iCloud: what’s all the hype about?

This week saw Apple launching its iCloud music streaming and online data storage service. It will enable users to instantly access any song purchased on iTunes on any device. Anything downloaded from the iTunes Store will be made available on all your Apple devices for free.

In addition, for $25 a year, iTunes Match will take every song from your iTunes library – including those songs ripped from your CD collection or downloaded ‘elsewhere’ – and store them on Apple servers in the cloud.

Users will thus be able to download any of their (up to 20,000) tracks stored in the cloud onto their iPad/iPhone/Mac/PC without spending hours transferring the music across.

Since the official introduction of iCloud at the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) earlier this week there has been a quite of hype about it. But what is it all about, what makes iCloud different from any of the other cloud based services?

  1. It’s Apple! – By default, every WWDC is looked at with much anticipation, by developers and users alike. However, Apple cynics see iCloud as yet another way to tie customers further into the Apple eco-system.
  2. It includes non-iTunes purchased songs – iTunes Match will enable users to store any songs ripped from their CDs or downloaded/purchased elsewhere.
  3. It has two advantages over its main competitors – Unlike iCloud’s competition – Amazon’s Cloud Drive and Google’s Music Beta – Apple seems to have agreements in place with most of the major music labels and publishers. More importantly, Apple has the complimentary hardware that the likes of Amazon, Google or Dropbox don’t have. If you already own a Mac or an iPhone it does make a lot of sense to use iCloud and to sign up for iTunes Match.

Main learning point: I now have a better understanding of what all the hype has been about. Apple has launched a free cloud-based storage service that promises user friendliness and the end of worrying about licensing and digital rights. However, for iCloud to fullfil its promise I believe it all comes down to uptake and web access: “will users buy (into) iTunes Match?” and “will iCloud eventually become accessible via the web (and not just via Apple devices)?” It will be interesting to see whether (a) Apple customers are willing to move their music libraries to the cloud as well as pay for iTunes Match and (b) whether Apple will launch iCloud web apps in the near future.

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How the iPad has overtaken the DVD player

Now that’s news! Today I learned that Apple’s iPad is poised to have the quickest adoption rate of any electronic device ever. What does this mean? Recent research shows that the iPad sold 3 million units in the first 80 days after its release in April, with a current sales rate estimated at 4.5 million units per quarter. This means that the iPad has surpassed the DVD-player as the quickest adopted electronic device ever. Just for the sake of comparison: the DVD-player only sold 350,000 units in its first year …

These extraordinary figures made me wonder about the reasons behind the iPad’s success. I don’t (yet) own an iPad myself so I have to rely on my limited experiences with the device and opinions from others. Clearly, the sales figures don’t lie, but there still seem to be 2 camps, let’s call them “advocates” and “skeptics”, who each have their own opinions about Apple’s latest success story.

Why the iPad will conquer the world? – 3 common arguments by the advocates:

  1. It’s Apple! – From the introduction of the iPhone, Apple definitely has got its users locked in tightly into its designated apps and services (the ‘Apple ecosystem’).
  2. It’s user friendly – Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, the user experience on the iPad and other Apple devices is easy and consistent.
  3. It’s got the “first-mover advantage” – Apple was the first to bring touch-screen technology to a mobile device and it hasn’t looked back since.

Why the iPad won’t conquer the world? – 3 common arguments by the skeptics:

  1. Look at its limitations! – An often heard criticism is that the iPad is only good for entertainment purposes; you’re stuck if you want to do anything beyond email or simple word processing.
  2. The competition is catching up rapidly – Tablets by the likes of Cisco, Samsung and BlackBerry are catching up rapidly, concentrating on some of the functions the iPad is currently lacking (e.g. camera, expendable memory and built-in phone).
  3. Android will become the standard – As an operating system Google’s Android is more versatile and will be implemented across a wide range of tablet devices. Android will thus become the default operating system for tablets.

Main learning point: the iPad has done phenomenally well in the first 7 months of its existence. It will be interesting to see how the iPad will continue to perform and if any of its competitors will be able to catch up. Also, will some of the “skeptics” turn out to be right in their prediction that Android will become the default tablet operating system? It all remains to be seen, watch this space!

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