Back on March 4, 2011, I posted Dear Apple: You’re not Post-PC until you cut the cord in response to Steve Jobs taking the stage and claiming that their iDevices were Post-PC while ignoring that those devices all need a computer to sync with to be used.
This past week, Steve Jobs took the stage again and announced iCloud, which many people are taking as the bold cord-cutting move that I called for. However, it’s not quite there yet for a variety of reasons (including that it hasn’t even launched yet and we have no idea how well it will function). The main problem with the entire iCloud proposal though is that, currently, Google and Android’s model is better positioned and will continue to grow and eventually dominate the market, simply because of the cost and the convenience over iCloud.
There is no streaming with iCloud
One of the biggest problems with the announcement of iCloud and Steve Jobs saying “It just works” is that he kept touting that you didn’t have to waste all that time uploading all your music files like with other services like Google Music and Amazon MP3. However, what he left out was that you do have to download all your music files to each new device you want that music on and while it may “just work” it will still take time. This is twice as annoying as having to upload the music in the first place. Sure, uploading my entire music library to Google Music took close to two days of constant connectivity and computer uptime, but once the files were uploaded I knew all the files were available from all my devices and that I could select any one of them and could hit play and instantly hear the music.
With both Google Music and Amazon’s Cloud Player, I simply click play and start listening to the music immediately. I don’t even have to download the actual files which would take up precious space on my MacBook Air’s internal hard drive, not to mention my phone’s 16GB of space. Even better, if I bought the music from Amazon MP3, I don’t even have to ever upload it. It’s just there on my Cloud Drive waiting to be played.
iCloud relies on downloading files and storing them locally on multiple devices, taking up more hard drive space, and not leveraging the true power of connectivity and the cloud. It’s a PC-centric mindset of storing files on local harddrives. It’s not a Post-PC model.
With the new iCloud-ish capabilities present in the current iteration of iOS 4 since last week’s announcement, there’s a new Purchased section in iTunes where you can select tracks / albums / artists to download. There is also a new Purchased section in the App Store. The problem is that there is no “Download all” or “Sync all” option. The workflow to pull down your data is a cumbersome process at this point.
This may very well change when iCloud launches fully (or even after launch), but in the current Developer version of iOS 5, this workflow is the same.
This is glaringly different than the experience on my Android phone, where if I reset the device, I can simply log in with my Google account, launch the Android Market and all the apps that I’ve previously purchased are there ready for me to click “Download all.” While those apps are downloading, I can launch Google Music and start streaming my entire music collection immediately from the cloud. As soon as Amazon MP3 downloads, I can go over to it and stream music directly from it. I can also download the Amazon Appstore and again have all my apps there available for download and installation. It’s fast. It’s more or less seamless. And it’s not taking up extra space on my harddrive.
5GBs of free backup storage on iCloud is a joke
And that’s plenty of room, because of the way iCloud stores your content. Your purchased music, apps, and books, as well as your Photo Stream, don’t count against your free storage. That leaves your mail, documents, Camera Roll, account information, settings, and other app data. And since those things don’t use as much space, you’ll find that 5GB goes a long way.
This may work nicely for very casual users, but simply one of my 2 Gmail accounts is well over 5GBs of data at this point. Moreover, Google stores up to 7GBs of my email on my Gmail account with no cost except the ads they flash before my eyes. Google stores 1GB of my documents for free.
Apple says they handle music files for free with iCloud, but they really only handle iTunes-purchased music files for free. Google Music will store up to 20,000 songs for free regardless of where I purchased them (as long as they are DRM free).
With the iPad and iPhone both starting at 16GBs of storage, backing either device up to the cloud and truly cutting the cord is not an entirely free option. It’s an option that will cost you extra storage with Apple. That’s not the same model as can be found on every Android device where all your data is backed up to Google’s cloud for free. If Google didn’t exist, 5GB free iCloud storage would be a great model. As it stands in the current marketplace, it’s somewhat of a joke.
Ten years of fail: No one has forgotten iTools become .Mac become MobileMe
Some people will still spend money for the storage that Apple is offering for iCloud, but less than would potentially, simply because we’ve been burned by 10 years of incompetent web services from Apple.
10 years ago, I eagerly jumped on Apple’s free iTools offering thinking it was great. After a year of using an @mac.com email address, iTools became .Mac and I suddenly found myself locked into paying Apple a yearly fee to keep that email address. .Mac was so horrible I quit it finally, cutting my losses with the email address (and yet all my purchases are still tied to my @mac.com email address which no longer functions, because Apple won’t allow me to change it). MobileMe rose to replace .Mac and it still sucked.
Steve Jobs and Apple have never delivered any reliable, viable, and useful web product at a competitive price. iCloud may have a silver-lining, but based on the iTools, .Mac, MobileMe history combined with a look at the rising Android market, it looks to me like storms are on the horizon for Apple unless they rethink their approach to the cloud.