Cloud Computing: Apple Challenging Google, Amazon.com in Cloud-Services Business
Apple Hiring Cloud Whiz
Apple Insider noted Apple had posted this job listing for a "Cloud Systems Software Engineer," who would join a small team building "the future of cloud services at Apple." Oops. This is perhaps not the best way to launch a sneak attack against serious rivals in the cloud-services business. Apple would later replace the cloud term with "Web services." Same difference really. Only the job listing would be less likely to pop up for keyword searches on Google for Apple and Cloud.
Apple Cloud Services
What might these "cloud services" consist of? Apple also is reportedly looking to overhaul its MobileMe online storage service. The service lets users store files and synchronize their calendars and contacts among computers and other devices for $99 a year. However, Apple may make MobileMe a free digital locker for photos, music and videos, allowing users to shuttle the content to iPhones and iPads.
Amazon Cloud Drive
An Apple MobileMe cloud expansion would clash with Amazon.com's new Cloud Drive, which lets users store digital music, video, documents and photos. Amazon.com offers 5GB of free storage, as well as paid plans starting at 20GB of storage for $20 a year.
Google Apps, Et Al
Google exists almost entirely in the cloud, so just about anything Apple or Amazon do in the cloud competes with Google. The email, contact and calendaring sync, file and photo storage in MobileMe would compete with Google Web services such as the Google Apps suite. MobileMe's video would rival YouTube, the king of user-generated video.
To fuel MobileMe, Apple would Webify its iTunes music store stalwart, blending it with its Ping social-networking service. Amazon's Cloud Drive covers musicalbeit not without some serious divisiveness between Amazon and record labels. Like Apple, Google doesn't have a cloud music story ... yet. The latest word is Google is having a heck of a time coming to reasonable terms with labels over music deals. These are the same labels that are currently giving grief to Amazon for opening a cloud service to distribute their music sans permission. This could get messy.
If you've followed us so far, you probably think Google has these old cloud products and is bringing nothing new to the table in the cloud-computing wars. This couldn't be further from the truth. We just mentioned the Google Music play. Also, Google in December launched Google eBooks, which lets users browse and buy books it has scanned online. This service challenges Amazon.com's popular Kindle and Apple's growing iBookstore. Users may port Google eBooks to their iPhone or Android handsets and tablets.
Amazon Instant Prime
We already mentioned Google as the king in online video, but remember that's user-generated content. YouTube has told eWEEK it wants to delve into longer form content to increase the average time a user spends on YouTube each day from 15 minutes to 5 hoursreally as a substitute for cable TV services. Google TV is one way to leverage this. While Google has moved most aggressively in Web TV the last year or so, Amazon has upped the ante for its Amazon Video-on-demand cloud-based video service by offering Amazon Instant Video for PrimePass customers who pay $79 a year for free shipping. This entitles users to view 5,000 videos free, something Netflix can't be happy about. Not to be outdone, Apple upgraded its Apple TV streaming service last fall and is reportedly building a more serious, comprehensive TV-based product with a Web browser. No doubt this would incorporate Mobile Me, Apple's App Store and other Web-based services.
Amazon Appstore for Android
In case you haven't seen enough ways Amazon.com is newly getting under Google and Apple's skins in the cloud, the Wal-Mart of the Web built an application store for Android applications. That's rightto rival the Android Market, which is trying to compete with the Apple App Store. The Amazon Appstore lets users test any of the 4,000-plus applications they're interested in on a simulated Android phone. Customers access the application simulation through their computer using a mouse.
Apple Data Center
We already mentioned Apple hiring the so-called cloud computing whiz, but Apple is also buildinga data center in Maiden, N.C. Apple COO Tim Cook said at the company's shareholders meeting in February the facility is geared to support Apple's MobileMe cloud file storage service, as well as Apple's iTunes music mainstay.
Another Apple Strategic Move
Apple apparently just lured Kevin Timmons, who helped build the data centers that power Microsoft's cloud-computing infrastructure. Timmons is not to be confused for the cloud-services guy Apple is hiring. "The move strongly hints that Apple is stepping up its plans for an expansion of its data center infrastructure beyond its huge new facility in North Carolina," reported DataCenterKnowledge April 14.
Apple at WWDC
Cloud support is rumored to be a major component of iOS 5, which we could learn more about at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in June. Apple is expected to release iOS 5 this fall, and our guess from following Apple's integrated approach all along is that we will hear the full import of Apple cloud services at that time.