Apple’s Maiden Voyage Into the Cloud

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Apple’s billion-dollar data center being constructed on a 225 acre site near Highway 321 and Startown Road in Maiden, N.C., could play host to a number of services. So, what are the likely candidates for what Apple will be doing with this new facility? With WWDC just one week away, Apple staffing of the new facility, and given the fact that all of the hype about what everyone already knows that Steve is going to introduce before he has a chance to introduce it, there are six very likely candidates for what Apple will announce as to what their intentions are in North Carolina.

Free MobileMe for Everyone! Well, Almost Everyone

When Apple first launched iTools back in 2000, the service was free to users of Mac OS 9. Then in 2002 it became a subscription based service and was renamed as .Mac. The trend continued and the online service now known as MobileMe continued as a subscription based service. Just recently Apple opened up a Beta program to show off some of the new features of this service. In order to compete with several of the online services that come bundled with many of the Google supported Android devices, Apple my in fact return this to a free service for its customers.

MapKit replacement for Google Maps

Not much has been said about Apple’s 2009 acquisition of online mapping service PlaceBace. At the time, rumors ran rampant that Apple would be replacing Google Maps on the iPhone, iPod and now the iPad with this service. This shouldn’t be too terribly difficult to do in the iPhone’s SDK and the MapKit has abstracted such low-level services into an easy to use API.

iTunes in the Cloud

Recently Apple decided to shut down Lala, an online music service it acquired in 2009. Having a commanding lead in the iPod marketplace has not made Apple complacent in the least. Apple has continued to innovate its devices as well as its iTunes marketplace over the years. Perhaps its latest enhancement of the service was not as Genius as previously thought, and Apple is looking to continue its competitive edge by hosting its customers purchases in the cloud. Having iTunes in the cloud would make all purchases, past, present and future, all available to all devices from anywhere in the connected world.

iWork Beta

Almost two years in beta, and with the release of the now best-selling collection of iWork apps for the iPad, the future of iWork has never been brighter. The question remains, how long will this beta last? With some of the enhancements going on in the MobileMe space with the mail beta that is underway, and given the fact that successful services like DropBox are nipping at Apple’s iDisk heals, there is likely to be something announced, soon. It would not take much to best Google’s online document service, and shut Microsoft out of this market for good by enabling even a halfway decent solution for the growing number of mobile customers that Apple has earned.

iAd

Let’s not forget the purchase of Quattro Wireless. This may have helped Google out here in the short-term, but Apple needs to make a long term investment in this endeavor. With the premiums that Apple is allegedly ready to charge companies that sign up for ad space on this service, that price tag had better include complementary hosting of the ads themselves. With one-hundred million devices likely to be in the hands of consumers when this service goes live, it will need some serious cloud power to handle the storm that is brewing come launch day.

Sync

Just recently, it has been discovered that Apple is interested in investing in sync capabilities with the cloud. Breaking away from the USB sync paradigm is something that all iPhone, iPod touch and iPad users would enjoy. This could be full sync, or be limited to its investment with Lala, or iWork, or both.

For those interested in cloud computing or data centers, check out our Structure conference in June.

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