The Problem With iCloud


Kyle Baxter writes:

iCloud’s promise is a dream: your contacts, calendar, backups, songs, documents and application data are on all of your devices, whenever and wherever you need them. No need to worry about moving files from device to device on a flash drive or emailing them or any of the other crazy stuff we used to do. All of your stuff, always there when you need it. If that were completely the case, it would be a no-brainer for me. I’d implement iCloud syncing immediately, because that idea—never having to worry about where my stuff is again—is one of those ideas that makes my heart flutter with excitement.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

One of the most interesting conversational threads throughout WWDC ‘12 was the flawed nature of iCloud. Whether chatting over coffee, walking past Moscone West, or simply observing reactions to announcements on Twitter, developers held a clear and unilateral sentiment of mistrust and dissatisfaction toward the fledgling cloud service.

Although I contend that iCloud is poised to become the backbone of the entirety of Apple’s product ecosystem in coming months and years, there are evidently some sincere and troubling growing pains. As much as I might lyrically opine about forgetting the operating system, the subversion of complexity, and so on, the developers reliant upon Apple’s iCloud APIs are clearly singing to a much different tune.

Of course, such problems are to be expected of such a new technology. Nevertheless, it’s fascinating to behold the divergent views between the consumer and development communities. From the outside, Apple has portrayed iCloud as a consumer-benefitting tool that sinks beneath the binding code of the operating system. For the user, such an implementation results in the magical and mysterious availability of information in a truly delightful manner. On the other hand, for the developer, iCloud is riddled with inefficiencies in order to achieve such a lofty goal.

Considering Apple’s propensity toward benefitting the end-user, iCloud — in its current nascent state — is poignantly analogous to much of Apple’s contemporary strategy. Rather than skewing toward the advanced, computer-literate community, Apple is instead focusing upon the average consumer. Insofar as the average writer might complain about marginal changes between various OS X iterations, the developer too is coming up against heretofore unfamiliar barriers.

Such hurdles are certainly not malignant elements of the modern Apple ecosystem. In a long-term view, they are simply indicative of the cost of innovation.