On June 6, at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2011, Steve Jobs, Apple Inc CEO, announced the impending irrelevance of the personal computer (PC). Coming from someone who played a significant role in the PC’s development about 30 years ago, the news was quite a revelation.
But it wasn’t unknown that Jobs was working on a post-PC era concept.
He announced the iCloud, the new cloud computing (CC) services from Apple, which will be available later this year. The iCloud is a set of free new cloud services that will work seamlessly with applications on iPhones, iPads, iPods, Macs and PCs to automatically and wirelessly store content on iCloud by pushing the data to all the devices when logged in.
Storing contacts, music, pictures and documents have got digitised over the years and users of all age groups prefer the digital versions to the ‘physical’ ones. Out of those, a significant number of users are dedicated Apple fans and already accustomed to iPhones and iPads, which operate on iOS (Apple’s operating system).
All these devices were, till now, linked to PCs. But the emergence of iCloud will make the PC irrelevant, as we would no longer need it to synchronise data. The services will be offered free of charge and a storage capacity of 5GB will be given to each user. In other words, the tedious task of backing up data and updating software will soon be a thing of the past.
The development is interesting on many fronts. Apple has finally joined the CC bandwagon in a big way. Though it will face competition from Google, Amazon and even Microsoft, Apple will make a significant impact on the market and try to cash in on its popularity and wide subscriber base of iPhone and iPad.
Google is well entrenched in the CC market with Google Apps, Google Music and Google Drive suites. Amazon has been active in the CC space with its Amazon Web Services and, today, also offers videos streaming on rentals.
Microsoft has launched Office 365, a cloud-based Office that enables companies and institutions to outsource and store IT infrastructure like data, files and e-mails on cloud. Its much-awaited operating system, Windows 8, will provide automatic configuration facility to users.
This means that users will be able to work on any Windows 8-enabled machine from anywhere without losing data. One good feature of iCloud is that it supports Windows platform. This means that millions of Microsoft Windows users will also be able to use iCloud.
The news of iCloud gains more importance in the wake of the bigger debate around the security of data in cloud computing. Incidents of cyber attacks and those like the recent hacking of Sony’s PlayStation network frequently raise doubts about the credibility of CC as a foolproof computing solution.
A right balance between desktop computing, which requires a PC, and CC is at present the best solution for such problems. However, technological advancements and the availability of alternative solutions are prompting many to shift to CC while maintaining back ups in dedicated servers.
But there is no denying that, with iCloud, Apple has once again intensified the race to the top among various tech giants, who will now keep a close eye on each other.
After all, every organisation strives to achieve only one target — to cater to the needs of consumers, who are not only growing in number but also getting digitally wiser.
(Subimal Bhattacharjee writes on issues of technology and security. The views expressed by the author are personal)