And then there were three. With Google and Amazon having declared their respective hands in the consumer cloud stakes, the attention had, naturally enough, turned to the other Big Beast to see what it could offer. Well, perhaps the most predictable aspect of it was its name – iCloud
. (Presumably the bookies didn’t take bets on this one, although I recall that you could back the appellation “iPad” at 3/1 shortly before it was confirmed.) As for the product itself: it’s a set of services designed to run seamlessly on all iOS devices: content is automatically stored in the cloud and pushed in synch to those devices. Thus, a photograph taken on your iPhone is immediately accessible via your iPad, music purchased on your Mac can be played straightaway on your iPod. It includes 5GB of free storage (content purchased from iTunes, the App Store and iBook Store doesn’t count against this limit). Furthermore, facilities such as iTunes in the Cloud enables users to download tracks previously purchased from iTunes to all iOS devices at no additional cost. Let it not be said that Old Holden equivocated on this one: iCloud will be another Apple success story. There are, I believe a number of persuasive arguments which I could deploy to illustrate the rationale behind my belief, but two will suffice for the moment. While Steve Jobs was extolling the virtues of Apple’s newly-christened tablet back in January 2010, I blogged thus: “I am not a betting man. But if I were, then my instincts would tell me to put my money on the iPad. Because, you see, it’s from a stable that has produced a lot of winners; and pedigree counts for a lot in this business.” And that statement, to my mind, contains the kernel of Persuasive Argument Number One: Apple has form. It is largely responsible for the fact that we now have a consumer smartphone market (sure, Apple has been bypassed by Android in terms of smartphone shipments, but then, 18 million shipments is an astonishing amount for a single handset model); it is also largely responsible for the fact that we have any kind of tablet market worth talking about (nearly 19.5 million shipments in its first four quarters – which, by the way, compares very favourably with the 5.4 million shipments racked up by the iPhone in its debut year). Persuasive Argument Number Two: Apple has a large user base, extending way beyond the “Mac head” fan base to the tens of millions for whom iTunes is the default means of accessing and purchasing music (and indeed other media content). One of the key advantages that iCloud has over its rivals is the (premium) iTunes Match service, which enables customers to access tracks in their collection purchased from non-Apple sources (e.g. the myriad Jethro Tull albums that they have painstakingly transferred from CDs), matching the tracks “in a matter of minutes” and thereby meaning that you don’t have to go through the whole laborious process again. Apple may not have been the first major player to reach for the cloud, but in this instance it didn’t have to be: it watched as the competition laid down their cards and then, inevitably, trumped them. This is not to say that the offerings from Google and Amazon will not be successful: I would envisage that both will be incredibly lucrative, emblematic of the quite dramatic transition to a cloud-centric landscape that we are currently experiencing. But from Apple we have a product line which seems likely to prove definitive in that transition.