It’s a tight efficient script, has all the ingredients in the right doses, works wonders every time and has now been used to launch and sell millions of devices. This is called the Apple Soap Opera – with an unlikely hero, a supporting cast of millions and a storyline that is repeated and yet delivers smash hits every time. The story goes something like this…Take a product that’s been out in the market for a long time (MP3 player, smartphone, Tablet, thin and light Notebook), give it a brand new name (iPod, iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air), simplify and idiot-proof it, give it a strikingly sexy exterior, wear a black polo, then get on stage and announce the product as a brand new category, make it sound like the discovery of the holy grail, send your fanatic AppleBots into the world to spread the word, make sure some controversy on the name or the service happens, get sued resulting in lots of free press, follow up with a smart and slick ad campaign and ROFL all the way to the bank.
And it’s been done again. This time with the Cloud. That strange, fuzzy, silly, obtuse, misleading, jargony, typically nerdy, totally geeky term that has made sure that more people are confused by what the Cloud is than there are people who use it. Apple has Applised the Cloud, given it an ‘i’ in front to make it iCloud, simplified and dumb-proofed it to make sure it’s automatic and needs no user intervention, announced it as the next coming of God. An Arizona-based VoIP has sued them for the name iCloud and the world has (on expected lines) gone wild. But this time there is a difference. This really could be the greatest favour Apple and Steve Jobs could have done to the world.
The Cloud is one of the simplest things in the technology world. Unfortunately it’s been promoted poorly and to the common person, it’s very complex and only used by large corporates for backing up their billion dollar data. Also, poor marketing has made sure that most people don’t know that it even exists. Just like you have a hard drive or memory storage on every device, think of the Cloud as a hard drive in the sky. In principle, anything you create, save and do on any of your devices should end up on the Cloud.
This would mean that a document you created on your Notebook should appear on your phone, a game you started on your Tablet can be paused and picked up from that very spot on your desktop, a movie that you were watching at home should also run on your Netbook. Anything that you do on any device should be available and ready on any other device you own. Unfortunately this amazing promise wasn’t kept to – and the Cloud became a bit of a thunder-and-lightning mystifying category.
There are many reasons the Cloud didn’t take off. Remember, the Cloud needs Net access at all times. While a local copy may exist on the device at hand, updates and new data can only be refreshed if you’re online. This was and is the Achilles heel. Other issues are incompatibility between devices (doesn’t work between all OSes and devices), difficulty in set-up, security concerns (where is your data going, who has access to it, what happens to your data if the company fails?), and privacy issues (what if all your data gets hacked and all your information is exposed?). Plus, most people are unaware of why they would need it and what it can do for them and, most importantly, getting onto the Cloud costs money.
In one stroke, Apple has demolished most of the Cloud’s fuzzy problems. The iCloud has got enough press and hype to make sure that everybody knows that it exists, it’s made set-up as easy as a login and a password, it’s free, it works automatically, doesn’t need you to manually shunt data in and out, works from within apps – anything you create within Pages or Numbers will automatically move to the Cloud. Plug into your power source and the phone immediately starts to back up and sync with a WiFi connection and it works from almost all iOS devices so anything and everything that you have on one device – contact, notes, email, documents, books, pictures, music, apps, bookmarks – will appear on all others. Think how easy upgrading to a new phone will be. Just enter your iCloud password and eureka, within seconds your new phone has it all.
To introduce something as big and as important as Cloud computing – and to break it down so that it becomes mass market, easy to understand and works ‘automagically’ is a very big deal. The competition will now have to outdo Apple, every device manufacturer and every OS will have to better it, new services, more free storage, more innovation, simpler interfaces, compatibility between OSes and all devices are all going to happen. It’s all good and it’s all great for us – the consumers. The Apple story may be a tightly-scripted, much-repeated soap opera – but it seems to have happy endings.
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3.
Follow Rajiv on Twitter at twitter.com/RajivMakhni
- From HT Brunch, June 19
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