iCloud is an interesting product for Apple: It is moving into Google territory. For the first time, every Apple user will have free online storage that is pervasively integrated into many applications. This post gives an overview and mentions new facts that have come out.
What iCloud is
- Three products: Apple sells iCloud as a single product, but it is in fact three.
- Online storage: used by various applications.
- Logged purchases: Apple logs the apps, books and audio you have bought and lets you re-download them to any device you own. Still absent from this list is video (movies, TV).
- Web apps: You will be able to access some of the data online (see below).
- Free: This is an important component of iCloud, because both users and application developers will quickly adopt iCloud at that price.
- Pervasively integrated: 3rd party applications can store both their documents and arbitrary key-value data online. This will allow them to sync preferences, application state, etc.
- PC-free: iCloud is important for letting iOS devices work without a desktop computer for syncing and backup. I expect that this will make the iPad much more attractive as a stand-alone device, e.g. as the only computer that children in a family own. [The programmer in me weeps a bit at that thought, because without a keyboard, the iPad is ill-suited for programming.]
- Conflict resolution: iCloud will automatically resolve conflicts . Which one of several conflicting pieces of data is the current one is determined automatically, complemented by the ability to visit past versions.
Feature listiCloud has the following features, some of them did not exist in MobileMe:
- iTunes in the cloud [new]: The iTunes store records purchased apps, books and audio (no video yet) and makes them available for re-download on each of a user’s devices.
- Photo Stream [new]: Temporary storage to quickly move photos that just have been shot between devices.
- Documents in the Cloud [new]: applications store and sync their documents via the cloud. This feature will work on iOS, OS X, and Windows.
- Backups of iOS devices [new]: A key puzzle piece for stand-alone operation. Backed up:
- Photos and video in the Camera Roll
- Device settings
- App data
- Home screen and app organization
- Text and MMS messages
- Contacts: stored online, accessible via a web application.
- Calendar stored online, accessible via a web application.
- Free email: with 5GB of storage and a web interface. Thus, iCloud becomes the first real competitor to Google Mail which currently stands out from the competition due to its excellent web client, high storage capacity, and free IMAP support.
- Find my iPhone: including a web interface.
- iWeb publishing
- Photo gallery
- Synced Mac OS X data. Quote: “Syncing of Mac Dashboard widgets, keychains, Dock items, and System Preferences will not be part of iCloud.”
The latest newsApple’s document “ MobileMe transition and iCloud” has brought new, previously unknown, features of iCloud to light:
- Web apps: Apple will provide web clients for Mail, Contacts, Calendar, and Find My iPhone.
- Buying more storage:
I currently use more than 5GB of storage in MobileMe. Will I be able to buy more storage for iCloud?
Yes. iCloud includes 5GB of free storage for mail, documents, and backup, which should be enough for most users. Purchased music, apps, and books do not count against this 5GB of storage, nor do the photos in your Photo Stream. If you still need more storage, you will be able to buy it. Details will be provided when iCloud is available this fall.
- Overview and analysis: Apple’s WWDC 2011 announcements (Lion, iOS 5, iCloud)
- iCloud to Auto-Resolve Sync Conflicts - Mac Rumors