Jul. 8th, 2011

iCloud

Jul. 8th, 2011 12:39 pm
Finally got bored enough to watch/listen-to the WWDC keynote from last month yesterday.

There's been lots of press coverage of iTunes Match and the music portion of the iCloud offering, but just in case you've been living under a rock for the past month: music purchased from iTunes will get the same treatment as iOS apps. Buy once, download to any (supported) device as many times as you need to.

iTumes Match is the bit which meant they needed to go negotiate new license terms with the record labels. The deal is that you pay Apple $25/year (if the service is available in your area) and iTunes will check through your library and upload the metadata to iCloud. Any song that matches what they already have in the iTunes catalogue becomes available to you on all your (supported) devices, whether you bought it from iTunes or not. Songs that aren't available from iTunes get uploaded to iCloud.

As a quick aside: Google and Amazon arguably don't need (new) licenses to provide their services, as they're essentially just providing online storage for whatever bytes you care to throw at them. They may well be doing something funky with block-level de-duplication on their end, but it's not the same as what Apple is doing.

The more interesting -- to my mind -- features of iCloud are the bits that aren't getting much press so far. The first is called "Photo Stream", and the deal is that when you take a photo with your iPhone or import a photo into iPhoto on your Mac, it's automatically uploaded to the cloud and synced back down to your other registered devices. Computers (Mac and Windows) keep everything, iOS devices keep the last 1000 photos, and the cloud keeps a rolling 30-day window. To hang on to a specific photo from the photo stream you just move it to an on-device album.

Now, if you've gone all-Apple and are happy taking photos with your iPhone -- which if the Flickr stats Jobs presented are accurate is true for a lot of people -- then this looks like a fantastic deal. No more worrying about backing up your photos or having to copy them around the place to display or edit on other devices. The storage used for this isn't included in the per-user quota.

The other neat-o whizzy feature is document/data storage and sync. The demo case for this is Pages on iOS: make a change to a Pages document on your iPad, the change is automatically pushed to the cloud and synced back to your other registered devices. Open the document on your iPhone (for example) and you go right back to where you were last time you were editing.

They're providing API support for both documents and key/value pairs, so it'll be interesting to see what developers come up with. It seems kind of obvious that almost anything which stores data locally could benefit from this.

So long as you're happy with Apple having access to your data, of course...

This is unlikely to get corporate use, but it does look pretty nifty for individuals and small businesses who don't have any regulatory issues to deal with.

How it handles conflicts and devices going offline remains to be seen. An obvious case would be that you make some edits to a document while you're out of cell coverage. Presumably it queues the uploads for later, but what happens if (say) you turn the phone off because the battery is running low, then make some edits on your iPad before the iPhone has had a chance to push its changes?

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