Apple Hints at iCloud, iOS 5, OS X Lion Dominating WWDC 2011
It’s official: Steve Jobs will be giving the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2011 this month, and he’ll be unveiling new features in iOS 5, Mac OS X Lion and the nebulous iCloud. But where does iCloud fit into the channel, and what does this mean for the industry as a whole? It really all depends on just what exactly iCloud is.
Apple’s press release reveals nothing about what iCloud will be, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate before June 6. Currently, Apple’s cloud offerings are limited and not exactly feature-rich. Just ask anyone who uses MobileMe or their iDisk. They love it, but it leaves something to be desired, especially with third-party solutions such as DropBox and other web apps that perform many of the same functions of MobileMe without the price tag. Even Steve Jobs has reportedly been unhappy with MobileMe’s progress.
So iCloud could be a complete overhaul of MobileMe, maybe even doing away with the MobileMe name all together. What’s more, Apple has long been rumored to be doing some sort of music cloud service, and it’s been reported that Apple has brought music labels on board with it. It’s likely your iTunes library will be accessible everywhere you have a connection, even if the physical file doesn’t exist on your device.
Apple also may also be going after DropBox with a revamped iDisk offering. Mac OS X Lion has a feature called AirDrop, which lets you share files across Macs on your home network with zero configuration, and I’m assuming Apple will be doing something similar with iCloud.
iCloud may even include free e-mail, much like GMail, and provide a more robust cloud-based syncing than MobileMe or Google Sync does. MobileMe has a very iOS-styled interface, so iCloud could be your Mac in the sky — not just with your photos, but also your music and your favorite iOS Apps in sync with their iPhone or iPad versions.
Whatever iCloud is, I would bet money that integration with it will exist across all of Apple’s platforms, from iOS to the Mac. Apple’s efforts for a ubiquitous user interface were made clear when iOS adopted the OS X Leopard-style dock in iOS 4.0, and more recently, with Lion’s iOS themed LaunchPad and touch-based controls. iCloud could unite all of these platforms under a common cloud, so to speak, making sure you’re never without your data as long as you’re using an Apple product.
The way in which iCloud would affect the channel and the industry are nearly identical: If Apple iCloud is a hit, it’ll inevitably create ripples across the industry. If Apple’s iCloud offers something in the way of free SaaS — and it’s something incredibly robust — other companies are going to have to compete with ‘free.’ If Apple creates something that’s useful, and it catches on, other companies will likely move to adopt it. If Apple creates something new, the channel may end up needing to support it (think: the iPad).
The whole effect is from increasing acceptance of consumerization and democratization of IT. And if it’s cloud-based, with little or no configuration needed, how will IT admins deal with user requests? Will employees want access to their iCloud from their work computers when iCloud can help employees be more productive? Can iCloud sync with Exchange? Will employees use iCloud to give presentations and share documents? iCloud could very well be “Web 3.0” with similar user demands that came from business-use cases of social networking sites.
But more importantly, what do you think? There’s less than a week until Steve Jobs pulls back the shroud, so speculate away.