To the Cloud!

Trying to digest this weeks announcements from Apple’s WWDC event seems about as easy as digesting a KFC Double Down sandwich. In other words, you’re better off command quitting your RSS reader for the remainder of the week.

Every single weblog and major Mac publication has been covering WWDC — each of course offering their own insights and opinions on what all of this means.

This is all well and good, and I’ve been reading many of them whilst trying to collect my own thoughts on what I really want to share.

2011 seems to be as great a year to be a Mac and iOS user as ever. In fact, thus far everything has been completely dominated by all the great stuff Apple has been working on and releasing to the public. Let’s face reality, while RIM’s Playbook and Motorola’s Xoom have been selling reasonably well, they just don’t pose strong enough competition to Apple (in their current states).

Apple’s cloud music “competition”

Amazon and Google have come out with their own cloud based music storage services, and from all the reviews I have read they look pretty lousy. If it’s not the limitation of being restricted to a crappy web app, it’s being subjected to an even worse desktop app — Adobe Air.

Amazon’s offering seemed tempting at the time, but I’m certainly glad I held out until the WWDC announcement. Ever since news broke wind of Apple’s gargantuan North Carolina data center, it was pretty evident that they had something big cooking. The dirty details have been unknown up until June 6, however I seriously doubt anyone actually thought it didn’t have at least something to do with “cloud” services.

OS X 10.7

Everything that I saw in this weeks keynote, as well as all the literature posted on, says that Lion should be a pretty major release. My take on this is that we’re seeing a major shift towards bringing great elements from iOS into OS X. I’ve seen some people complain that visually it doesn’t look all that different from Snow Leopard. I think what many are forgetting is that Apple doesn’t just make massive sweeping UI changes from one major point release to the next. Historically they have been very conservative in this area, however what I’ve seen seems like a very logical next step in UI and UX.

Surely this is just the beginning though for Apple. Lion simply seems like a stepping-stone — building blocks if you will towards a far more iOS-like desktop operating system. We’ve only scratched the surface here though, so it’s going to be interesting to see how things roll from here on out.

It’s something special

I would think that most were utterly gobsmacked by Steve Jobs’s announcement that iTunes Match would scan your existing music library and match whatever you have with a 256kbps non-DRM AAC file available on their servers. While this has come as a surprise to many, a part of me thinks how could it have been any other way?

So here’s the thing, Apple is and has always been about user experience. Their primary philosophy behind everything they do is how their product “feels” and behaves in the hands of the user. If Jony Ive and the software/engineering team don’t think that what they have is going to work 100% of the time, they hold off until someone can check off a list of requirements that meets Steve Job’s expectations.

Let’s take a step back and look at when Apple first announced the iTunes music store almost 10 years ago. During the lead up to the release of the iTunes music store, Apple had boldly flexed its muscles during negotiations with five of the major music labels — EMI, Universal, Warner, Sony Music Entertainment and BMG. By now most of you know how these conversations went. As with Apple’s initial discussions with record labels back in 2003, I don’t believe they were prepared to take no for an answer — when it came to finding a way to wrangle music labels into agreeing to their terms. It was either they figure out a way to allow users to have access to music in iTunes that they already ripped at a reasonable membership fee, or they would call it a day and go home.

Thus we have iTunes Match being introduced at just $24.99 — a seemingly impossible feat when you think about it. This has been on my mind all week in fact. How the hell did this happen? Seriously… $24.99? I’m not complaining though, it’s just that these kind of deals between two huge, and very stubborn companies, happens as rarely as a good Nicholas Cage movie.


Steve said it best on Monday — Mobile Me has not been their most shining moment. Yes it’s true that it’s been plagued with reliability issues since day one. To give them credit though, it did get much better over the past 12 months, with the exception of iDisk of course.

iDisk. Ah yes, the forgotten bastard step child that has been utterly disastrous since day one. I have lost count at the times I have tried to use iDisk with success, only to have it utterly fail me. It’s slower than a Morris Minor and about just as reliable too. Luckily MobileMe is being scrapped in favour of iCloud, which will offer everything we could ever hope for in a cloud based service designed by the brilliant people over at Apple.

Apple has invested a ridiculous some of money on iCloud, so they clearly are risking a lot on this. It remains to be seen of course if it will launch without a hitch, however they know exactly how many iOS users there are — not to mention how many existing MobileMe users there are. If we add up the number of existing MobileMe users, plus all of the new iOS users who don’t yet have an account, that’s a whole heck of a lot of people on a brand new service.

I’m going to go out on a limb and posit this — come this fall when iCloud launches, the service will be as reliable as we can hope and expect it to be. Let’s remember that it’s one thing to build a hugely expensive data center and back-end services without knowing how many people will use it — it’s another thing all together when you know you have an existing user base who already uses your device and platform (200 million and counting).

Switching Apple IDs?

In preparation for iCloud, I decided to make a bold move and move all of my email from my primary Google Apps account to MobileMe for now. Since I first started using my iPhone 3G back in 2008, my Apple ID which I’ve used to make all iTunes purchases has been tied to a Google email account. I wanted to change this and switch my Apple ID over to my account. Naturally I figured there would be no way to do this without losing the entire transaction history of all my past purchases. It would be useless if I couldn’t look up what I’ve purchased before and push those apps back to my iPhone.

I decided to get in touch with Apple and pose the question to them if it would be possible to make the Apple ID switch — without losing my purchase history. After having a brief conversation with them, it turns out this isn’t currently possible, however they are planning on it.

Supposedly come this fall with the launch of iCloud, you should be able to easily switch your Apple ID over to your account — all while keeping your purchase history intact.

In theory, this should all work. I just hope the Apple reps information was accurate.

Take away from the events

By now most of us have already been overwhelmed by the news coverage of this weeks WWDC announcement — I know my brain is fried. Now that I’ve had some time to ponder what this all means, I still don’t think any of us will truly realize how massive this is going to be for iOS as a platform.

Twelve months from now once I’ve had enough time to use iCloud, I’ll probably look back at this article and realize how not prepared I was for how awesome and absolutely essentially it would be to my my everyday workflow.

So here we are, June 2011 and Apple has now finally put a huge missing piece of the iOS puzzle together. Surely iCloud is not something that Apple portends to have been the first to discover — no they aren’t as arrogant as that. What they have done though is made a massive evolution to the iOS platform. Apple is just getting started here, so just imagine at all the wonderful things they have in store for the platform going into 2012. Once thing is for certain, it’s going to be a wild ride for Apple and anyone who attempts to compete with them.