The Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) is not something I annually look in anticipation towards - not being an iOS developer or a Mac user.
This time was different; not because a visibly ailing Steve Jobs presented a keynote but because of the content and focus
- Another version of Mac OSX Lion was displayed - the move towards a unified look and feel and more tips from iOS reared their head including multi-touch gestures
- iOS 5 - not just another iOS update but a semi-revamp of the platform to give it features that were available through either disparate applications or functionality available on competitor platforms (e.g. notifications)
- iCloud - the real shift and insight into Apple's evolving business strategy to take on Amazon and Google and where my interest was really drawn.
The full keynote can be viewed at: http://events.apple.com.edgesuite.net/11piubpwiqubf06/event/.
I'll let Mr Jobs himself explain iCloud in the keynote rather than reiterate the details. Fundamentally, universal sync across iOS devices and cross compatibility of applications (this includes Mac OSX by the way and in the case of photos and document sharing, windows PCs as well).
Of course, there are plenty of cloud sync services but by 'seamlessly' integrating into the iOS devices and offering it for FREE, Apple is, in my view, looking at increasing its install base. More of your data will now reside within Apple's cloud with them 'managing' your file storage for you,
Where I see the threat to Google particularly, is the real integration with the devices and the 'it just works' capability. Google Docs may offer some of that functionality but not in a real offline mode - the prerequisite for the web is removed and for a lot of users, I believe, the stigma of having your data in a common cloud. Additionally, since the data is manipulated through the applications themselves, there is a richer usability compared to Google Docs.
I'm sure this is just the tip of the iceberg - I see the real killer application being in sharing of data - particularly photos and potentially videos using the 'Photostream' service, where data is viewed in the cloud rather than stored on the physical device. I'm sure there are stats but in my mind the majority of online usage, certainly on social networking sites, is sharing of photos - rather than upload photos to Flickr or Facebook, if Apple now allows me to give restricted and potentially timed access to albums to my Friends and Family directly from an iOS device (without needing to upload and take the effort) I can't think of many users who would say no. It may not be around the corner, but I'd be surprised if it isn't on the horizon.
iCloud then becomes your 'working' directory in the sky....
This might not eventuate as a service, but I would be surprised if it didn't... I wonder if this is patentable!