I concur with you. I thought that MobileMe did two things: sync and share. With iCloud, sync is still there, but sharing is dead. Too bad, as I used most of the sharing features!!!
There are loads of sharing services "out there". But there is no other service that matches iCloud (as presented) for the breadth and depth of syncing.
Apple often succeeds when it does something "small" really, really well. They then expand incrementally... and the success expands with it.
iTools/.Mac/MobileMe were exceptions that proved the rule. These services attempted to do a lot, but didn't do it exceptionally well. And... they haven't taken off in a big way.
My prediction: Apple will add sharing back in, once they have syncing working so well that everyone thinks it is easy.
iWork.com is an interesting one. Despite the limitations, it is quite useful. Through this, I can share documents for review without requiring my colleagues to sign up for an account (as with Google Doc's) or have my software (as with MS Office).
Hopefully Apple will integrate an improved iWork.com into iCloud over time.
For group review of documents with no round-trip needs, we've long used QuickTopic Document Review. Works with anything you can convert into HTML.http://www.quicktopic.com/newfeature.html
As soon as there are any collaborative needs beyond comments, we switch to Google Docs.
I agree with a lot of what you have to say here, Adam, but I do take issue with one comment. You say "There is little an online service can do better than a local application unless the point is to share data."
Where the cloud makes a difference for me is in its ability to free me from having to carry my computer environment anywhere I go if I want or need to access my "stuff". I call this idea the Zero-Pound Computer and it is immensely attractive. This, of course, suggests that the Cloud will be most helpful to me when, like Google Docs and other apps (including Zoho), it combines functionality with the attendant content. IOW, I want to be able to do my work from any platform I can get my hands on without having to carry my own computer everywhere I go.
Collaboration is a sometimes-important capability but for me, it's this convenient access from any computer that makes the cloud valuable.
Ah, this is an interesting point, Dan, and you're absolutely right that the capability to use any machine, anywhere, with your own data is a win of online services over local apps. This is, in fact, exactly what Google is pushing with Chromebook - the hardware becomes nearly irrelevant.
If iCloud succeeds in it's first incarnation I believe we will see collaborative apps being written. Perhaps something can be done based on a group sharing the same account. I envisioned a project management tool based on the cloud in a piece I wrote "iCloud's Big Brother". This tool would allow project management to have real-time status on the various parts of the project as they were being worked on.
I'm not thinking this can be done with iCloud as it will be in its first release. I do believe the potential is in there though. I'm hoping Apple can make the leap from a storage based individual service to a data conduit based service with some storage. Add to that, group accounts as well as individual and we're good to go I think. They have created the plumbing infrastructure and hopefully used pipes that can handle the kind of data streams that group communication will need. Then its up to the app developer to figure out how to parse the data and store it where it does the most good.
You forgot probably Apple's biggest blunder (of a neat service for back in the day)- eWorld http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EWorld
Doh! Clearly I was trying to block it from my memory. In my defense, eWorld was never a true Internet service.
But it did replace AppleLink with its usurious hourly rate. :-)
You make the assumption that collaboration is paramount when it is only one application of cloud computing. (Important to many, but only to some.) I'm and old man now. (whew there I said it!) I've done terminals/main frame computing and I have had everything on my own hard drive and lost it. They both suck. The ultimate for me is the "Zero-pound" computing experience as one earlier commenter described it.
If I need to share there are other solutions and maybe Apple will bring that back. But first they have to get the syncing correct and in all the .mac and Mobileme type attempts they hadn't gotten it. Let's start with the fundamentals first rather than asking for the world and getting less than the baby carriage.
Being an old man, allows me some perspective. Apple figures things out and does a great job, so let's let them do it with this too. They have their limitations as do I (we?) and so ask for what you want but work with them rather than blasting them for being less that perfect.
Yes, the zero-pound computing usage scenario is a good argument for online tools over local tools. But I don't think it's a good argument for why Apple should do online services, given that Apple makes all its money selling hardware.
And while I normally agree with you that Apple does a very good job of figuring things out and offering what people want, the company's lackluster history with online services makes me wonder if they'll ever match up to what Internet-focused companies can create.
If I can purchase a new piece of hardware and immediately start using all of my existing documents without some sort of manual migration, I'm much more likely to purchase additional hardware goodies. So I think this zero-pound usage scenario *will* help Apple make more money from hardware. In fact, I'm somewhat living this scenario right now, as DropBox, Google Mail and MobileMe synching (via Yojimbo) have enabled me to move back and forth between my main MacBook Pro and a MacBook Air, making the purchase of a second computer (the Air) a much better value for me than it would have been a few years ago.
Great analysis. I think you're right, and Apple is smart to focus on what it's really good at (as always).
One point about using cloud services like Google Docs just for collaboration: I also use them when I want a doc (or other data) available anywhere, e.g. any computer in my house, phones, hotel business center, etc. I guess you could call this self-collaboration, but it's useful even if I'm the only one who sees the doc.
Yep, this is really another sub-category of the zero-pound computing that Dan mentioned. I'll add it to the article.
I was thinking why don't they just call it iSync... a quick search shows Apple already has something called that for syncing to 3rd-party devices.
It would certainly be more honest.
Yes, it would, but with the single exception of FileVault, I can't really think of a situation where Apple has reused a name for a completely different service. Plus, iCloud doesn't prevent them from doing non-syncing services in the future, much as those may not be in evidence now.
Appreciated the Monty Python reference, "ex-parrot."
You make some very valid & insightful points. Sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees , as the saying goes...
I'm truly going to miss the ease with which iWeb would publish to .mac/MobileMe.
Now that I'm all dressed up with several iWeb created websites I'll soon have to decide where to go when it shuts down. Any suggestions please with pro & Con analysis of possible alternatives? ...hmmm material for an(other) ebook?
Also, what about those of us who don't want the "sync" with our other devices? In my particular situation I have multiple devices that I want left alone. IE... I have one MBPro that I use exclusively for my photography/video work and another separate MBPro that I use exclusively for audio/soundboard work. I don't want "things" synced across all my devices. However, I would want specific files/apps/databases to be able to sync. How much control will I have to chose what evaporates to the cloud ...or not? Thanks for your insights
Regards from the coast of Main
We just did an article about alternatives to MobileMe for iWeb users.http://tidbits.com/article/12302
As far as avoiding syncing; there's no way to know for sure until iCloud is fully available, but I would strongly suspect that you'll be able to choose which apps sync and how, unless the entire point of the app is to share data with other instances of itself.
Oh... & just another 2 thoughts I've had.
1- What about "security" of my/our private files/info when it ends up in a corporate data farm somewhere in bumtruck-whoknowswhere? If my voicemail can get hacked by some tabloid journalist then what about any personal material that "floats" back & forth in a "cloud"?
2- I live in a rural area far from the fast lane of urban development. For the longest time the only option for connectivity was dial-up. There is no such thing as cable here. When folks visit their reception (various providers) is at no-signal to 1-bar. It was only just in March that our "local" phone company upgrades our lines that we now get the lowest DSL option. So how effective will cloud connectivity be to to those with limited connectivity?
just random questions that I've not heard anyone else mention or consider...
I'd appreciate your thoughts
Regards from the coast of Maine
Security is always an unknown - companies of course always promise that they're doing everything that should be done, but there's no way to know if that's true or not. Unless they get hacked, at which point the promises were clearly not true.
As far as slow Internet connections go, I think you'll be OK. You need a large pipe when you're accessing large quantities of data all at once, but with cloud-based syncing, the data chunks can be quite small and flow constantly.
Your comment: “My guess, and it’s just a guess, is that Apple has realized that multi-user Internet services aren’t the company’s strong suit, and they have intentionally focused iCloud on providing a data conduit for apps running on multiple devices owned by a single individual.” Hits precisely Apple philosophy and there is much evidence available over the past almost 30 Years.
It seems the entire Apple Business Model is been build entirely on individual users and any group consideration is been seen as an unwelcome byproduct they rater ignore than foster.
Phil Schiller said it best when approached just recently regarding Apple’s interest in any group concept, “Not Interested”. Just two words but they say it all.
Apple seems to see any group concept, where any larger entities than a family collaborate, as a fret they cannot handle.
It’s scary, considering its individual success, but an almost total blank on any group level.
But if you make yourself familiar with the company, its founders and the people involved in its evolutional process, you may understand what its conceptual philosophies are and can almost from there project its future, unless someone comes along who understand the powers, collaboration with groups can have.
Just as example, when Steve Jobs gives one of his presentations before a filled auditorium, he does not see the entire auditorium but he sees many individuals. Analyze that…
I'd argue that Apple doesn't even really understand families. Look at how hard it is to share photos and music within a family using iPhoto and iTunes.
It's fairly obvious this is just stage one, just as when iTunes was introduced it didn't seem to amount to much — nice but ho hum. Here's the scenario I'm expecting.
1. Get the Mac and iOS community used to storing their data on iCloud. Syncing isn't in the picture at all because all the data from any Apple device gets stored on iCloud. You pull data from iCloud and with clickless saving under Lion everything gets saved there as well. Sure, there will be massive security and reliability issues to be worked out and the only way to do that is go live.
2. The novelty of this characteristic will become very attractive to the non-Mac world, thus sell more hardware.
3. Introduce iWork for Windows so users don't have to save a copy in Word format.
4. Introduce collaboration gradually when the foundations are solid.
The world has become both global and very mobile. Especially mobile. As such security and reliability become paramount. Apple has a brilliant future.
I'd like to believe that too, but we've said roughly the same thing about iTools, and then .Mac, and then MobileMe. In no case has Apple ever improved the group-oriented collaborative tools such that those tools have survived in the long run.
what happened to you guys at TidBITS?!? Since the WWDC you don't stop moaning about this and that! Looks like more and more mainstream Mac news to me!!
Nice to know we're not being labeled as fanboys! :-)
We call it as we see it, and there are quite a few different voices with different opinions; for instance, see Rich Mogull's article "The Future Is Disposable."http://tidbits.com/article/12281
Adam and others, in recent years I've had to become less "loyal" to Apple, too, just to do my job. As a 5th grade teacher I use Dropbox with netbooks (all my kids have one) and Open Office to share docs that don't need collaboration. Google Docs for collaboration projects. Windows 7 netbooks (because our school is PC-based, although my principal indulged my Mac-preference and I just got my second MBP). I can work with my students' PC-created files just fine on my MBP because we use a web-based collaboration tool (non-Apple) -- Google Docs, and a cross-platform, open source Office suite (Open Office). I remain a Mac user, have 2 MBPs and a Mini at home/work, but also tote netbooks, use an old Dell 7500 for Ham Radio dedicated software, and hum along just fine in a multi-platform world. I'm hoping iCloud helps me keep ME in sync as I work to collaborate with 50+ students and a staff of PC-users. Apple can't do it all (sync/share in particular), but what they do, for me, is very helpful.
If I had rubbed the lamp and the genie offered me three wishes, the first would be a service that seamlessly syncs in real time, contacts, calendar, to-do, notes, ... across my macs, iPad and iPhone. Any chance that iCloud will provide this?
That's the promise of iCloud, certainly. We'll see how well it delivers in a few months!
Glad to see this discussion and the reference to the article on the iWeb option. Have you a recommendation for replacement of MobileMe Gallery?