back to article Apple iCloud: Same old cage, new height

Redmonk analyst Michael Cote argues that the cloud is all about speed, at least in the enterprise. For many others, however, the cloud has promised much more: it has become shorthand for freedom from vendor lock-in at the device level, so that data is free to roam between devices without the chokeholds of operating systems or …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Are journalists working overtime to write absolute rubbish about iCloud now?

    The iCloud only helps move files around my devices: it only holds data there for 30 days for example and it's only 5GB.

    I can go to any device, get the corresponding file and put it anywhere I want.

    What part of this don't you get? Is it that complicated?

    1. Andrew Hodgkinson

      It's a wake up call

      I hadn't really realised just how low IT industry journalism had sunk until the June 6th WWDC keynote and the extraordinary deluge of journalistic tripe that followed.

      iCloud boils down to a glorified seamless wireless sync system and as a result, all your data *must* be stored on your *local* hardware devices. If every server Apple owned were to simultaneously evaporate, individual users would lose precisely no data whatsoever.

      But where's the anti-Apple, anti-cloud, nonsense lock-in black helicopter tinfoil hat raving lunatic ranting in that? No fun at all. So hey, let's all just make stuff up.

    2. Figgus

      Re: Nonsense

      Agreed, 30 days and 5 GB... for now. Do you REALLY think it will stay that way? My prediction is that the time limits and data caps will vastly increase or evaporate altogether in the near future.

      Thus, the very issues these journalists are covering ARE important in the longer view.

      1. Andrew Hodgkinson

        But it doesn't matter

        With respect, I'm afraid you still don't get it.

        The 5GB storage could be reduced to zero free storage. If you wanted to keep the wireless sync capability, you'd pay. Otherwise, you'd just use iTunes and wires again, exactly as everyone has to today. There's no lock-in and no requirement.

        Are you reaching for your keyboard to say that Apple could remove wired sync support, perchance? Well why don't they just charge for wired sync or charge for iTunes downloads, then? They've had a decade to do it. Why do you think they don't? It's the same reason they won't charge for rudimentary iCloud usage.

        Your "30 days" refers to Photo Stream. It's the length of time a new photo persists on Apple's servers before evaporating. As long as your various devices "see" a network within that time, any new photos will be sync'd down them. Once they're gone from Apple's servers, it doesn't matter, because they're still on your devices and always will be until you delete them - photos are obviously always on the device that took the picture as well as on any other devices that sync'd with iCloud within the 30 day period.

        If 30 days was reduced to zero without paying, you'd just lose the wireless auto-sync stuff. So you'd go back to sync'ing via iTunes and iPhoto with wires. See how this works? It's an extra facility, for free, that takes nothing away from what you already do whatsoever.

        iCloud is NOT a backup service or a remote data store. It is a SYNC SERVICE with no GUI. It's plumbing. Backup is still left up to the users through Time Machine or a third party network backup service. With Mobile Me going away, some people are complaining that paid services are being removed - DropBox should be ecstatic, because Mobile Me's iDisk was a competitor to them. Now it's gone. iCloud provides no arbitrary file storage, so DropBox just got some new customers. Flickr may pick up some Gallery refugees (the iCloud photo stream is - once more, this time with feeling - just a sync service, not a gallery engine) and there will be a few web hosting companies enjoying picking off ex-iWeb people too. Of course iCloud may regain some of this in future, but if so, it'd only be going back to where MobileMe used to be.

        Apple aren't treading on toes - if anything, they're actually stepping off a few.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Exactly @Andrew Hodgkinson

          That is exactly the whole point. Thanks for writing it up so clearly.

          Shame not many seem to understand it.

        2. Rattus Rattus

          "Otherwise, you'd just use iTunes and wires again, exactly as everyone has to today"

          Not everyone, only people who use iDevices. My Android phone already syncs wirelessly, through open source tools. So does my netbook. Why pay for a future service you can already have for free by avoiding walled gardens?

          1. SuccessCase

            So does my iPhone

            Everything right now synced wirelessly over the net. My password manager, contacts, schedule, files, to do list. The point is now there is a unified one stop shop built in to the OS. So it will be even easier. What is it that is so hard to get ?

      2. Chris 3


        In which case, it will be annoying - but what has been locked in? Nothing.

      3. rciafardone

        But this is not what the article is about...

        This article is not about your personal pictures and mp3 collection, is about iCloud as a platform for SaaS for real business. The small crumbs Apple is letting you get for free, is just a more refined variation on DropBox system.

      4. bmovie

        30 days and 5 GB?

        Back up on purchased music is free.

        5 GB is for "Whatever else".

        30 days is auto backup. At that point, you decide if you keep, edit, or delete the auto back up.

        We will have to see when we can buy more and at what cost, but to get iCloud for the $30 Lion OS upgrade for free, why not?

    3. Walt French

      Worse than nonsense: sponsored disinformation

      The Register continues its habit of swallowing anti-Apple jizz and then regurgitating it for all to see. I guess there's a certain clientele for that form of pornography but sheesh!

      What you call “utter nonsense” — such as the claim that “you are screwed” by iCloud if you own an Android device — is actually a competitor's whining about being cut out of the loop by Apple-provided services.

      The claim is transparently false: if I sign up for iCloud (and why would I not?), I will have EXACTLY the same ability to transfer music from my iTunes library to any non-Apple gizmo, as I have today: plug a USB memory stick or device with a USB port into my desktop, copy some files and I'm done. Oops, actually MORE ability, as I can get non-DRMed, higher-bitrate files out of the iCloud. The only person being screwed is the company selling cloud services that are MUCH LESS flexible and convenient than Apple's. I personally wouldn't want to do business with firms that make such misleading and backward claims.

      In contrast, I don't see this as a negative at all for a service like DropBox: it's still a great way to share your documents between different users, across the whole range of devices that talk to the internet. They may lose a handful of users who only want to share across their own iGizmos, but will benefit if more and more devices with documents, photos, etc. want to share with friends or workmates. I'll be surprised to hear them bash iCloud at all; it oughta be a big win for them.

  2. PDeville

    Not so sure...

    I'm not so sure this holds up.

    Most cloud services, including iCloud, sync to the PC and Mac. At that point, any competing cloud service can be installed and sync all the data to its service. Apple is already demonstrating this with their instructions to developers to transistion from MobileMe to iCloud. Also, for the next three months Apple is offering no cloud service to new users (MobileMe is closed). Customers can use Google to sync until then, then sync with iCloud later, or vice versa.

  3. Tom 35 Silver badge


    "Physical goods have the problem of portability and distributability"

    If your talking about "content" there is an artificial problem created by the content companies. I can buy a book, CD or DVD from amazon Japan and they will ship it to me in Canada (and I have). But I can't buy an MP3 from Amazon US. I'm sure the icloud is the same, it would only sync stuff that's available from itunes Canada. I'd be SOL for most of the import CDs I own (if I had a newer idevice then my 2G ipod touch).

  4. parv

    ft shortsighted

    i already subscribe (pay) to ft website. I would not pay for a ft web app but i would pay for a ft ipad app. FT losing out on additional income. The FT may be able to forgo the itunes store but that's due to it being a professional financial source.

  5. ijustwantaneasylife
    Thumb Up

    Fair comment

    I had this exact conversation just the other day. The fact is that until cloud environments/services offer truly homogenous facilities - i.e. not tied to any manufacturer, supplier or technology - then we cannot get the competetive market that we would need for these things to be trully useful. We need to be able to do things like have Amazon, say, provide our main system and HP or IBM or Google provide our backup - with the same data and services.

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      ft shortsighted?

      Your post confuses me. If you want to consume ft content on your ipad what difference does it make if it's in an app or a browser? What would make the app worth paying for that isn't available on the web?

      It's not shortsighted to see past the current popularity of iDevices and instead adopt a platform agnostic approach. An iPad app runs only on iPads, a tablet optimised web site would be good on all tablets that have a browser.

      So who's being short sighted here? I would argue it's you....

  6. bmovie

    A dark cloud behind every silver lining.

    Interesting take on the "walled garden" taken to the "clouds", but you turn a blind eye to the fact that iPad and IPhone users are not all Apple-faithful. "iCloud" is open to Windows 7 and Vista (XP is not mentioned, but that may change). Mac desktops and laptops run "Windows" now and probably in the future; and Apple does not monitor or dictate what data you backup to "iCloud". The Apple "silo" has several doors and windows (pun intended).

    1. Anonymous Coward

      XP no....

      Not if you read the small print.....

    2. Giles Jones Gold badge


      I think the problem is that Android devices and Windows Phones won't be able to use the iCloud service.

      But then who can blame Apple? the last thing they want is a load of rogue Android virus apps connecting to the iCloud and screwing things up.

  7. MacRat

    Lock in Preference

    So Google's cloud lock in is ok?

    1. spencer

      Not too sure it's a lock in

      You can get all your google emails via POP3. You can download all your calendars to .ics. You can download all your Docs as .doc/pdf/odf files.

      Not really a lock in - which is probably why it's popular.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Want to see you do all that on a Chromebook...

        1. spencer

          How hard could it be??

          ....You can already do all of that on a nokia 6300

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    More unbiased ranting...

    ...from Asay who, of course, has no axe to grind.


  9. ChrisInBelgium

    Pfff, what a name

    Is it just me, or do other people also think "the cloud" is such a bad bad name? When someone uses the term in my presence, it makes me want to kick them in the gonads, that's how bad I find it!

    1. Ru

      I totally agree

      It should be the Cybergrid Netspace.

    2. bmovie

      "Take it to the cloud!"

      "Take it to the cloud!" That's what Microsoft's been saying in their TV commercials!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "circling the wagons around its ecosystem"

    The image that came to my mind was a Pitcher Plant. Attractive, but once you get in you can't get out. Ever.

    No thanks - I'll keep my stuff out of the cloud in general and Apple's in particular.

    1. Chris 3

      Yes, I'm highly sceptical of most cloud offerings...

      ... for precisely this reason.

      But Apple's cloud offering stores nothing, it locks in nothing. As *currently* formulated it's pretty benign.

  11. Ascylto


    "Everything will work as long as you stay within the silo."

    I'd trade this "Everything will work" for the other systems' "Well, it might work but if it doesn't then SPx will sort it out (maybe)."

    Always remember you have a choice ... you can be in Apple's silo or not!

  12. Malcolm Melville

    Why do corporates worry?

    As you point out cloudiness is just another step down the path of the great data lock-in. Corporates have been battling this for years - you put data into one RDBMS and the pain of moving it to another is incredible - you often have to rely on the tools provided by the target DBMS vendor to extract the data from the legacy and get it into the new world. (Ever tried recovering your data from an Oracle binary database file set without an Oracle license. It might as well not be your data anymore.) Looks like Apple have figured out the same path that IBM, Oracle walked us down and which held so much business captive and made these companies loads of money. The local file system was just a soft version of this where we had greater freedom to use 'our' data, No wonder the vendors want to be rid of filesystems and well known or open formats.

  13. Urs Keller

    iCoud is a store-and-forward service ...

    ... not the typical cloud à la Google, MSFT, etc.. Your data reside on your devices (some may do so even on a PC!).

    iCloud provides 5 GB of storage, that's less than the entry-level iPad. How much of your data can you store there?

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Clouds and pie-in-the-sky

    "it has become shorthand for freedom from vendor lock-in at the device level, so that data is free to roam between devices without the chokeholds of operating systems or browsers"

    Very nice but it won't be, will it? Yes you can use lots of devices, providing you buy them all from the same vendor to get the full benefits. Yes they will have to allow open APIs to allow lots of devices in, but that will be simply basic features, if you want the really fun toys that come from a particular cloud, you will have to buy kit from the owners of that cloud.

    Do you really think Apple, after spending GDP sized amounts of money on their iCloud thingy, want it chock-a-block with Windows and Androids users? It was designed for fondleslabs, and I can see Jobs even attempting to kill his desktops to ensure he achieves the utopian dream of customer lock-in.

  15. Rob - Denmark

    Title? What title?

    iCloud is misleading.

    How about iSilo?

  16. Synonymous Howard

    At last Matt gets it...

    I have rarely agreed completely with Matt's essays but he is spot on with the iCloud analysis. iCloud is Apple's next generation lock-in and is primarily for the driving of sales of Apple hardware and it is a very clever one (AAPL will go north of $400 next year I'm sure B-). However, the lock-in is definitely voluntary (for extra utility) and really is about selling devices with memory in them to sync to and not about streaming and not about storing all your stuff in the sky (bits and pieces to aid in sharing and off device backups).

    If the cloud goes down then you may not be able to auto sync or share new docs with colleagues and you might be without a email address for a while. Certainly not the end of the world unlike GoogleApps.

  17. hexx

    iCloud - good title eh?

    iCloud is brilliant idea and i recommend everyone to read this article, it says it all

  18. hexx

    in app purchase and apple's cut

    "Based on the nascent but growing backlash to Apple's in-app purchasing restrictions, revealed by the Financial Times opting for an HTML5 approach rather than run Apple's 30-per-cent of sales gauntlet, it's increasingly looking like Apple's control freakishness will get a slap from its customers."

    not true anymore, apple updated terms and cons, no need to offer the same price, nothing, link:

  19. Wheaty73


    You really don't have to use it. Stop worrying and move on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      You mean

      Stop worrying and move in, I guess

  20. NightFox

    What Lock-in?

    But surely iCloud is primarily a syncing service rather than a hosting service? OK, it holds copies of the material you've got synced so it can serve it rather than just relay it, but the fact is you still hold the original material yourself on every iCloud connected device you use, and can freely access, move, save it on your Mac or PC as with any other data. Nothing has changed with your MP3 track, your photo, your iWorks document, it's just iCloud syncs them for you and in many cases holds a copy to facilitate this.

    So where's the lock-in? Stop using iCloud and your local files will still be there. OK, you might *temporarily* lose the files off your iOS devices depending on how the syncing actually works, but you can simply connect them back up to your Mac/PC like you did before iCloud, sync, and there they are again.

    In other words, I cancel the service and all I lose is the service.

  21. John F***ing Stepp

    Ok, now I feel stupid.

    I have been assuming that Cloud systems were actually useful for something but you are telling me that they are just for moving around music?


    No, Ijust screwing with you, I know you can probably do something besides move photos and mp3 files around a network. You can, can't you? This has to be able to do something else nobody would bother with it.

    So, what else can it do, for me, who doesn't use either the business computer or my personal computer for anything other than programming (and reading the Reg of course)?

    What does it do for the actual work for a living types?

    1. Chris 3

      For you.

      If you really use your machine only for programming and reading the Reg, not a lot. For one thing its only of use if you have more than one device. If you do then it claims to offer seamless sync of photos, music, calendars, email, iWork docs - oh and instapaper-esque reading lists.

      So nothing for you, but then presumably most OS improvements don't offer you an awful lot.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    OS lock in and a bright future

    will occur once the iCage is up and running.

    Apple, and especially Microsoft, will use it to bar those running "unapproved software" (Linux or older versions of OSX/Win).

    And just as soon as they are able they will make the iCage the only way to access the new file formats and then Linux users can grub around using odt and the like to their hearts content in a much reduced and much quieter internet.

    Actually that's a win/win situation because then we won't have to put up with the Wintards and the fanbois incessant ignorance and empty boasting.

  23. JayMaySay

    iCloud, let's call it what it is

    iCloud, let's call it what it is... hard drives in India.

    1. Synonymous Howard

      North Carolina

      Here actually ...

      Apple Data Center

      6028 Startown Rd, Maiden, NC 28650, United States

      It's big .. glad I don't have to pay the leccie bill.

    2. Walt French

      Random, Ignorant or Intentionally Misleading???

      So transparently, blatantly false that one has to wonder what rock this sock puppet crawled out from under.

  24. Walt French

    End of “PIRACY!!!”

    Just as we've pretty much immunized ourselves against viruses by upgrading from XP, installing AV and shifting to more reliable platforms, I celebrate this announcement as the beginning of the end of the industry's BS attacks against “Piracy!!!”

    Apple provides a small share of its fee to the copyright holders, who implicitly acknowledge that they are getting INCREMENTAL revenues as part of consumers listening to their music, whether legally licensed or otherwise obtained. And it's not small potatoes: if half of the 225 million iTunes accounts sign up for iMatch, the rumored 30% share to the publishers is a billion dollars per year.

    Forcing Apple to reveal watermarks, or otherwise using Apple to rat on its users, is not possible under US laws unless it's somehow a national security issue. The risk that US laws will be re-written to favor some bad player is totally <i>de minimis</i>.

    Meanwhile, users have less incentive to upload their music onto open servers where others can download it, making “file sharing” less appealing. Unless you're selling torrent or filesharing services, this is a good week.

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