One thing about Apple that amazes me is how often they hit a new product out of the park — iPod, iPhone, iPad; all phenomenally well-received — but with Internet services consistently no matter how hard they try, they fall down. When he announced iCloud Jobs joked: why should you trust us? We’re the ones that brought you MobileMe.
iCloud shows early signs of being a MobileMe. Which is unfortunate. It’s not the hands-down launch disaster MobileMe was, and sitting through more MMO launches that I’d care to remember, I know bad things happen several million people hit a service at once. In Apple’s case, it was a couple-hundred million.
The Mail Issue
Nothing puts a public face on a service issue like email going down. I’m not likely to notice if an iCloud backup failed, or my bookmarks don’t sync. I may not notice, or care, that Photo Stream didn’t sync. An error message that pops up on my Mac or iOS device that says it can’t connect to the mail servers is very in your face.
Mail went down for 3-4 hours Thursday and about an hour today. It’s not the end of the world. Other than the pop ups, no mail was delayed getting to me. The problem is, while my me.com address sees very low volume, that volume is very high priority. It’s an e-mail address I only give out to very close and personal friends. When I see that e-mail light up with an unread message, I know it’s important to me.
Again, the MobileMe problems were greater. However, because back then MobileMe was a paid service I wasn’t using it didn’t affect me. I started subscribing about a year ago and use it a lot now. So, the load issues are troublesome.
Documents in the Cloud
When I complain about Documents in the Cloud I have to take a step back and remember that with this Apple has build the framing of a house. It’s not quite ready for you to move into yet, but you can see it take shape and let different trades to their work. Documents in the Cloud does a fantastic job at syncing data across my iOS devices. The problem is needing to use a web app to upload and download my documents to my Mac seems like totally the wrong solution to the problem.
Apple not having iWork apps on the OS X ready to go on day one is a big letdown. I have a feeling that getting an OS X app to work with iCloud’s sandbox is a bit of a hurdle. Given the nature of Apple’s inter-department security, I’m not sure the iWork team knew much about iCloud before WWDC. That’s speculation on my part, though. My belief right now is that since Apple is mum on this, and at no point during any of the WWDC or iPhone 4 announcement is there even a glimpse of iWork on OS X working with iCloud I think this is a long time coming.
The big problem I see is being able to group a mishmash of documents. Many times a project will have PDFs, Word and Excel files. With each app having its own sandbox, there’s no way I can just look through all of them at once.
Backups and PC-Free
I’m lumping this into the same header because to me, they are the same. iOS 5 lets you never attach your iOS device to a computer. This is a life-saver. I set my girl friend up with it and it’s nice to know whenever she plugs her iPad in overnight it’s gonna get backed up. Hell, it’s nice knowing when I plug it in it’s getting backed up.
The bad part is, right now the only way to restore is to reset the device. I’m not sure if this is something Apple will eventually let you grab selective bits, but I doubt it. iCloud backups are for when you need to restore the entire system when you get a new device or you need to start over. I’m ok with this.
PC-free is, well, interesting.
I think for most people, this is true. If I got my Mom an iPad for Christmas I’d take it out of the box, set it up with her email account already, and then when I hand it to her, add it to her home network and get her set up with apps. She’ll never, ever need to sync the device. When I know an important software update has been released either see or I can take care of it. She’ll never know iTunes exists.
For my iPad, it’s likely it won’t sync to iTunes, or at least often. My iPhone will due to my music library on there. Maybe after iTunes Match comes out I will, but until I can manage playlists on my iPhone and have them get beamed to my iPad, it’s of limited value. I don’t often sync music to my iPad, but when I do, I want my playlists to follow.
Documents is likely to be where my iPad gets connected. I side load books to my Kindle and Kindle.app and I need to use a cord to do that. I don’t do that often, since its mostly legacy ebooks I’m side loading; future Amazon purchases will be synced via Whispersync.
Do I like it?
Overall, yeah. The Documents in the Cloud thing is a major pain right now, but it’s rare I need to round a trip a file with any regularity. It’ll be great when I can sync in the background, but for now it’s inconvenient rather than aggravating. That said, I do see myself using Dropbox more, since I can set up sync folders in Goodreader. I’m doing a contract negotiation for some personal stuff and I just dumped the folder of documents on Dropbox if I need them.