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Predicting 2010: Apple and the Cloud

Going into 2010, the landscape of computing continues to be dominated by the slow, but inevitable, move towards the cloud. For a computing platform company like Apple (s aapl), this move presents a particular challenge. Apple’s expertise is producing the best computing experience by controlling both the software and the hardware. This is antithetical to the whole concept of cloud computing, which is generally agnostic towards both the software and the hardware.

Not surprisingly, then, Apple’s moves towards cloud computing have been cautious. MobileMe, and in some ways iTunes, can all be seen as cloud-based services, but none of them have offered ground-breaking solutions. It’s obvious that Apple’s cloud strategy is based mostly around complementing its computer based-solutions. It continues to feel strongly that the best place to create and/or edit files is on your computer, where you can take full advantage of today’s hardware and the power of OS X. Looking forward to 2010 I don’t expect this general philosophy to change, but I do expect Apple to move more aggressively towards tying its services even more closely to the cloud.

So, without further ado, here are my 2010 predictions for Apple and the Cloud.

iTunes will begin streaming music

Probability: Guaranteed
Not much of a risk here, Apple has thankfully tipped its hand with its acquisition of, a music streaming service. This is the direction the industry is going, with services like Spotify, Pandora and all growing rapidly. Adding a subscription streaming model to iTunes and/or allowing you to stream your iTunes library is a no-brainer for Apple. What will be interesting is seeing how such a potential service integrates with the iPhone and iPod lineup.

iTunes will offer streaming movies and/or television

Probability: Possible
This prediction follows logically from the one before. If Apple is going to offer streaming music, why not also offer to stream video content as well? Unfortunately, the likelihood of such a service is as constrained by the veracities of the rights-holders of Apple’s interest, as such I only deem this prediction a possibility.

MobileMe will see a significant price drop

Probability: Possible
MobileMe has always been dogged by sticker shock. Although the $8 or so a month the service costs isn’t that high, paying $100 all at once is a bit more difficult to swallow. What’s more, MobileMe offers very little that can’t be had for free in other places. I’m allowing my Mobile Me subscription to lapse this year as I’ve replaced all the services with free alternatives. Although I don’t expect Apple to make the service free, I do expect it to try and expand the universe of subscribers by offering a drop in price, and perhaps moving to a monthly subscription model instead of paying for an entire year up front.

MobileMe will add photo, music and file synchronization

Probability: Possible
MobileMe is still the best way to keep your PIM data synchronized across your Macs and your iPhone, but one glaring weakness is multimedia and file synchronization. Sure you can keep everything on your iDisk, but this lacks the elegance that is typical of Apple as it requires you to move everything that should be in your home folder to another place. It’s also extremely limited in terms of storage. It would be much more convenient if I could just tell Mobile Me to automatically synchronize my home folder across computers, just as I do with my calendars and contacts. With the speed of Internet connections only increasing, this is not only possible today, but it’s inevitable. Whether it happens next year is less certain, but it will happen eventually. will add document editing

Probability: Possible
As I mentioned above, Apple seems strongly opposed to moving document creation and editing to the cloud, but if it decides to start experimenting with some could-based document editing, this is likely the place where it will happen. Its competitors in this space, Google, Microsoft and Zoho, all are offering document editing to some extent. I wouldn’t expect the entire iWork suite to be ported to the cloud, but I do think the addition of basic editing is a possibility.

OS X is ported to the cloud

Probability: Absurd
It may seem like an absurdity, and I certainly don’t expect it to happen next year, but the idea of porting OS X to the cloud is one that Apple will certainly want to consider at some point in the future. The strength of Apple’s computing platform has always been the operating system and development tools that underly it. If you truly believe that in the long run computing will be a server-client model, than in order to retain its competitive advantage Apple will have to move these strengths to the cloud. Adapting OS X and Xcode to become the foundation of a cloud-based operating system and development environment is the obvious long-term strategy for Apple.

Steve Job’s consciousness will be uploaded to the cloud to ensure he rules Apple forever

Probability: Absurd
Steve Jobs’ health problems last year and his temporary absence from Apple proved once again that the tenure of Apple’s messiah is not assured to run forever. I think Apple needs to turn all of its prodigious talent towards ensuring that Jobs’ genius remains with us forever, and what better way than to upload his consciousness to the cloud? There he can ensure that we continue to pour the contents of our wallets into Apple’s coffers in perpetuity. You can bet Apple’s share-holders will be in support of this, despite that small probability that Jobs-in-the-cloud may someday turn into Skynet.

15 Responses to “Predicting 2010: Apple and the Cloud”

  1. iMarodeur

    What I hope for: Apple is fixing all the little things that are missing to make MobileMe a Killer, merge it with iWork, add your own little iTunes Database for Streaming and so on….

  2. rebelatheart

    Cloud computing is high risk, since you will depend on an internet connecting, and who is to say you will always be able to have one? Not even considering the fact that not everyone has a high speed connection. More dangerously I think, is having content in the hands of a third party. No matter what their privacy policies may claim, when it comes down to it, your content may not be as private as you think.
    Google, the company this website keeps promoting, is one of these companies prone on getting your content on their servers. Nothing good can come from having content from millions of users in one place. Personally, I don’t even trust Google with a cookie.

    • If you store your data on any device connected to the internet then your data is just as accessible as data stored in the cloud. What you are suggesting is that you are better at securing your hard drive than Google is at securing their servers.

      Probability: Absurd

      • M Fournier

        Actually I am.
        My computer is connected to the internet Only when I am using it and choose to connect to the internet. It is not a 24/7 connection.
        Also my Mac and all my Networked Hard drives I use for backup are on my internal network not accessible from the internet.
        My mac does not have a assigned external IP. All my home computers are behind a firewall that limits what connections can be made.
        So Even if you did attempt to connect to my home mac during the time I am online you would then find no data in my shared storage of any value. then you would then need to hack to my unshared storage get through the encryption on my secured Hard drives and all before I cut the connection.
        The next time I connect I get a new IP address so you would need to find my IP connect to my router hack through the firewall and then discover my Mac’s new IP and then hack through the encryption all over again.

        If I am stupid enough to let you trick me into downloading a Trojan horse that would keep my connection live or give you root access then you might have half a chance to get at my data but that is a HUGE If. And also since I monitor traffic on my network and through my firewall If any application attempts to make a connection to the internet I know about it.

        And then on top of all that there is the most secure data. ALL my truly sensitive data like tax information Social security information is stored on OFF LINE.
        On USB drives that are only connected to my mac when I need it. and they are encrypted drives so if you broke in and took them you would get nothing off them unless you know the secured password.
        Then also the value of my data alone is worth way less the the trouble it takes to get it.
        But if it was stored along with millions of otter peoples data in one location the effort becomes with the trouble.

        So please tell me how Google is more secure then a home PC again?

        Truth is though that greater and greater amounts of data about us, our banking our health records, our credit record and even personal information about our shopping habits and what you are reading online is created and kept by others on servers we do not control already. And it is all out there connected to the internet 24/7. So really anyone worried about their data being hacked due to cloud computing. I hate to tell you it is TO LATE your data is already out there. And you had no choice someone else has already put it online without you even knowing they did it. Most of it is harder to get at then it is worth on its own but collectively it is a huge target. That is why So much effort goes in to corporate network security.

  3. MobileMe’s webmail is a slug and I wrote a complaint to Apple to fix it. Let’s see if they do. However, I still find it useful as I sync not only my mail, contacts and ical events but also my Safari bookmarks, dashboard widgets, dock items and other mail account setting across my Macs and iPhone. I also use the photo gallery a lot and can publish photos directly from iPhoto.

    Apple please just fix the webmail and drop your price even with the family pack of 5 users. I just posted a post “Why MobileMe?” on my blog.

  4. Michael Tomlin

    To each his own I guess, but MobileMe is well worth the money to me.

    For $8 a month, I get e-mail, syncing between all my Macs and my iPhone and knowing if I misplace my iPhone, I’ll be able to track its location, and then lock it or wipe it if needed.

    …And syncing your entire Home folder? Where do you live, because I want your Internet connection. My upstream bandwidth is 384kbps, do you know how long it takes to upload a gigabyte of data at that speed? Divide 1,000,000 by 48 and that’s how many seconds it will take, and that’s if it hits the maximum rate. That comes to almost 6 hours for each GB. My Photos folder alone would take an entire day to upload!

  5. Great round-up Alfredo. I too let MobileMe lapse this year. I finally switched everything over to Gmail, Google Contacts, Google Calendar (with push to iPhone via Google’s exchange support). The Gmail, contacts and calendar push works very well and in some ways it’s even better than MobileMe.

    My biggest complaint was MobileMe Web mail. The desktop service was OK, but the cloud services sucked. New messages would stall, the inbox would sometimes fail to load. It didn’t matter what browser I used, what internet connection I was on, or even what operating system I used, MobileMe webmail flat out sucked. I waited for Apple to fix MobileMe and frankly, they failed. So when it came time to pay up another $100, I let it go. Too bad, because now that I have, I won’t have access to remote wipe. But oh well.

  6. I can’t bring myself to pay $99 for contacts, ical, and e-mail. I would definitely like to see MobileMe take a price drop and offer a monthly fee rather than yearly. Photo and music on the cloud, plus a lower cost would make MobileMe much, much more appealing.