Could Apple iCloud Reshape Users’ Perceptions of the Cloud?
In the cloud world we often talk about virtualization and hosted solutions that provide a direct service. They're tangible in the sense that they're accessible and customizable. But is that the only kind of cloud the IT world should explore? Apple's iCloud offers a version of the cloud that acts more like an extension of existing services instead of something different all together.
When iCloud is doing its job, you don't see it. In fact, the best way to use iCloud is to ignore it altogether. Apple's goal with iCloud was to create a ubiquitous, connective tissue behind a user's iPhone, iPad and Mac, and never have to worry about configuring it, syncing it or backing up anything ever again. For the uninitiated, iCloud automatically backs up application data, photos and personal configuration settings for a user's iPhone. If you ever lose their iPhone, smash it, break it or drop it while filming a rock concert, you won't have to worry about losing your precious data. Once a new iPhone is in your possession, just connect to iCloud with your Apple ID and pick up where you left off after it syncs.
Yes, there are cloud solutions that perform similar functions, but we seem to be in a world where people are asking, "What can I do with the cloud?" instead of, "What can my cloud do for me?" In that sense, iCloud is a cloud that does exactly that — takes care of you. Various backup services also provide this behind-the-scenes approach to the cloud, but iCloud offers more than just backup. iCloud offers information synchronization through iBooks, iWork for iOS, bookmarks and more. Essentially, iCloud is a cloud that provides users with a consistent user experience no matter what (Apple) device they happen to be living on. This, to me, sounds more like the future of the cloud, especially as MDM takes off.
Although iCloud is in its infancy, I have a feeling the model will set the trend for future cloud services, especially since Google is doing similar things with Android and Google Sync. Eventually, VARs could be pitching an identity and information services package instead of a hosted storage offering. Managed service providers could become managed environment providers. If these kinds of cloud-type services are made available via APIs inside other OSes, like Microsoft is promising with Windows 8, the channel-cloud world we know today is destined to change drastically, especially if the big three OS companies Apple, Google and Microsoft continue to offer unified cloud solutions.
Where do you see the cloud in five to 10 years? Do you see it as a floating bubble of user information or silos of industries that are hosted for various needs? Chime in the comments and let us know.