iCloud: Can Apple Finally Get Seamless Sync Right?

One of the announcements from today’s Apple event was iCloud, described as “a set of free [with iOS5] cloud services that work with your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac or PC to automatically and wirelessly store your content in iCloud and push it to all your devices.” In other words, iCloud is a file synchronization and sharing solution for Apple devices. Similar in some ways to Dropbox, the leading independent sync solution and arguably the world’s 5th most valuable startup.

The big question is: can Apple finally get sync right? Apple promises that iCloud will integrate “seamlessly with your apps, so everything happens automatically.” It’s absolutely crucial that Apple delivers on that promise, because sync is a key part of the multi-device world that we now live in. Perhaps for the first time since Android appeared on the scene to challenge the iPhone, Apple is at risk of losing customers if iCloud fails.

First a very quick summary of why Apple hasn’t gotten sync right yet. MobileMe is essentially a lighter version of iCloud – storing mail, contacts, calendar items and bookmarks in the cloud. Apple also has “home sharing,” which enables you to access files on another Apple device.

Ultimately MobileMe just didn’t offer enough, particularly as it wasn’t free. I have refused to pay for such a limited sync service over the years and many others felt the same. Apple is already directing MobileMe users to transition to iCloud.

As for home sharing, it has (for me at least) been buggy and far less than seamless.

From October 12, iCloud will be Apple’s main sync solution. Cue strummy guitar music…

Why iCloud is Crucial to Apple’s Future Success

iCloud sounds like a great sync service. But, for once, this is an area that Apple has a lot of stiff competition in. If iCloud turns out to be a glitchy dud, then Apple is at serious risk of losing customers to Microsoft, Google, Amazon and others who have developed sync solutions.

As a user, it’s becoming increasingly important to have a seamless and dependable way to access one’s content across devices. Apple is vulnerable on this front. For example, if I continue to find it frustrating to access all of my network’s content via my iPad, then I might be tempted to go and buy Amazon’s new Kindle Fire tablet – which syncs your content via a cloud service similar to what iCloud promises. If I enjoy Amazon’s tablet and media sync experience, then I probably won’t buy the next version of iPad. I’m just one person, but imagine that scenario multiplied by millions of current Apple users (and extended from Amazon to Android, Microsoft and other Apple competitors).

There is reason to be concerned about whether iCloud will measure up. As developer Mark Berger commented via Twitter, “I don’t think their [Apple’s] attention to IT systems/data is quite in the same league as their hardware design.” Certainly my own experience of Lion OS X, Apple’s latest OS, has been less than optimal – including, notably, in regards to home sharing.

Wait And See…

The proof as always will be in the pudding. And Apple has made many delicious puddings before.

iCloud will become available on October 12, so we will find out for sure then. Let us know in the comments whether you’re confident that Apple can get sync right with iCloud

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