Saturday, June 18, 2011

iCloud is almost here; Is the world ready?

This is a guest post by Greg Buckskin from
Steve Jobs recently announced a slew of new upgrades and products to the Apple brand. Most notably is Apple’s new cloud service, iCloud. Amazon and Google have already launched cloud services, so Apple is a little late to the game, but the inevitability of this technology being harnessed by Apple was a forgone conclusion no matter when it happened. The real story here is not what iCloud is, but what it actually means for users and music lovers.
Apple is big on fanfare. They keep their lips tight on new products, apps, and software and then announce them at big conferences a few times a year. And this latest announcement is no different. After going over some new operating systems, Jobs announced iCloud while touting all its wonderful benefits.
First of all, for tracks purchased on iTunes, iCloud is free and there's almost unlimited storage beating out Amazon’s cloud service that is only free up to 5GB. And although Google is currently in a free trial period for users, it is expected to announce a pricing schedule at some point in the future. But no matter what, it’s hard to beat free and its good bait to keep you in the iTunes ecosystem.
Another big win for iCloud is the fact that you won’t have to upload your library to a new service. iTunes will automatically scan your library and mirror any files that were purchased from iTunes onto the cloud for you, "taking minutes, not weeks," as Job said in his announcement. Moreover, it will upgrade your lower bitrate files to iTunes standard 256kb. This is a big time saver, and since everything will be synced automatically and wirelessly, it saves having to reconnect all your devices every time you download a new song.
However, iCloud is not Dropbox. The majority of files on iCloud will still also be hosted on your device, but when you want to listen to a deeper, less-played track, your device will hit up the cloud for that content. That means that some files will sit in the cloud instead of on your device and those tracks will only be available when connected to the cloud. Going camping this weekend? Don’t forget to load up your iPhone with the actual files you want to listen to! If there's no service or spotty coverage where you're going, don't expect fast cloud access. 
Another drawback is that, although the service is free, your data plan may not be. Depending on your current data plan, you could be paying overages for the time you’ve spend streaming your favorite music to your iPad. And that raises another question. How will service providers react when iCloud music listeners are hogging all the bandwidth? Last year, Verizon announced it may be lowering bandwidth access from time to time due to an over-taxed system. What happens when everyone starts streaming 8 hours a day? This could lead to data caps, diminished cell service and dropped calls—which is a losing proposition for most everyone, not just iCloud users.
All in all, Apple has created a great service that lots of people are going to want to use. But the drawback and secondary effects of using a system like iCloud may become more apparent when the service rolls out to actual users in the coming months. What advantages and disadvantages to you see as we leap into the clouds?
About the Author
When he’s not out skiing the Utah powder, Greg Buckskin is a writer and blogger for