As I’m sure you’re aware, the Apple iCloud service was released to the public in the last week or so. I think iCloud is not a killer app in the cloud storage and syncing marketplace. At least as far as being an application that could take serious market share from the likes of Dropbox and Backblaze. I’m not sure if iCloud isn’t trying to take on Dropbox or if it just failed in that effort — but either way, iCloud doesn’t even come close to competing. I’ve been playing around with it on my MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, iPad and iPhone (yes, I’m a sicko like that) and I just haven’t seen the usefulness for it. Especially for someone like me who doesn’t really use the iLife suite of applications. In fact, the only thing that I can see as being potentially useful in iCloud is the Photo Stream feature — but even for that, I need iPhoto or Aperture to get the images. The whole thing is really not user friendly at all.
So what is iCloud missing, in my opinion?
1. True online document management
This is where Dropbox excels. You can access your files on the web or on any computer. What about iCloud? First of all, I can’t see my pictures or documents on iCloud.com. In fact, I would go so far as to call iCloud.com completely useless on a daily basis. What’s the point of a cloud service that doesn’t allow me to access all of my stored items on the web? It totally defeats the purpose. I don’t know if the new “Purchases” feature on iTunes is considered to be part of iCloud but even that aspect is not user-friendly. While, yes, it does have all of my music purchase, it doesn’t allow me to stream them and play them from the cloud. That is one of the main things that I love about the Amazon Cloud Player. I don’t even need to use iTunes or bother keeping my music collection in sync because I just leave everything on Amazon Cloud Storage and I can play everything directly from Amazon Cloud Player. And I can use Rdio if I want music on my iPhone without any need to sync with a clunky program like iTunes.
2. No local file system integration
The former Apple product known as iDisk is pretty much what I’m referring to here. Or what Dropbox does with putting a “Dropbox” folder on every machine that it’s installed on. It isn’t clear if Apple is going to roll iDisk over to iCloud but if they get rid of it, I think that’s a major crippling effect. However, the beauty of Dropbox versus iDisk is that Dropbox actually downloads the entire content of the Dropbox folder onto your local disk. This enhances speed and performance significantly. On the other hand, while iDisk does some sort of caching, I never managed to get much performance out of it and I stopped using it. I really hope that Apple uses the iCloud infrastructure to upgrade the iDisk capability (or hopefully at least keep it).
3. Can’t use iCloud to sync any type of file
I don’t use Pages or any of those iLife programs so I can’t use iCloud to back up things like my work files (which often happen to be PHP scripts, PSD files, AI files, HTML files, etc). Dropbox works perfectly for that. And it’s bad enough that iCloud requires you to use various Apple applications to sync and backup documents. They’ve taken it even further and made it so you can’t back up most file types. As it stands currently, app developers need to integrate iCloud and for the most part, only the iLife stuff seems to be integrated. It would be immeasurably more user-friendly for Apple to provide an iCloud app that you can load any file into and have it sync to your other devices (or just a Finder-integrated folder, like Dropbox).
Overall, I think iCloud has big potential. I was actually kind of worried about it because my friend Mike Jackness owns the site Online Storage and that site would have been hurt badly if iCloud was actually a true Dropbox-style service. I don’t doubt that Apple has the ability to provide that sort of service but I’m just not even the least bit sold on iCloud as it currently stands.