There is an unfortunate aspect to being an experienced technologist. I can remember the past. If you can look back to the fledgling days of the personal computer era from last century, then you’ll understand what I see.
Sadly, I remember 120k floppy disks, the command line interface from Unix, CP/M, and the various flavors of DOS. I remember when the floppy gave way to the Winchester disk drive, when CDs and then DVDs were all the rage, when hard disk drives became monstrous storage at cheap prices, and I know why SSDs are such an improvement (access speed and battery sipping prowess come to mind) over the past, but soon to be a relic on its own. What’s next? The day everything lives in the cloud.
The Everywhere Cloud
There are times when my technologist hat requires me to try the latest and greatest knowing all the well that it’s not all that great, and likely to be swapped out by something better in a year or two. Yet, there are times when I remain a bit behind the curve just because I don’t want to muck with the headaches of making a massive switch from old to new.
Photos and iCloud are a perfect example for me, and while it’s not the first step to putting everything into iCloud or in the cloud, it’s the first big step. Photos, like movies, and like iTunes, are stored on my Mac. Almost 200GB of photos and videos. Only this week did I move them to iCloud so they’re available on Mac, iPhone, iPad, et al. Photos, or, more accurately, iCloud Photo Library in the Mac’s iCloud Preferences is the most recent sign that in a few years everything we do will be stored in iCloud (or, whatever iCloud-like substitute you choose; I have a few, including Dropbox, GoogleDrive, Microsoft OneDrive, and a few others, including Amazon S3 for backups).
iCloud gives me iCloud Drive and I keep many critical files there because, slowly but surely, Apple has made the function reliable. Photos, too. Now. Mail? Almost, but I use Airmail instead because it has the features I prefer and accounts sync very well to every device. Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, Notes, and Keychain do the cloud dance, too.
My iTunes music library of 5,000 songs or so, some dating back to inherited 45s and albums, some coming from Napster days, many from CDs, of course, but all have been replaced by Apple Music, the 30-million song collection that lives as a subscription but plays music everywhere I want to be.
All the critical files in my Documents folder have been moved to iCloud and iCloud Drive, and backed up for safekeeping via Arq and Amazon. See? More cloud.
What’s left? Not much.
Movies on my Mac amount to a few hundred more gigabytes of video, all backed up here and there, of course, but not to the cloud or iCloud. Yet. It’s one thing to pull down a Pages document or a Numbers spreadsheet from iCloud Drive to edit, but it’s something else again to pull down a video. Local storage remains a faster alternative and a less expensive storage option.
Oh, and applications.
That day when everything we cherish is stored on the cloud and our devices– Mac, iPhone, iPad, Watch, et al– is coming and for many, especially those who use their iPhones as their primary personal computer, it can be here already, thanks to iCloud Drive, fast internet transmit speeds, and almost reasonable online storage prices.
Apple could be more competitive with iCloud’s storage rates, but the most significant inhibitor to moving everything we do, use, want, and cherish to the cloud (but maybe still use the Mac as a nearby backup) isn’t storage. It’s how fast it goes to the cloud and how slowly it comes back to whichever device we’re using at the moment.
In the U.S., about as backwards as a so-called developed country with vast riches can be, average internet access is about 50-megabits per second, or barely 6-megabytes per second. That’s faster than cell phones with 4G LTE, but not by much, and many variables mess with both numbers. The future is wireless internet connections and 5G home routers and mobile devices could bring multi-Gigabit-per-second (GbpS) speeds and that will be the next step to moving everything we want off our devices and onto iCloud (or, the cloud of your choice).
Think about it. Why bother to store applications on your device when the app itself could be downloaded? Whatever movies you want to view or took on your DSLR-like video camera iPhone could be uploaded and shared far faster than anything we use today. That will be the day when everything lives in the cloud.
Is it just me, or does that whole notion seem too futuristic and more than a little scary?