At his long anticipated appearance at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference, Steve Jobs confirmed what has been known for weeks. Apple is about to release a cloud-based music and data storage system. No longer will Apple users have to save their favorite songs on CDs or hard drives. The new iCloud will be able to sync their favorite tunes across multiple devices, sparing users the need for storage space. Jobs described it as a “post-PC world.”
Best of all, the new service will be free, at least for Apple users, who buy all their music from iTunes. Everyone else will pay $29.99 for the privilege of having Apple mirror their data.
Of course, Apple is not the first company to start using the cloud to store data. Google already does it with documents via Google Doc, and Amazon even does it with music. But, says Fast Company, what makes Apple’s iCloud a major innovation is “the comprehensiveness and elegance of the iCloud system that will unleash a tipping point.” Once Apple does it, everyone else will be expected to do it, too.
Since data will be stored on the cloud and not on some physical device, users will be able to share what they are doing across many different devices without having to transfer the data. For instance, users will be able to create a document on their laptop at home, and then edit it during their train commute home on their iPhone without having to transfer it from one device to the other. As Fast Company points out, the convenience of this will give Apple a decided advantage over its competitors, unless those competitors get to work to create clouds of their own.
There are, however, several features of the iCloud that need further clarification before it can be deemed a success. PC Magazine, for example, asks how it will impact the battery life of iPhones, which will now be used for “transferring large image, video and document files to and from Apple’s iCloud,” even when the device is not otherwise in use. They were unable to obtain an answer to their question from an Apple Store representative.
Financial analysts, on the other hand, are convinced that the announcement will further solidify Apple’s position, with CNN reporting an overall view that the new development will “sell more devices, convert more customers, and make more money for the company.” That’s good news for Apple, which is already positioning itself to overcome Exxon as the largest company in the world.