The Problem With iCloud

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.

WSJ: Apple Preparing Upgrade to iCloud

iCloud

Jessica E. Vascellaro reports for The Wall Street Journal:

Apple Inc.’s push into online services is about to gain some steam.

The maker of the iPhone and iPad is preparing a big upgrade to its online service iCloud that includes new photo-sharing features, according to people familiar with the matter.

The new features, which could be announced at Apple’s world-wide developer conference beginning June 11, will allow iCloud users to share sets of photos with other iCloud users and to comment on them, these people said. Currently, users can store only one set of photos in iCloud through a feature called Photo Stream, which is designed to sync those photos to other Apple devices, not share them.

Although a mention from The Wall Street Journal often offers sound endorsement of swirling rumors, Vascellaro’s article is utterly filled with uncertain diction. Specifically, Vascellaro repeatedly qualifies her statements with the word, “could.”

Thanks to the various shreds of evidence toward the aforementioned enhancements, I tend to believe reports of personal video syncing and photo-sharing. Having said that, the overarching tone of the WSJ article is outrageously subpar. For a publication known for its grounded manner, connections, and insight, Vascellaro’s piece throws such tenets to the wind, and embraces the reiteration of rumor and little more.

Journalistic quality aside, I feel somewhat apprehensive toward the impending photo commenting feature. Sharing is one thing, but offering the ability to comment seems unnecessary and open for failings. Apple has tried to undercut the relevance of various social networks in the past, but its efforts have often fallen flat. I’m looking forward to easier photo-sharing — and perhaps a fix to the veritable mess that is PhotoStream — but I worry somewhat that Apple might overstep its bounds in doing so.

Conversely, Apple’s rollout of iCloud has been measured and cautious — particularly compared with MobileMe. Perhaps Apple has learned its lesson?

We shall soon find out.

The Center of the Universe

iCloud

Picking up a topic I’ve covered frequently in the past, Jim Dalrymple’s latest column for TechPinions takes aim at Apple’s iCloud service. Jim writes:

In the future, if I’m going to pay for a device or television, I want to know that I have access to all of my content. That means movies, TV shows, music, podcasts, and anything else I’ve purchased. I also want the ability to seamlessly purchase new content and have that available on any other device that I want to consume it.

Apple is the only company in the industry that could provide this at the moment.

[…] iCloud is not just a syncing service — it’s a content delivery mechanism that will play an increasingly important roll in future products.

Despite existing as a non-consumer-centric backbone service, iCloud is unquestionably the most important portion of Apple’s strategy for the future.

Successful technological innovation is no longer comprised of complex achievement. Rather, innovation is deemed successful by the degree in which complexity is successfully disguised beneath a layer of artful simplicity.

iCloud is the manifestation of this philosophy, insofar as its goal is to subsume the complexity of the stereotypical user’s computing interactions. As I wrote in February:

iCloud is a facilitating means for individuals to carry out their lives free of bindings. Rather than concerning oneself with flash drives, cables and backups, the individual is freed to operate without unnecessary complexity. The device and its operating rules no longer define computing, the life and context of a person does.

Jim’s aptly entitled piece, “iCloud: The Center of the Universe,” endorses such a frictionless, interconnected future — a world in which boundaries and complexities need not characterize our lifestyles. A world in which our lives proceed free of complex shackles, bindings, and considerations.

Cloud-Centric

iCloud

Earlier this afternoon, following a link from Mr. Pat Dryburgh, I eagerly read through Elliot Jay Stocks’ piece regarding his abandonment of a traditional hard-drive-centric computing setup for a cloud-centric model. Without delving into the specifics of Elliot’s piece, I contend that his endeavors toward such a setup are indicative of an important shift in the nature of computing.

Simply put, the notion of a cloud-centric computing setup is representative of our impending future — a future that is endlessly enticing to me.

For the better part of a year now, I’ve steadily angled toward utter reliance upon a variety of cloud services. Thanks to the rising prominence of Rdio, Spotify, and Apple’s iCloud, such an endeavor has been natural, painless, and lacking of any semblance of struggle.

Although an OWC Data Doubler cradles a 500 gigabyte hard drive in my early-2011 MacBook Pro’s DVD bay, the drive is rarely graced with activity in my day-to-day life. Instead, my workflow centers around a 40 percent full solid state drive. Only 128 gigabytes in size, the drive — when coupled with a variety of cloud services — is an adept, robust, and versatile means for my computing needs. Fundamentally small for holding swathes of media, the drive has fostered a healthy cognizance of the overarching notion of enough.

As the nature of the Mac, iOS, and commercial cloud applications stand, I’m on the cusp of unfettered confidence in transitioning toward a MacBook Air with a relatively small drive as my primary means for traditional consuming (i.e., excluding my iPhone and iPad). Despite certain outlying situations in which such a setup is riddled with impracticalities, I tend to air on the side of optimism with regard to such a model. If the timing’s right, I hope to embark upon such a lightweight setup within the next two-to-three months.

As an aside, it’s worth noting, however, that with the (purportedly) impending arrival of Retina displays for the Mac, app sizes may steadily be subject to growth. Thus, a somewhat larger drive may be required to avoid encroaching upon a safe reserve of space in the latter 50 percent of the drive.

Arguably the effort put into achieving such a setup is somewhat counterintuitive, but I cannot help but regard the cloud as the future of computing. As I’ve written in the past, I have a romantic infatuation with the prospect of a frictionless, effortless, and seamless computing environment. While I believe such a reality is rapidly coming to fruition, I am — as with many others in this community — characteristically impatient when it comes to innovation, ease of use, and productivity.

Most importantly, however, is the guiding concept of carrying less.

Less, as a concept, allows for greater agility, unhindered flexibility, and contextual impartiality. Thus, whether computing, exercising, cooking, or what have you, a central tenet of my life thus far has been the endeavor toward less.

For further intellectual stimulation on such a topic, I highly suggest you read Mr. Patrick Rhone’s phenomenal treatise on the matter, Enough.

Adobe Photoshop Touch for iPad

Yesterday evening, Adobe formally released Photoshop Touch for iPad. Available for $9.99 from the App Store, Photoshop Touch provides a condensed touch-centric version of its desktop counterpart.

In an early review for MacStories, Graham Spencer writes:

The simplified, tablet-ised UI of Photoshop Touch also means it is a great entry point for those who want to learn about Photoshop, as I touched on in the tutorial section. When I first started learning how to use Photoshop, I was overwhelmed with not only the wealth of tools, options and effects but also all the new terms I had never heard of. With Photoshop Touch, a beginner will be eased into learning the important tools and effects because not only are there less, but things are much more visual. Take a look at the Adjustments menu in Photshop Touch and compare it to Photoshop on the desktop. But I don’t want to send the impression that Photoshop Touch is only for beginners — it isn’t. More advanced users will be able to take most of their knowledge of Photoshop and use it in Photoshop Touch, because most of it is still there.

Photoshop Touch is strikingly analogous to the world of iOS and OS X. The touch-centric version of the software provides a great deal of powerful features, but foregoes excessive complexity in favor of an accessible environment for the end-user. The desktop version of Photoshop, on the other hand, allows the end-user to delve into a robust world of settings and excess, all the while attempting to sustain a basic level of accessibility for all users - not just power users.

The unifying entity between the two is Adobe's Creative Cloud. Much like iCloud, the Creative Cloud provides an underlying backbone between the two pieces of software, allowing the end-user the flexibility to move from one app to the other - to shift from the simplistic touch world into an environment characterized by increased flexibility and power.

And yet, the two can exist wholly and unquestionably apart.

For the average user, Photoshop Touch is a fantastic opportunity to gain the power of Photoshop but without the cost. For the advanced user, Photoshop Touch, coupled with the Creative Cloud, offers a unified and portable working environment. Furthermore, with Photoshop and Photoshop Touch's ubiquity across most modern platforms, Adobe's creative ecosystem knows few bounds.

Such is the goal of the modern working environment and such is the nature of Apple's latest software innovations.

The unification of complexity and simplicity is the key to the modern computing equation. Cloud services provide an effective and important bridge between the worlds of the traditional desktop and the simplified touch world without harming the integrity of either one. There is no need for compromise as both integrate fully and simply.

Honestly, Adobe deserves a great deal of credit for making such an important recognition.

Photoshop Touch is available in the App Store for $9.99.