NEWS ANALYSIS: Apple's iCloud will result in the same kind of rush to build third-party mobile services that the industry saw when the company launched its App Store for the iPhone.
Apple launched its iPhone 4S and the new iOS 5 on Oct. 4, the company also
detailed its effort to bring more content to the cloud. Apple
iCloud is a combination
of free cloud-based services and a set of APIs
that allow third-party developers to take advantage of storing and processing
information in a virtual cloud-computing environment rather than just on a
physical device such as the iPhone or iPad.
initial set of free iCloud
provided by Apple includes iTunes in the Cloud, iTunes Match,
Photo Stream, Documents in the Cloud, iCloud Backup, Application
Synchronization and Newstand.
is important to developers because it gives them a platform and set of APIs
from which they can easily develop cloud-based mobile services. This is Apple's
first foray into cloud-based services
. The company built a data center in
North Carolina that cost more than $1 billion to support this new apps development
thus includes both hardware (data center servers and networks) and software
(prebuilt apps and APIs) that will enable tens of thousands of developers to
develop new apps that provide cloud-based mobile services to users.
also includes enterprise IT developers who can leverage cloud-based computing
within local mobile apps in iOS devices such as the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
is an extension of the App Store in that the developer will still build a local
iOS application. However, the difference is that the developer will be able to
build cloud-based services within the app using the iCloud APIs. Users have
demonstrated through downloading billions of apps that local apps give a better
user experience than a Web app. This is due to better control and layout of the
screen, faster performance with little or no latency, and screen gestures.
be sure, any current iPhone or iPad app can be built to access remote
information. The difference with iCloud is the APIs that will make it easier
for enterprise IT professionals (as well as third-party developers) to build
cloud-based apps. This is not trivial. Building access to cloud-based services
can often be the most difficult and time-consuming part of building an iOS application.
With iOS 5, developers can integrate cloud-based services easier than before.
could have focused on only providing the prebuilt iCloud apps in iOS 5. That's
what it did when the iPhone was originally released in 2007. The company
included only its own apps and didn't provide any APIs or the App Store that
would allow developers to build third-party applications for iOS devices.
a year later, Apple finally opened up the App Store and issued a number of APIs
to enable third parties to build applications for iOS devices. The results have
been astounding as developers produced more than 500,000 applications and Apple
customers have performed 10 billion downloads.
the launch of iCloud, Apple could have focused simply on its own prebuilt apps,
but Apple realized that more was to be gained if the company made it easier for
developers by giving them APIs that would enable them to integrate cloud-based
services. It's clear that we'll now see more cloud-based mobile services created
either by developers adding more services to existing apps or creating entirely
new apps that enable mobile services as the app's primary focus.