Our Thoughts on iCloud, And Yours? | iLounge Backstage

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Our Thoughts on iCloud, And Yours?

Heading into next week’s Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, where Apple has announced that it will officially unveil iCloud, this is a good time to share a few quick thoughts for discussion and debate.

Goodbye, Me.com? While Apple is surely going to fold part of the existing MobileMe service into iCloud, it seems highly unlikely that the company’s @me.com e-mail addresses are going to go away. That two-letter top-level Me domain is as short as Apple’s getting in the .com world unless it buys i.Com, which is reserved by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority.* .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) just doesn’t have the same ring as .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), and it’s not as easy to type, either.

Videos as iCloud Killer Feature? Since negotiations with music labels for the iCloud media storage locker have been leaking out over the last few weeks, people have focused mostly on how iCloud would benefit users of the lowest-capacity iPods, iPhones, and iPads. “Now you can access your music from anywhere,” goes the line. Except you probably already could—at least most of the stuff you care about—since the average person’s music library isn’t gigantic. At one point, Apple claimed that the 4GB iPod mini had enough storage space for most people. That’s obviously changed over time, but these days, it’s easy to carry the best parts of your own music library around. On an iPod shuffle, even.

Videos are a different story. They hog space. Many don’t need to be played more than once or twice before you put them away for a while. Take those guys off of your iOS device and suddenly there’s more than enough room for apps, music, and whatever else you want to tote around. The only time you’ll really miss them is when you lack for Internet access, and in that case, you’ll need to move things around to keep a few of them on the device.

Apple TV as Biggest iCloud Video Beneficiary? If Apple can mirror your computer’s video content in an online storage locker, the biggest current device beneficiary (put aside the rumored storageless iPhone mini) would be the Apple TV. Without cloud-based storage, users need to keep a computer turned on in order to stream their videos to the Apple TV. People with huge video collections needed to find ways to store all their movies and TV shows on a hard drive, which either sits inside the computer or needs to be kept turned on as an external device. If Apple TV can pull all that content from the cloud, your computer and hard drive don’t need to stay awake to serve the files.

What About Bandwidth? All of iCloud’s media streaming features will come with a still under-appreciated cost: ISP bandwidth limitations. Stream videos constantly from the cloud to your cellular network and you’re going to hit your iPhone’s capped bandwidth limit. Rely upon the cloud rather than your computer to send videos to your Apple TV, and you’re going to test your broadband ISP’s willingness to keep offering unlimited bandwidth—if it hasn’t already discontinued that offering in your area. We discussed this back in April; it’s still a concern now.

What Price Would Really Be Worth Paying for iCloud? Unlike the iPad, which it nailed on price from day one, Apple has seriously missed the right price for subscription-based services for a long time now—.Mac and MobileMe arguably flopped as much due to their $100 annual expenses as the well-documented problems Apple had with the services themselves.

This new service is going to be different from .Mac and MobileMe, but Apple’s probably been tempted to try the “look at all you’re getting now for the same $100 price” strategy. Will it work? There’s just something daunting about the number as an annual fee. So what might appeal to people?

* A less expensive annual subscription, say, of $50 or $80.

* A monthly subscription of $5, which works out to $60 per year. Apple might try it at $10 per month, discounting the annual rate to $100, but that gets back to the MobileMe and .Mac pricing.

Why might Apple go in the lower or higher direction? Well, if it’s only offering you access to your own existing collection of media (along with MobileMe-like features), selling you wireless streaming might be a tougher sell—lower price makes more sense. But let’s say it did something huge, stealthily building a subscription-based alternative to Netflix and Rhapsody. Netflix charges $9 per month to let you stream as many TV shows and videos as you want. Rhapsody charges $10 per month for the same thing, only with music. What if you could stream all the music, TV shows, and videos you wanted from Apple’s iCloud—regardless of whether or not they were in your library?

That might well be worth $100 per year. But that scenario seems very unlikely right now.

What do you think? What would you be willing to pay for a hypothetical iCloud service that (a) stored and streamed your media content (including photos), (b) offered a Dropbox-like folder for iOS + computer synchronization, (c) provided an e-mail account, and (d) synced your calendar/contact/bookmark data across multiple devices? Post your thoughts in the Comments section below.

[* Note: Jesse Hollington notes that the IANA reserves all single-letter top-level domains, so there’s no way to go shorter than “Me.com” apart from buying a country-specific domain, as Twitter did with Colombia’s T.co, which works very well as a URL shortener.]

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Comments

1

If I could stream anything and everything in the iTunes Store, I would gladly pay $20 per month.

Posted by Galley in Greenville, SC on June 1, 2011 at 12:13 PM (CDT)

2

For me, the biggest request on my iCloud wish list is media storage that allows me to access my movies and music through my Apple TV without having my laptop on or present.

Apple TV as it stands needs your iTunes running, so it can be a pain to stream a song, show, or movie if your computer is off, or worse yet, not in the house.

There really isn’t an inexpensive solution to having content constantly ready for Apple TV. iCloud working as a personal iTunes server would be ideal.

My second request is a cloud-based Time Machine, similar to Dropbox and Carbonite. I use Carbonite now, but would love an Apple-branded solution.

Obviously other features would be nice, but I’d need at least the first item on my wishlist before I’d take the plunge.

Posted by cxc273 on June 1, 2011 at 12:40 PM (CDT)

3

I don’t see why we need iCloud at all. A better solution from Apple is a local, networkable media server/streaming device, with (secure) accessibility from anywhere/ anything with an Internet connection. Add Apple’s magical “it just works” design to it, so it isn’t as painful as a non-Apple solution (e.g. some 3rd party NAS with over-promised, under-executed media capabilities), and that will be a true winner.

Everyone rushing to the “cloud” overlooks issues of security, Internet availability, and *real-world* Internet speed. As it is right now, the Internet can’t handle everyone moving all of their data to, and regularly accessing their data from the “cloud.”

Posted by Farnsworth on June 1, 2011 at 3:16 PM (CDT)

4

I am intrigued to say the least. I have been using AppleTV since the original, and I am hooked. I now have 3 AppleTVs and four iPhone 4s.  If I could have access to my whole library from anywhere, any time, without having to sync?  Without having to reboot my PC?  That would be great. Except, my iPhones are all 200MB per month. No good. Public Wi-Fi isn’t bad, when it works, when you can get connected, but it isn’t available in my office or on a plane or in a car.

I will watch the announcement with interest, but I am not sure what I will do. I would pay $10 per month for all access and no data usage, sure. Would I pay $10 per month for the cloud and an extra $10 per month for 2GB to get access to only my music?  Nope. Would I pay $10 per month per iDevice?  Nope.

I am intrigued, but skeptical.

Posted by Chrystopher on June 1, 2011 at 10:22 PM (CDT)

5

I think from the perspective of users like me, from a country where we do not have iTMS, iCloud will not do much. I may look subscribe to the service based on the other factors that I can access, like the MobileMe part of the service. But, pricing is the deciding factor.

If Apple could manage something like Amazon’s WhisperSync for their Cloud-based services, it would be a real winner. But downloading e-books and downloading audio and video are 2 different things entirely, due to the difference in file sizes. It will not be that simple. And this is where the major factor, bandwidth caps + coverage area will come into play.

All in all, I think iCloud is just the beginning of something big. Looking at the Apple patent application dealing with storing a small segment of a media file locally and using this while the rest of the file is buffered from the cloud, there is still a lot Apple has in store for iCloud. I am optimistic about it, even though at present it is virtually useless for me.

Posted by Sreedhar on June 2, 2011 at 4:20 AM (CDT)

6

I am intrigued. I actually like me.com and paid the $100 (although was confused to be charged for another year when I know it’s going away). My main concern isn’t as much my music available for streaming, but the cloud storage for my data. iDisk works GREAT between my two Macs and is accessible with a bit of pain, but not much, from all my PCs. I run an Internet business that supports people from around the world, so being able to get to my client data from any computer is invaluable. Having it sync automatically to iDisk and just behave like a drive is awesome.

With the Macbook Air I can see really enjoying being able to stream my entire music collection while working (my other job), but it isn’t high on my list of priorities. Secure data backup and accessibility is more important to me.

Posted by Teechur on June 2, 2011 at 1:50 PM (CDT)

7

Steve Jobs said that “Documents in the cloud” will eliminate the need for an internal file system on iOS devices. That’s not true. My worklife is organized around projects which may have documents, spreadsheets, photos, pdf etc., not around apps that focues mainly on one type of file. What happens if I want to share a document, a spreadsheet and a photo with someone regarding a specific project in an email? (pretty simple task). I still can’t do it on an iOS 5 device… This problem should be handled!

Posted by Mike on June 14, 2011 at 11:09 AM (CDT)

8

I see the iCloud service as a way for Apple to attempt to appease those detractors who have been crying out for larger storage on their iDevices.

Does this spell the end for a future 64gb iPhone or 128gb iPod Touch? I’d say it’s highly likely.

Personally, if my iPhone were available in a larger capacity, I wouldn’t bother with the streaming possibilities of iCloud, but as it’s constantly at its full capacity and there’s so much more that I want to watch, play, listen to etc, iCloud could be the only option for me.

Of course, this is completely ignoring the patently obvious - I don’t have a data plan that could handle a monthly habit of streaming content constantly. And I don’t want to pay for one that could.

Posted by handsomedan on June 15, 2011 at 4:22 PM (CDT)

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