iCloudy With A Chance Of Streaming

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many of the tech writers in my Twitter stream, I too am simply exhausted from all that there is to unpack in today’s WWDC 2011 Keynote. That said, let me try to break down a few highlights that I think are important to what we believe in here.

I’m going to start with the one I found most interesting:


The funny thing is that iCloud is not any one thing but a host of things. Perhaps iCloud is not even “things” but an idea. The idea being that users should have the stuff that matters to them – music, photos, documents, contacts, calendars, etc. – available to all of their devices and backed up, offsite, in real time. The idea that the files system should not matter and, in fact, should become unimportant. The idea that if you buy something from Apple on one device it should be available to download (by choice or automatically) to all devices.

I think, for those of us purposefully working with limited space, there is a question of how all of this get stored and how much space it takes up. I purposefully did not install iLife on my Macbook Air, not only because I knew I would rarely use these apps there but also because of the additional space not having the app or the library would save me and allow for other things that mattered more. It was hard to get a sense from the “liveblogs” I followed how such things would be handled. For instance, I do have iWork (Pages, Keynote, Numbers) on the Macbook Air. Will it be possible to sync only the data pertinent to it and not iLife as well or will it be an all or nothing affair?

These are things I don’t quite know or understand yet and we will have to wait for Mac OS X Lion to check them out.

The one thing I want to point out is the iTunes in the Cloud feature. As I stated a couple of weeks ago, Apple knows what we have purchased and they know what is in our library, why not just make it available to all devices? If it’s available in the iTunes store, why not simply make it available for listening? Well, this is exactly what they did. It looks fantastic. The stuff you have bought through iTunes is there available for download today. If you have ripped music or, presumably, purchased it elsewhere, it will be available for same when the new iTunes Match service is released this Fall.

The only thing I got wrong was the streaming aspect of it. Not sure why this was not announced today. I still think, due to the decreased amount of storage available on some of Apple’s most popular devices (i.e. iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Macbook Air 11 inch), not to mention increasing bandwidth (I get a steady 19MB down as it stands right now), this would seem to me to be an important play. I don’t know the reasons but still believe it is coming sooner rather than later. Perhaps, that too, is waiting for Fall.

The Photo Stream feature will be a godsend to those of us who take lots of pictures and can never remember what the heck is where. I’m also hoping it will resolve a long standing issue of my wife and I which is the ability to have a central immediate photo storage that we each have access (i.e. “Can you email me that cute photo of Beatrix you just took so I have it too?).

It will also be interesting to see how this changes mine and my wife’s fairly complex and robust calendar sharing that we have thus far relied on BusyCal to do being able to handle all of this stuff with iCloud and have any changes instantly synced between our devices will be a godsend.

But these two things bring up an important (to me at least) question – how will iCloud handle this from an account perspective? Will we be able to say, for instance, both my wife’s devices and mine belong to the same iCloud account for some things but have separate accounts for others? For example, she currently has her own Apple ID and therefore her own music, app and other purchases. In the case of apps, she may not want to have to wade through all the stuff I purchased to get to the three things she has. Not to mention documents. I think we can see where this is going. I wonder how the complexities of a modern household where several devices exist and sharing would be good for some things but not others will be handled?

That said, it seems many of the questions will likely be answered in the coming months or for sure will be come Fall. Of all of the announcements made at the Keynote (and there were a ton), I foresee this being the most foundationaly disruptive in terms of the way we approach our data today.