For a company that’s in the mobile business as heavily as Apple is, its cloud strategy is embarrassing. Some parts of MobileMe work fine, like contact, bookmark, and calendar, but others, like iDisk, fall on their face so often I can’t count on them for production work. After one too many syncing errors, I’ve found iDisk to be a great place to store large files I want remote access to, but it’s not reliable enough for my day-to-day syncing; for that I use Dropbox. Lets face it, while the “It just works” slogan is mostly accurate, Apple’s Cloud strategy just doesn’t play well.
We’ve ranted enough here that we don’t need for me to beat on the MobileMe horse. Instead, I’d like to offer up some ways I’d love to see Apple in the cloud, or, rather, Apple in the cloud better.
I love how Apple copied, err, adopted Amazon’s Whispersync idea into iBooks — where it syncs bookmarks, notes, and progress (and any eBook in iBooks; not just iBookstore books) via my iTunes account. I’d like to see this carried over to movies, TV shows, and podcasts on multiple devices. For example: Driving home from my parents today I was listening to “This Week in Tech” on my iPhone. To keep listening, I can either plug my iPhone into some speakers, figure out where I was on the iTunes copy, or sync my iPhone to my Mac. Why can’t my iTunes account also track my position on media?
While I’d love Apple to introduce wireless syncing, I’m also not sure shoving large files like movies to my iPad via Wi-Fi is all that efficient. However, I’d love playlists to be synced via my iTunes account — and, thinking about it, the songs are small enough that I’d love at least a Wi-Fi cloud option for songs and playlists.
One feature of MobileMe I really love is bookmark syncing. When it works (why is that such an oft-used statement with MobileMe?), I love tagging content on my iDevice and syncing it back to my Mac. I’ve got a folder named “Take Action” which is usually a bookmark of something for research or something I need to download back at the home base. However, this isn’t really worth the MobileMe subscription. I feel it’s more like the “player to be named later” in a baseball trade. Bookmark syncing via my iTunes account is something I feel Apple should provide for free, and, as a bonus feature, it should work with Firefox on the Mac and PC.
iWork, iDevices, and iDisk
One of the mind-boggling problems I have with my iPad is how gosh-darned hard it is to get documents to and from the thing. Actually, getting documents onto it isn’t that hard with the Dropbox and iDisk app’s “open with” feature, but after you’ve made an edit, God help you if you want to get that back onto a Cloud account in under three steps.
iWork.com is an under-utilized feature. I know it’s still in Beta, but I think it’s given that label because Apple felt it needed to do something, but still isn’t sure what. Like Apple TV, it’s a hobby, I feel. iWork is an oddity on the iPad, in that it’s actually easier to get content onto it, than from it. All iPad iWork documents have a handy “share on iWork.com” feature that makes it very easy to share content.
If you’ve never used iWork.com, it’s a way to share a document for review. People can download the file, or view it online and comment on it. Using it for that, it’s a fairly handy service. I recently had to give a presentation, and was able to solicit feedback using iWork.com very easily.
I just can’t help but think there’s a way to set up iWork apps on OS X and iOS to use a form of push-sharing. Apple hasn’t announced iWork ’11 yet, but I’m offering up the requisite tech sacrifices in my backyard that between the next version of iWork and the next version of iOS, somehow, Apple will make it easy to at least get the desktop and mobile versions of iWork to sync data in the cloud.
Apple should be ashamed, ashamed of itself that other Office-style apps on the iPad integrate better with iDisk than its own apps. Quite frankly, the fact that I need to transfer a file via iTunes to iOS Pages should have resulted in a Jobsian rant, not a product release. GoodReader makes it very easy for me to transfer video, music and just about any kind of file format from any kind of cloud disk onto the iPad. Apple’s iBooks app can’t even “open as” a PDF without crashing the entire app and erasing all the PDFs except the one I just imported. I’m sorry if I sound bitter, but that’s because I am.
Frankly, I’m not a big fan of the cloud as a main resting place for data. Every piece of data I’ve entrusted to the cloud, I’ve got local copies of, and those copies are backed up multiple times — and yes, some of those backups are also in the cloud. However, Apple markets its iDevices as satellite devices. My iPhone and iPad all require an iTunes connection to operate, and thus, need a USB cable to transfer data. Apple is long touted as not releasing a product or service without a clear idea of what its role is, but I disagree. My iPad and iPhone are needless islands unto their own, bridged by a USB Cable to the Mothership iTunes.
Related GigaOM Pro Research: Report: How Mobile Cloud Computing Will Change Tech