With iCloud, Apple puts the pressure on ISPs


Edit note: iCloud’s services do not involve streaming in the same manner as services like Netflix and Pandora do. However, the bandwidth should still be more than predicted by broadband providers. Apple’s iCloud assumes that users will “store” the music predominantly in the cloud and move it back and forth between the cloud and iOS/OS X
devices. This means that the gigabytes downloaded per month will still increase, although operators will not have to worry as much about the complexity of delivering traditional streaming content.

Apple’s iCloud product, which will be discussed and dissected on many other blogs, poses both a threat and an opportunity for Internet service providers. The iCloud product itself, which will deliver streaming music and photo content (but not videos) is an acknowledgement that people are ready to stream get their content on demand, and online rather than store it on local hard drives, which has huge repercussions for broadband providers.

ISPs can point to Netflix (s nflx) content streaming, or send subscribers notices about consuming too much bandwidth by blaming forgotten Pandora streams playing in the background, but when a major player like Apple — which has 200 million credit cards in its iTunes store — gets into the streaming over the air content delivery game it’s an acknowledgment that today’s broadband is robust enough to support a streaming service such heavy traffic as well as a potential wake-up call to the ISPs complaining about their overburdened pipes.

Years, ago a Comcast (s cmcsa) spokesman told me the company had seen a huge jump in bandwidth immediately after Apple released its iTunes product. People downloading songs and TV shows changed the profile of the average Internet user. Now, as Apple prepares to launch a streaming an over-the-air service — even one without movies — it’s likely that ISPs should get ready for consumer usage patterns to change again.

This time, ISPs appear to be ready, trying to implement tiered plans and caps that limit how much a subscriber can download in a given month. Currently, AT&T (s T) has a 150 GB cap on DSL subscribers and a 250 GB per month cap on U-verse customers (although folks going over the cap can pay more). Given that both one hour of HD video content and about 20 hours of music streaming at average bit rates of 128 kbps consume about 1 GB , it’s easy to see how the wider adoption of streaming more downloads could affect usage. And while Apple isn’t announcing streaming a similar service for movies or television today, it’s not too far-fetched to anticipate that occurring in the future. What then?



I feel that data caps are a bad thing and a step backwards for consumers and ISPs should look to other ways to keep up with the demands of the modern age. This is especially true in markets where consumers are not free choose their ISP openly.


iCloud requires Lion to work on a Mac. Lion,in turn, requires a 4GB download. My 3 Macs will have to get along without lion,since there is no way, I’m purchasing an OS without a hard copy. I think the forced download from the app store for lion is perhaps the stupidest thing apple has done since the early 90s.


I don’t get what people’s obsession with owning music (or any media) is. It seems to me that it’s a hangover from the days of vinyl, tapes and CDs when that was the only way to get music, something I’m sure the record companies are all too eager to have us continue embrace in the Internet age.
So iCloud lets you upload all the music you’ve bought but a service like Spotify or Zune lets you stream (or download for offline use) 11 million tracks anywhere and gives you more new music than you could ever listen to.
If Zune or Spotify were to introduce a cloud service for your existing music that integrated into the rest of the experience that would be a major win. I personally have ripped some CDs that have never been available digitally on any service so it would be great to have them in the cloud.

Cyndy Aleo

The obsession is still rooted in the record companies’ archaic view of how we should pay for it. I honestly believe that Apple was meant to roll out a service similar to Spotify and the record companies balked. Of all the media industries: print, music, film/tv, they are the furthest behind in revamping their structures to deal with the digital age. They want to be paid per purchase, so we continue to think we HAVE to purchase.

Spotify would decimate them all, but look at how long it’s taking them to even get to the U.S. Then look at how many artists are now releasing their own music: on Bandcamp, on Pandora, on YouTube and Facebook, without even going to a label. It’s even more of a mess than publishing, and that’s a pretty sad commentary.


Welcome to 2008, iSheep. Finally getting the ability to sync and update without connecting to a computer.

Mukesh Aggarwal

with current ‘unlimited’ 200 MB (or even 2 GB) cell phone data plans and expensive overages, when people ‘sync’ with cloud, imagine how many people will be calling their phone carriers when their bill shoots through the roof.


Dear Om,

This story is misleading and inaccurate. From a journalistic perspective there seems to be no option but to redact and correct the story. Please take action ASAP.


Did I miss something? You can’t stream with Icloud. Can the author tell us where he got this news of this revolution from.

Dan Rayburn

iCloud does not allow you to stream anything. Content it stored in iCloud and then downloaded locally to your device. Nothing is streamed at all. It’s a download. That’s the entire problem with iCloud, it does not support streaming and users still have to pick and choose what content they put on their local playback device.

Apple has not gotten into the streaming game, with respect to iCloud. It has no streaming functionality for music, let alonf video, at all.


Beat me to it… Yeah it’s fancy syncing – best I can tell!

Stacey Higginbotham

Dan, thanks for the alert. I updated the story to reflect the right way to explain this. The bottom line is that this will still pressure ISPs, but it’s not real-time streaming of the content, more of a download model. On-demand downloads? Obviously I find the language here problematic. I doubt consumers will recognize the difference, but on the back end, while the downloads still consume the data, ISPs won’t have to deal as much with a focus on latency, packet loss and other issues associated with Netflix-style streaming.

Tim F.

I much prefer syncing if it works. Why do I want to rely on persistent, quality network access? How many filetypes work well streamed? Most are fundamentally going to be downloaded/uploaded (i.e synced) or modified remotely, not streamed. I want my local copy when sensible.

Stacey Higginbotham

As a persistent streamer, I like the freedom of grabbing what i want, when I want it from a subscription service, but it took a long time for me to come around to that way of thinking. And yes, when my connection sucks, I am out of luck. This is a happy medium that will likely provide people with the best of both worlds, access on demand across multiple devices and a way to somewhat mitigate lousy connections.

Tim F.

Again, what is “persistent” streamer? In this case, you are only talking about media and renting access to it which has little to do with syncing versus streaming. (Additionally, I get the sense that there is an element of “streaming” with media content: with photos we get a feed; with audio, there is a difference between wifi/3G syncing of ripped music and iTunes (or iTunes Match) music in the cloud — I presume this is because media is the one case where your “library” is highly likely to exceed the limits of your mobile devices’s local storage. (But we still have much to learn.)

Subscriptions to music (and down the road other media) are great. But I still prefer a Spotify (which does have local storage) to a Pandora — that is: subscription services do not go hand and hand with streaming.

Tim F.

P.S. Meant to say that I understand there is no true “streaming” but if I can swap out a subset of playlists stored locally for new playlists or autofill relatively quickly, while beginning to play new tracks as others download in background… something that I do not know yet explicitly but presume… To me this achieves “equivalence” with streaming, i.e. accessing music in the cloud that previously wasn’t on my device locally on demand.

If we are talking about it taking additional, significant time and effort to access a song in my cloud storage that wasn’t previously synced locally with my device, it can be a drawback. But my guess is Apple is aiming to make local storage w/syncing + updating through downloading/uploading indistinguishable from streaming the majority of media files with some local “pinning” — I would certainly imagine that is achievable.


Not so sure this won’t turn out to be streaming. There’s been a lit of interpretation today, and I for one don’t believe there would be all this effort to just simply wirelessly sync. iTunes in the Cloud may be available – at least in part – today, but no one’s seen Match yet. Only time will tell.



There was nothing in the iCloud announcement today that I saw that focused on music or information streaming. It seems that the iCloud service described today is about syncing and downloading content to iOS devices; not streaming content. Am I mistaken?


The only problem with this article is that Apple has gone out of its ay to develop a non-streaming model. While it’s true that syncing music (for example) to all your iOS devices will require bandwidth – once it’s on the device, it can be played back just as it is today.

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