Apple's Cloud Could Help Blunt Amazon, Google, Microsoft Threats

Apple's cloud efforts could help the company blunt competition from Google, Microsoft, and services like Amazon's cloud-based music player.

Apple may be prepping an "iCloud" service under the codename "Castle," according to blogs digging into the third build of Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" Developer Preview 2.

Digital Daily reported April 29 that Apple had bought the iCloud domain name from Xcerion, a Swedish hybrid-cloud vendor. That information came from unnamed sources. Current rumors suggest Apple paid $4.5 million for the rights to the name, although that number remains unconfirmed by the company.

Now, the French Website is reporting references to a Castle service in a build of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, the next version of the Mac OS. A sample screen from the April 30 posting suggests an option for users to upgrade from MobileMe, the company's online storage service, to Castle.

Apple is certainly taking steps toward deeper cloud integration with its existing products. In addition to a recent job posting for a "Cloud Systems Software Engineer," the company has constructed a massive data center in North Carolina that will reportedly help its future cloud efforts. Meanwhile, the Green (Low Carbon) Data Center Blog reported April 13 that Apple had hired away Kevin Timmons, general manager of Microsoft's Datacenter Services unit; although Microsoft confirmed that Timmons was moving on, Apple did not return eWEEK's request for comment.

Apple faces increased competition in the consumer-cloud arena from the likes of, which recently launched a cloud-based locker and player for music, and Google, which has serious designs on both music and e-books. And although Microsoft's current cloud efforts seem primarily focused on the business-software side of the equation, CEO Steve Ballmer has suggested that "every one of our products will be engineered to deliver the full benefits of the cloud."

Robust cloud offerings-particularly ones that allowed users to save their music, documents and media to an online locker-could help Apple potentially blunt those threats.

Apple will likely reveal more at this year's Worldwide Developers Conference, set for June 6-10 in San Francisco. "At this year's conference, we are going to unveil the future of iOS and Mac OS," Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, wrote in a March 28 statement posted on Apple's corporate Website. "If you are an iOS or Mac OS X software developer, this is the event that you do not want to miss."

Other sources have also suggested that the next version of iOS, Apple's mobile operating system, will heavily incorporate the cloud into its offerings.

"The new iOS will be heavily built around the cloud, and we could see several new services launch from Apple that take advantage of this," read a March 26 report on TechCrunch. "But much of the cloud stuff will be talked about first at WWDC."