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Apple On The Cloud

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What do you do when the man who created the PC says the PC era is over? You listen, because the man is Steve Jobs. At the World Wide Developer's Conference in San Francisco this week, Jobs unveiled — among a few other things — the iCloud, Apple's new service ostensibly for those who do not want to use a PC. "We are going to demote the PC to just be a device," said Jobs. However, Apple also launched a series of cool features for the Mac. There is a clear difference between Google and Apple in this matter. Google is migrating on-PC applications to the cloud, while Apple is using the cloud to hold them together. Hari Pulakkat explains how Apple iCloud works.

What It Is
iCloud is a service to store and push media content wirelessly to all Apple devices. For example, if you take a picture with your iPhone when out on a holiday, you can come back home and view it on your iPad without any uploading. If you buy music from iTunes, you can listen to it on any Apple device that you own without any transfer. You can also download your purchases from the Apple store as many times as you want without paying more. You can import photos from your camera to your Mac and view it on any Apple device. iCloud also stores your contacts, calendar and email, and lets you view on any Apple device without having to sync them constantly.

What It Is Not
iCloud discourages the use of non-Apple devices. The seamless syncing facility will work with only Apple devices. You cannot store for free iTunes musics not bought from an Apple store. If you do, you have to pay a fee of $25 a year. A few aspects of iCloud have been left unsaid. It is not clear whether you can store other forms of files on iCloud. Does it store Microsoft Office or PDF documents? No word from Apple yet on this issue, and so we assume that it does not. iCloud does not let people share documents as many rival services such as Dropbox do. iCloud is definitely not a service directed at enterprises. Businesses would need to use different formats and not just what is used in Apple devices. iCloud does not let you store video.

What Makes It Different
Several firms offer bits of what iCloud does, but Apple has developed the service in its own unique way, giving amazing user experience. No uploading, no syncing, no learning necessary. Amazon, Google and Microsoft offer storage services, and so do startups such as Dropbox, and Box.net and 4shared. You can use them to store anything, but you need to pay if you use more than a few gigabytes. Storage is free in iCloud, but only if you buy from Apple store. You can pay and store iTunes music bought from elsewhere, but not other files. So, iCloud is less a storage service than a way of trying to tie Apple devices together seamlessly. It is also a way to sell more Apple devices, as it is now very easy to use them all together.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 20-06-2011)