As many who have been following Apple these last couple years have suspected, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company will finally unveil its cloud-based service, iCloud, at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on June 6. So far, Apple has been tight-lipped about its plans for iCloud. But speculation abounds that the service could rely heavily upon music.
If it’s all about music, iCloud will be a loser. In today’s computing environment, the cloud is becoming more important. Consumers are starting to realize that the more they can do in the cloud, the better. Simply put, in order for Apple’s iCloud to be a success, the service will need to do more than just help people stream music.
So, what else should Apple deliver to consumers to make iCloud a success?
Read on to find out:
1. Full major label support
One of the key issues with Google Music, another cloud-based service, is that it launched without support from major record labels, limiting the usability of the service. Apple’s iCloud, however, will reportedly feature licensed music, making it an arguably better choice. In order for iCloud to be totally successful, Apple will need to have the full support of all major labels. That would give it the key advantage it would need.
2. Movie streaming
Though iCloud might work with music labels, it will only be a true hit if Apple also brings movies and other content to the service. After all, iTunes is popular today because of all the content available to it. iCloud will be able to enjoy a similar level of success if it has the same breadth of entertainment available as iTunes.
3. Support for Windows PCs
There’s little debating that iCloud will work with iOS-based devices and Macs, but will it also work with Windows PCs? Chances are it will, since iTunes is currently running on Windows. But if Apple decides to only invite its own customers to the party, like it has with FaceTime, it could be in for trouble.
4. Can it go beyond iOS-based devices?
Moreover, one might also wonder if Apple plans to make iCloud available to other mobile devices, aside from the iPhone and iPad. Chances are it won’t, since the company currently only offers iTunes on its line of products. But as Android continues to gain popularity, it might not be long before Apple acknowledges its dominance and sees it more as a revenue opportunity than a threat. And the sooner it acknowledges that, the sooner iCloud can be a success.
Apple Must Make iCloud Affordable, Versatile
5. Ease of use means everything
The main reason iTunes has been so successful over the years has been its ease of use. People can boot up the software on their desktops or mobile devices and quickly access all the content they want. In order for iCloud to be successful, it needs to feature the same level of intuitive design as iTunes. In fact, it would be nice if it offered a similar layout when users access the service.
6. Consumer education
The biggest issue standing in the way of iCloud is that it will be operating in a market that consumers are unfamiliar with. Yes, cloud-based services have been around for quite some time, but none of them has caught on with the mainstream; most folks are still content to use desktop-based alternatives. In order for iCloud to be a hit, Apple CEO Steve Jobs will need to effectively outline how it works, and why consumers should use it.
7. An affordable monthly fee
Some say Apple might offer access to iCloud at no charge, but considering the iPhone maker has reportedly entered into licensing arrangements with record labels, that sounds rather improbable. Apple will try to price iCloud with a monthly fee. But since Apple’s competitors offer free services, the company will have no choice but to price iCloud affordably. Consumers might not be happy to pay a monthly fee, but if it costs just $10 or $20 a month, Apple shouldn’t have much trouble attracting users.
8. Documents too?
Though much of the focus on iCloud revolves around entertainment, it would be nice to see Apple also offer online document storage. Google currently offers its Docs platform, which includes both a productivity suite and the ability for users to upload documents to store online. Apple likely won’t deliver a full productivity suite in iCloud, but document storage would be a welcome addition.
9. A clear differentiation against Google Music
At the I/O Conference in May, Google unveiled a new service called Music Beta by Google. The offering allows users to upload their music to the cloud and play those tracks on their computer or Android-based devices. It’s currently only open to those who have an invitation and it likely won’t be as robust of a service as iCloud. Apple will need to make that fact clear, especially if it charges for access to its own cloud-based offering. Google Music is currently free and will deliver the same basic functionality as iCloud, sans licensed tracks. What can Apple do to make the differentiation between the platforms easy for customers to see? It will need to figure that out if it wants iCloud to be a success.
10. A value proposition over other top competitors
Though most people point to Amazon and Google as iCloud’s top competitors, it’s important to note that every other online-streaming service, including Pandora, Rhapsody and, if it supports movies, Netflix, is a competitor, as well. After all, all those companies allow users to stream content over the Web to their computers or mobile devices. Apple is moving into an increasingly crowded space with many entrenched competitors. If iCloud is to be successful, Apple will need to prove why users should opt for its offering over any other.