How Apple Sees the Cloud: Not Like You Do
The news from Apple at Monday’s Worldwide Developers Conference left me with the same impression I’ve had about many presentations from the company: This looks neat, but at what point will I find my data or my apps on the wrong side of an elegantly designed, Apple-built wall?
iCloud still closed
For a worst-case example, see the new iCloud Drive online storage system. In a welcome and overdue fix, iCloud will now let you get at online files through the desktop Finder, not just in the Open and Save dialogs of particular apps.
This desktop access will be reserved for the Finder in the upcoming OS X Yosemite (which will at least be free). Apple’s preview page, however, says Windows uploading will be limited to just Windows 8 — as in, the version that CEO Tim Cook mocked at the start of the WWDC keynote for running on a mere 14 percent of PCs.
Want to connect to iCloud from an Android device? Forget it. And the Web access that came with Apple’s long-gone iDisk isn’t an option either — except for photos, which you will be able to view in a browser.
iCloud Drive looks like an improvement, but three years after iCloud’s debut, it still functions more as a cable connecting Apple-approved devices than as a window open to all. It remains far from the kind of anywhere, any-device access you get with Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft’s OneDrive.
And this controlling mind-set extends to developers who use iCloud storage in their apps. When programs are written using Apple’s new Cloud Kit code framework, they can be sold only in the iOS and Mac App Stores. This makes it expensive or impossible to ship an Android, Web, or Windows version later on.
Is it really that hard for Cupertino to accept that some of its customers might use somebody else’s phone or tablet while still valuing its services and the apps built on them? Management there has to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Android has to lose.
(You might want to use only Apple’s devices, but what about your friends and family? You don’t get to choose their computers, and you might want to share data with them at some point, or need to borrow a device.)
This comes even as other parts of the keynote showed the company undoing old mistakes and opening up to non-Apple services: Safari will once again support RSS subscriptions, and iOS 8 will let you use third-party onscreen keyboards.