Apple claims to have over 100-million iCloud users and it’s easy to see why the number has grown so fast. iCloud starts at free, and Mac, iPhone, and iPad apps are quickly adapting to use the online document storage service.
Mac OS X Mountain Lion further integrates documents in the online service, and based upon all the huge data centers Apple is building, it’s likely that iCloud will become the center of our document storage in the future.
Where Are Your Files, Mac User?
If you’re like most Mac users, you keep your personal files in a variety of locations, but most are either on your Mac or on a device connected to your Mac.
Apple plans to change that as iCloud becomes the go-to storage and backup location for your files.
The first thing Apple is doing to Mac users is eliminating file management. Every Mac user organizes files in the Documents folder differently. Apple likes the way Mail, iPhoto and iTunes organize photos, movies, and music.
There’s no file structure, and no hierarchy to worry about. Instead it’s Mailboxes, Albums, Playlists. iCloud will take over app document storage so you won’t have to worry about where your files are on your Mac, they’ll simply be there.
Unfortunately, iCloud as we know it doesn’t yet go far enough to become a true online storage device. But it can. Documents are one thing and they’re tied to apps. Photo Stream doesn’t act as a full-on iPhoto backup feature, either, relegating itself to syncing up recent photos.
The problem that Mac users will face by using iCloud for the next few years is simple.
iCloud will be limited to documents and a few other select files (some music and a limited number of recent photos) rather than as a complete online backup service for all our files, documents, and media.
Why? How many Mac users have a few hundred gigabytes of photos, a few hundred gigabytes of music, a few hundred gigabytes of movie clips? It’s common these days to have many hundreds of gigabytes of files.
The internet is too slow and Apple’s storage capability is too small to handle the kind of traffic and online storage requirement to make iCloud a viable backup alternative. Today. Tomorrow might be different.
Apple can avoid the gargantuan storage requirements for a few hundred million users by replicating movies, TV shows, and music online, after which Mac, iPhone, and iPad users can download as needed to their devices. That way, Apple keeps only a single copy of a movie, TV show, or song online, shared by all who have purchased the same.
What about security and privacy? Apple can differentiate itself from Google by offering complete privacy and advanced security to their customers. By using Google apps, you give Google the privilege of making you the product, not the customer. Google data mines and sells access to their findings. Apple needs to be the champion of privacy, even if there’s a nominal price tag included.
While I’ve long been content to manage my own files on my own hard disk drives and use a few online storage options, in just a few months I’ve come to realize that iCloud– so far– seems to work well. But it needs to improve to be worthy of storing all my hard-earned data; higher security, more stability, always available, and competitively priced.
There’s a reason all the technology companies are getting into the cloud business. Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, not to mention Dropbox and others, recognize that always being connected will be the norm in the future, and each online service provides a measure of lock-in which benefits the vendors and provides a steady stream of revenue.
For now, iCloud is version 1.0 and stores a few documents and some media. Version 2.0 will take on more responsibility for our files, and that starts with Mac OS X Mountain Lion.