iCloud 2.0

Apple is traditionally considered weak when it comes to cloud services. MobileMe was a disaster, their first attempt at iCloud Documents & Data was unstable and a disaster to integrate in apps,… Dan Moren voiced a similar feeling today in his article on Apple Music. (Emphasis added)

And it’s not the wrangling over terms with artists, or the muddled messaging, or even that the catalog might be on the limited side. It’s in an area where Apple traditionally excels: the execution of the product itself.For one thing, Apple Music is a cloud service, and the company’s track record with those types of products is…uneven, at best. For another, the trend in both the iOS and Mac versions of Apple’s music-playing software seems to be towards both more confusing and less polished—none of which inspires confidence. – Dan Moren

But I’ve got a feeling that, even while they didn’t rename iCloud last year, since WWDC14 Apple has been moving their cloud services in a new and more stable direction. iCloud 2.0 if you will.

They’ve made the service better, faster and reliable in such a way that I’m tempted to move entirely to iCloud for my data storage needs.

Example 1: Photos

Photo Stream was Apple’s first attempt to solve the photo storage and sync situation. But although their idea of ‘your last 1000 photos in the cloud synced across devices’ was a start, it created a lot of confusion to users and didn’t really solve any issues. Camera Rolls still contained thousand of pictures, users still needed to manually offload their photos to somewhere and data didn’t really sync across devices.

It was iOS 8.2 and iCloud Photo Library that finally solved the Photos situation for me. My iCloud Photo Library currently stores 37.000 photos, or  150GB of data, and I haven’t lost a picture since I started using it. I haven’t even seen any major crash, sync issue or data duplication. Since launch the service has been rock solid for me.

But the biggest benefit: my iPhone has access to thousand of images, but only stores ~3Gb of data.

Example 2: CloudKit

CloudKit is Apple’s answer to AWS or Microsoft Azure. It’s a limited web service that syncs user’s data across apps without any need for external authentication or configuration. It uses a user’s AppleID as a basis, and syncs an app’s data seemingly magical.

Their first attempt at cloud syncing was a disaster. But the CloudKit reboot delivered, and the improvements they announced in iOS 9 will make the service even better.  (And It’s no secret that iCloud Photo Library is build on CloudKit, just as their newly announced Notes app.)

For a third party example that uses CloudKit: look no further than Drafts.

Example 3: iCloud Drive

First there was .Mac and iDisk. Severely limited by the technology of the early 2000’s. Then there were the Document containers in iOS 6 and 7. They were sandboxed per app, files had do be duplicated to be synced, and sometimes your data would seemingly dissappear.

But in iOS 8 Apple turned the service into a Dropbox clone, and apps could access each others data. iOS 9 will even contain a native iCloud Drive app, and will allow apps to work on data stored in another app. Data syncs fast (and over LAN!), you can use your own folders and subfolders, and from what I’ve seen from using the service in a limited fashion this past year: without any trouble.

iOS 9, and the integration with Mail, now tempts me to migrate all my data over to iCloud Drive. No matter how great Dropbox is, native integration always wins because it’s just that bit more convenient.

Apple Music

Which brings me to, what I hope, will be example 4: Apple Music.

Currently iTunes Match is for music, what Photo Stream was for photos: a very limited and unstable cloud solution. I agree wholeheartedly with Dan Moren when he talks about iTunes Match: for a cloud based music container it’s a joke. The service is slow, metadata gets lost, and every couple of weeks iTunes needs to reindex all my music.

It’s because of iTunes Match that I’m a Spotify user, and that the Music app is hidden in a junk folder somewhere on page 2 of my iPhone. In truth, I don’t even keep iTunes in my dock.

But I hope that Apple Music will do the same for music as what iCloud Photo Library did to Photos.  Their photo solution made me move from Dropbox to Apple again, and made me enjoy my pcitures a lot more. The fact that they’re there on any device is magical. (Or convenient for those who are a bit more down to earth).

If they do the same for music, things will be great. And I think that, in the process of developing Apple Music, they’ll moved a user’s music to that same new stable iCloud 2.0.