stream them to all your devices! Oh, wait. No you can’t. You can access them from your devices. Hmm. Maybe I’ll stick with Audiogalaxy.

It’s not MobileMe — Technically, this isn’t a feature except that it is. I’ve used MobileMe for 3.5 years. Which, not coincidentally, is how long my oldest kids have been alive. MobileMe was never a very good thing, but it made certain child/grandparent-related activities easy for me, so I plunked down my money every April (though never, ever the $99 requested by Apple) for another year of unused syncing. Apparently, many of the people who used syncing didn’t really even use syncing due to something nerds call flakiness. iCloud will theoretically remedy these issues and most assuredly kill off MobileMe as of June 2012. And for those of you who need a map between references, MobileMe is the low bar mentioned in the title.

And that’s kind of it. If the last two weeks are any indication, most folks are more excited about iOS 5 and Lion, myself included. I can see iCloud developing into something exceedingly useful, but the announced features for 1.0 sure did feel anticlimactic.

Not unlike this final sentence.

Later,

Fox

Comments closed
    • Starfalcon
    • 8 years ago

    Well my only issue with this cloud fad, is what happens when they lose your data. You really have no control over what they do with your data, along with no recourse if they lose it. Would you just give your data to some guy down the street who promised to keep it for you? Probably not, but you have no idea who apple and all these other companies are farming their data storage out to. It could end up in some server farm in china, with all sorts of hackers sifting all your data for things to sell…once it is in the cloud, you have no idea where it ends up.

      • WillBach
      • 8 years ago

      You raise some valid concerns, except that you refer to the cloud as a “fad”. Annoying buzzword maybe, but fad? No.

      You can still use the cloud for backup and transmission if you encrypt pre-transport.

    • WillBach
    • 8 years ago

    Jason Fox, if you haven’t used the iWork.com beta then you are in a very poor position to understand iCloud. Try iWork, Pages and Keynote in particular.

    Seriously. If it doesn’t click give it a day. Try repositioning something. Use the Inspector window. Get comfortable.

    I don’t want your feelings to be hurt, but the result of my post may be that you fly into an incoherent rage. That’s okay. It’s happened to a few people that I’ve ever shown Pages or Keynote to. They rage and they pant and they tear their hair and they ask, “why didn’t you show me this sooner?”

    Once you find the inspector window in Pages, Keynote, or Numbers, you wonder why you ever put up with Word. And it will happen again when you Google “How do I do X in [Pages | Keynote | Numbers]” and find out that there’s a video tutorial. And again when you email Apple support and that actually email you back with a well-though answer and instructions.

    Seriously. Apple is going after Google Docs, Microsoft Office 365, Lotus Notes, and whatever Oracle think’s is sitting on with a product that’s fast, web-accessible, doesn’t have ads, works with Word and costs $30.

    • ddarden
    • 8 years ago
      • mcnabney
      • 8 years ago

      Photostream is just Kin for Apple.

      • sweatshopking
      • 8 years ago

      you’re a wanker. Jason is legit as balls.

    • floodo1
    • 8 years ago

    Stop being a plain old hater. I rocked MobileMe so hard it was ridiculous. Used it to keep all of my schoolwork synced between devices, used it tons of times to find my iPhone, used it to connect to my Mac Mini while I was at school, etc.

    Just because you don’t use iWork doesn’t mean that other people don’t and wouldn’t REALLY like havng their documents available on their devices, automatically.

    Like I always say, if you’re not the target demographic for a particular apple product, then that product will probably be lame for you. But that CERTAINLY doesn’t mean it’s lame alltogether.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 years ago

      MobileMe was a great idea, really cool, that during the 60-day trial I used, I think it was down more than it was up. Or certainly seemed that way.

    • indeego
    • 8 years ago

    Bummer about mobile caps though. That will certainly put a downer on cloud payback for a while.

      • Corrado
      • 8 years ago

      My guess is that this is why there is no streaming involved. People would go over their cap and then complain that they weren’t warned.

    • Hrunga Zmuda
    • 8 years ago

    I actually found Mobile.me to be quite useful from time to time. Certainly not what we hoped it to be. (And me too, certainly not for $99.) But I see iCloud as being quite useful.

    I do not plan to get MS Office for my computer at home, so I find iWork to be quite handy when I need something less powerful than InDesign to do a bit of word processing. Also, I find Numbers less buggy than Excel for copy/past of metadata from our half million dollar DAM at work into a spreadsheet (where I then embed that metadata into photos using Photoshop, Applescript and Filemaker Pro). Excel screws up the paste. Since iCloud works well with Pages and Numbers, I think that will be quite handy to keep my stuff up to date on my H-less iPad, my iPhone and Mac Pro.

    Nobody knows except a chosen few, how iCloud is going to pan out. But it’s clear there’s more to it immediately than what we’re seeing so far. There will be webmail. Otherwise, why would Apple include Safari in the recover partition of Lion? They even point out it’s there to check your mail. So I’m betting a year from now not only will video editors be happy with Final Cut Pro X, but Mac users will actually like iCloud. And Zune will still be around.

    One of those three is not true.

      • Jason_Fox
      • 8 years ago

      I certainly expect iCloud to develop into something cool — it has great potential. I just think Apple oversold it a bit for the 1.0. I’m anxious to try the new FCP, but will have to wait until I get a new machine. My Hackintosh is stuck on 10.6.4 and, therefore, can’t use the Mac App Store. Also, I’m in the middle of an edit and wouldn’t switch right now anyway.

        • dpaus
        • 8 years ago

        [quote<]I just think Apple oversold it a bit[/quote<] Well, we never saw [i<]that[/i<] coming!

    • sweatshopking
    • 8 years ago

    i’ve had wireless sync for years from the zune brand. Windows Live mesh does most of the backup i’ve needed, and with mango, will allow remote access to my skydrive account. I’m not really sure what the advantages of icloud are, besides adding another retarded “i” product to the lineup. seriously, it might have been cute at first, but this I thing is getting to be a joke.

      • Corrado
      • 8 years ago

      Meh, i is their brand. Was it cute when BMW put M in front of their performance vehicles and now its just getting to be a joke? I mean, they’ve been making M1, M3, M5 and M6’s for 25 years now, c’mon! Come up with something new! Jeez, why does Ford put F- in front of all of their truck models? Come up with something new, Ford! Its getting to be a joke! How about Asus? They put Eee in front of things and then all of a sudden its cool? Eee Pad, Eee PC, Eee Top, Eee Tard.

      But yeah, i is their brand. They brand their things with it.

        • sweatshopking
        • 8 years ago

        I’m not sure i agree it’s the same thing. you clarify the difference in your post. ” BMW put M in front of their performance vehicles”. it separates and clarifies the product lineup. The “i” thing does no such thing, nor is apple the only one using the “i” branding.

        on the asus side, i would say it’s getting annoying.

          • Hrunga Zmuda
          • 8 years ago

          Actually, Apple has successfully stopped others form using i in front of words. Rightly or wrongly, it is their branding. From the beginning with the iMac, the point was it is Internet-oriented. All this stuff still has an orientation to the Internet, so it’s more than being cute.

          And we all know about marketing wonks and their branding fetishes.

          The really egregious branding horror in my esitmation comes from the dopes that the San Diego Zoo employs. Insisting that every mention of the Zoo include the phrase “World Famous” was classically transparent – and stupid. Now they’re doing it with their Wild Animal Park. Who can figure out marketing people once they sink their teeth into a bad idea? Pit bulls around the world wish they could sink their teeth in so securely.

            • sweatshopking
            • 8 years ago

            idk. there are a ton of “i” products available here. TONS. from “iSecurity” to “iListen” baby monitors. maybe in the US they’re tougher, but here in canada, every dollar store or department store is full of “i”

          • travbrad
          • 8 years ago

          Plus an M3/M5/etc is essentially the same car as it has always been. Yes technology has progressed, but the basic design philosophy behind the car is the same. Apple just slaps an i on the front of every product, no matter what it is.

          If BMW came out with motorcycles with the “M” name, then Corrado’s analogy might work, but they don’t. BMW’s motorcycles have a different name because they are different products. Even many of BMW’s cars don’t use the “M” because the M is meant to represent only the highest performance cars.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 8 years ago
            • Corrado
            • 8 years ago

            OK, how about the letter A for an Audi then? A1/2/3/4/5/6/8? Is that old yet?

            • nexxcat
            • 8 years ago

            You really don’t do much research, do you? I was at an Audi dealership the other day, and test drove a S4, which is an A4 on steroids. They had a very cute TT on display, and my friend plinked down a deposit on the TT-RS. I asked the salesman about the RS-4, which was an S4 on steroids. I think Audi has as easy-to-understand car lineup as any; far better than Ford’s or Chevy’s at first glance.

            • Corrado
            • 8 years ago

            I know exactly how Audi’s line up works. I build road racing Audi’s as a hobby.

        • dmjifn
        • 8 years ago

        I’m not a big fan of Asus (outside motherboards), but I did pick up an Eee Tard and it is dashiz.

        • calvindog717
        • 8 years ago

        Do the CEOs of BMW, Asus, or Ford brag and clarify the importance of the M- or F- or EEE- whenever they release a new car/product? The difference is, they aren’t using the prefix as a promotional buzzword, just to differentiate models.

        …although the concept of an “i-tard” is quite amusing

          • Corrado
          • 8 years ago

          Actually, yeah, BMW DOES brag and clarify the importance of the M. And Ford DOES brag about the importance of the F-150 when they redesign it.

          And how is the letter ‘i’ a buzzword? Apple STARTED the i being associated with a computer and technology. iMac. And yes, they use the i to differentiate between consumer and pro products. iMac vs Mac Pro, iMovie vs Final Cut Pro and so on. The consumer line of products (save for the MacBook) are all iProducts.

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