“It just works” When Jobs does this, it is never an accident. It’s a message.
And it’s a message that was underscored by another phrase. S.Jobs must have said it a couple of dozen times during the keynote.
So, what’s the message?
Although Apple stumbled from the gate with MobileMe, and it never really took off (due to a steep $99 yearly price point), Apple is now going all-in with their cloud plan. But they are not doing it simply by tacking on cloud storage for their current arsenal of products. They are trying to redefine what the”cloud” is.
At one stage during the keynote, Jobs noted that some people think of this cloud because of a hard disk in the sky where you place files in and take them out. He took a small shot at the red-hot Dropbox. However, as Apple sees it, the cloud is something considerably more. “The truth is to the cloud,” is how Jobs put it.
John Gruber properly referred to as that iCloud is essentially the new iTunes. That is, it transfers the digital hub from the desktop to the cloud. However, Apple is aiming beyond that.
Together with iCloud, Apple is shifting the cloud from an almost tangible place that you see to find your stuff, to someplace that only exists in the backdrop. It is never seen. You never interact with it, and your apps do it — and you never realize it. It is magic.
Google’s approach is to make the cloud more accessible to existing PC users. They’re doing so by extending familiar concepts. Google Docs is Microsoft Office; however, at the cloud. Your primary point of interaction is a file system; however, in the cloud. Gmail is Outlook; however, at the cloud. Etc..
Meanwhile, another company now mainly associated with the cloud, Amazon, has essentially turned it into a single giant server/hard driveway that anybody can use for a fee. Takes developers to build on top of it to give users a product to use. Some are great. Many again only extend the idea of the cloud as a remote hard drive.
While the principles are the same, Apple’s approach to this concept of the cloud is that contrary to the competitors. Apple’s belief is clear that consumers will not and should not care about the way the cloud works. After Jobs gave a brief glimpse of their newest North Carolina data center that is the centerpiece of iCloud, he just noted that it was filled with”things” –“expensive stuff,” he uttered.
Diagrams Jobs show on stage as to how the iCloud functions were as simplified as possible. Had it been declared at a developer’s convention, I am not sure Apple would have even done these. Instead, the focus could have been more on the demos. Working in a document in Pages on your iPad, you move over to Pages on your Mac. And now there it is. You download a song to your iPhone, and you pick up your iPad, there it is.
It all just works.
And that speaks to the larger game. Apple going out of their way to avoid using the term”syncing” concerning iCloud. That suggests that documents exist in 1 spot and have to be moved. But even that is too technical for the story, and Apple is weaving. With iPad/iPhone and OS X Lion, you do not save files. They save mechanically — but an easier way to think about it is they just exist, as is, in realtime on your devices.
The simple truth is they exist on the machine, then on iCloud — again, the”truth” — in a cycle. But you don’t need to understand any of this. They just exist. Who cares where as long as they are right there on all your devices if you want them?
Documents are something Microsoft worries about. Apple’s iCloud is all about opening an application and the thing you want to get into being there.
That also speaks to an important gap between Apple and Apple competitors. MobileMe, Apple put a fairly heavy emphasis online component. They spent working on and reworking amazing web apps for support. During the iCloud keynote and there was no mention of a web component. We’ve heard the MobileMe apps on me.com is going to be changed to utilize iCloud apps, but that may be a ways off. And that will surely not be the main emphasis. The main emphasis will on the cross-device native programs with all iCloud magic.
That is the reverse of Google’s approach — at least their Chrome/Chrome OS approach. That item is only about the web. That’s where allthing exists, and syncing also happens thanks to that automatically. In a bizarre twist, in that regard, Chrome OS is possibly the closest thing to Apple’s iCloud vision. When you boot a Chromebook and then put in your password, then everything seems. Again, like magical.
With Chrome OS, what’s there because everything just exists from the cloud. However, Google was bending over backward to tack on a document management system on Chrome OS. That weakens their cloud debate, in my view. But again, their objective is to ease the transition of current PC users into the cloud.
However, Google’s position is especially odd as they’ve Android as well. Yes, cloud computing is a large part of that OS and has existed for a while. Nonetheless, it’s the Google approach. Some of it is automatic, and some are not. It takes some thought. It sort of just works — as long as you understand what you are doing.
And the reality is that this is the stage where we might begin to find some genuinely fundamental differences between Google and Apple following the last few years moving head-to-head with attribute matching. Apple is going after customers who have no clue what the cloud is and do not care. Apple is saying they should not care. It just works.
Google appears to be aiming more for users that know current computing paradigms and want to transition that knowledge to the future of computing, the cloud.
Apple has rethought and rewritten their programs — including their desktop apps — from the ground up to be woven with the iCloud cloth that a user will not see. Google needs the consumers to have the ability to observe that cloth should they choose to, and in many ways, supports it as sort of a safety net from the transition to the cloud.
It is two distinct approaches to the same thing, the cloud. And Apple doesn’t believe Google can match them even if they wanted to since they don’t have complete control of their ecosystem in precisely the same manner that Apple does. “They can not make this, so it just works,” Steve Jobs stated at one point.
Apple’s core vision and there are three types of products that must seamlessly work with another: Tablets, phones and the recently”demoted” PC. With Android, Google is now just powerful in phones. Tablets aren’t taking off to them, however. And there’s no PC presence — well, past the internet, which again runs to the Chrome OS bifurcation problem.
Bearing that in mind, it may end up becoming Apple that assists transition users into the cloud, instead of Google despite their emphasis on PC norms.
“You know when the hardware is your brain and the sinew of our products, the software inside them is their spirit,” Jobs said on Monday. Apple has become more clear than betting that will not be web applications, but native applications supported invisibly by the internet. Google’s position is decidedly less apparent. With the existence of Android and Chrome OS, they are currently betting on either. This dichotomy screams anything, but”it just works.”