At the Worldwide Developers Conference on June 6,Apple unveiled iCloud, its Web-based platform that will allow users to store content in the cloud and synchronize data across their many devices, including the iPhone, iPad, Mac and PC. Best of all, the service is free.
But before iCloud launches in the fall, millions around the globe will need to determine if it’s a right fit for them. On one hand, Apple has made iCloud seem extremely appealing to users. But on the other hand, those same folks know that there are a host of services on the market that can provide many of the same features.
However, from what we have learned about the service and its features, Apple’s iCloud seems like the winner. Though it still hasn’t launched and there are some features missing, it looks, on paper at least, like an ideal choice for many consumers around the world. Once again, it appears that Apple has created a new service that not only has the potential to trump all the currently available alternatives, but could also become another cash cow for the company.
Here’s why users should employ Apple’s iCloud:
1. It’s free
Apple made an exceptionally intelligent move by making iCloud free. If the company charged for access to the service, it might have turned many customers away. But by making iCloud free, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company took out all the risk that might have otherwise been associated with it. Free is always good, and it’s certainly nice to see that price tag for iCloud. Whether or not it will always be free is another question.
2. iTunes Match seems like a winner
In addition to offering free access to iCloud, Apple announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference on June 6 that it will be offering a new feature, called iTunes Match, for $24.99 per year. The service scans a user’s library to find content that wasn’t downloaded from the iTunes marketplace. It then automatically transfers those tracks that are also available in the store to a 256K-bps AAC DRM-free version to enhance sound quality. It’s a nice option that shouldn’t be overlooked.
3. Multiplatform support
When rumors surrounding iCloud first cropped up, there was speculation that it would only work with Macs andiOS-based devices. However, Apple said the service will work with Windows in addition to those platforms. Because of that, a huge portion of the desktop-OS market won’t be kept out of the iCloud fun. Without Windows support, iCloud simply wouldn’t be as attractive a proposition as it is.
4. The apps consideration
As users of iOS-based devices, like the iPhone and iPad, know all too well, getting applications onto multiple products can be a pain. However, with the help of iCloud, users will be able to download an application on, say, the iPhone and automatically find that same application on their iPad. It might not be the biggest feature in iCloud, but such convenience really does matter when someone determines whether or not they want to use a cloud-based service.
iCloud Streamlines File Synchronization
5. A disaster-recovery option?
According to Apple, it will allow iCloud users to back up 5GB of content to iCloud at no additional charge. Best of all, music, apps and books purchased from Apple do not count in that limit. Granted, 5GB of storage isn’t a ton of space for a backup utility and other firms offer more capacity for that function, but if users employ iCloud to take care of their most important files and folders, it might just become a worthwhile disaster-recovery option.
6. Photo Stream seems like a winner
As avid photographers know all too well after a long day of shooting, getting all those photos to different devices and computers can be a pain. Apple has set out to solve that issue with the help of Photo Stream, a platform that automatically uploads photos and pushes them to all the other devices connected to the user’s iCloud account. Considering the importance of digital photography both inside the iOS ecosystem and outside of it,Photo Stream might just be a huge selling point for many users.
7. Apple’s hands-off approach
During his keynote address, Apple CEO Steve Jobs continued to reference iCloud by saying that “it just works.” The idea behind iCloud is that users will be able to have as little interaction with the platform as possible but still be provided with all the content they want on all the devices they have. It’s an interesting concept that stands in stark contrast to many cloud-based solutions in the wild that require a decidedly hands-on approach. iCloud’s ease of use could prove integral to its success.
8. iWork users rejoice
Though it might not be Office, Apple’s iWork platform is still used by many consumers across the world. There is little doubt iWork users have been looking for a simple, easy way to transfer files created in that suite across different devices. With the help of iCloud, users can do just that. Plus, any changes they make to a document will be automatically pushed to copies on other devices. It’s a smart idea on Apple’s part that should bring some more users to iCloud.
9. The syncing capabilities
Much of the above items relate to one simple fact about iCloud: All the devices are networked to an account and seamlessly synced, so a user shouldn’t ever be left without a document, file, song or other piece of content transferred through iCloud. Syncing is integral to the experience of iCloud, and Apple seems to understand that fully. If the company can make it work as well as it says it can, users should be quite happy with iCloud’s syncing capabilities.
10. More is coming
Though iCloud might not be the perfect solution for every user out there, make no mistake that Apple is planning much more with its offering. As with all other services, Apple delivered many, but not all, of the features users were looking for in iCloud. In future updates, users might expect music streaming, movie and TV downloads, and other features that aren’t available in iCloud. So, it might be a good time for users to hold out hope for additional iCloud features. But they can start using iCloud this fall. After all, if the good things are coming, why wait to use a service?