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Submitted by craig on Thu, 29/09/2011 - 20:41
iCloud Questions and Answers
As far as buzz words go, they don't come much more fashionable then the "Cloud", then along came Apple and upped the anti by throwing their customary little i prefix and voila we have a new winner. iCloud is coming, and Apple have started spruiking it already. So here at Shedworx, we thought we'd ask some of the basic questions and see what answers we could come up with.
What is iCloud?
iCloud is Apple's solution for synchronising your documents and data between all your devices. The key words here are 'your documents' and 'synchronising'. What do we mean?
Syncronising is about keeping the same documents and data up to date across devices. Documents are things that you work with - a Photo, a Pages document, a Numbers spreadsheet and so on. Data is things like a Contact entry, an Calendar appointment and so on.
At it's heart, like any cloud, iCloud is a central store of data which is synchronised for between all your various Apple devices.
iCloud is not something you will use directly, rather it is a tool to allow Applications the ability to access a central store of data.
What iCloud is not.
iCloud is not truly mobile.
iCloud requires Wi-Fi and will not run over 3G. If you're a mobile worker who relies on their mobile data to get the job done, iCloud won't work until you get to Wi-Fi hotspot. Forget about editing on your iPad then viewing/reviewing on your iPhone while on the road.
iCloud is not a sharing platform.
This means that iCloud is for you and your documents and data. iCloud is not a sharing or collaboration platform. Its not Facebook. Its not Instagram. It's for you and you only.
Want to take a photo and share it with your friends straight away? Not with iCloud.
Need to keep your work synchronised between your iPad/iPhone and MacBook over 3G? Not with iCloud.
What will it do for me?
iCloud will allow Application writers to easily enable data and document sharing between devices, but it is up to application developers to use iCloud to enhance their apps.
Having said that, when it ships Apple will have iCloud enabled a lot of their applications. Here are a few of the things you can look forward to.
The immediate benefit of iCloud will be the ability to sync all your iTunes data wirelessly, no more plugging into you desktop to sync with iTunes. All your apps, music, photos etc can be stored on the cloud and synced directly to your various devices.
All your music purchased through iTunes will be available on all your devices.
One of the most obvious uses for iCloud is photo streaming. Take a photo on your iPhone then the next time you have Wi-Fi coverage it can be sent to iCloud. When your iPad or Desktop comes online the photo can be downloaded from the cloud and added to your photo library.
How does it work?
There are already a lot of apps out there with a cloud-based component. Here at Shedworx we have our Cosmos application which allows you to sync your photo & video library to your iOS devices, then organise your library and take photos.
The advantage that iCloud brings is that it is built into the operating system.
Any cloud-based apps available now only really work when the application is running. There is some scope for background tasks, but it's very limited. Because iCloud is built in it can perform a lot of tasks in the background, when the applications that use it are not running.
For example, consider a non-iCloud notes app. If you were to take notes in a meeting with your iPad, then save those notes at the end of the meeting, the application would have to be connected to "the cloud" and would send off the document when saved. If its not connected it will need to sit around and wait until it sees an internet connection. Background processing on iOS limits apps to 10 minutes of 'background time' after which they are shut down by the operating system. This means that if you don't get connected within 10 minutes, your changes won't make it to the Cloud until you start the relevant app again, while connected to the Internet.
An iCloud enabled app will just save the document off to local storage and shut down, then anytime your device becomes connected to Wi-Fi again the document will be sent off.
The down-side with iCloud is that it only works over Wi-Fi. The upside is that once an app submits a changed document to iCloud, the iPhone/iPad will take care of the rest without you having to think about whether the app actually got synced before shutting down.
What happens if there are conflicts?
What happens if you change a document in one place, then before it is synced change it again? Mostly the solution to this is application specific, if iCloud detects a conflict, it will use the latest version of the file, but will alert the application that a conflict has occurred. It is then up to the application to decide what to do with this.
How much will it cost?
Apple are saying your iCloud account will be free for storage under 5Gb, which is a reasonable amount of space.
What capacity - How much can i store - ???
Apple are starting iCloud accounts with 5Gb of storage. No doubt you will be given the opportunity to give money to Apple to increase this limit.
This limit does not include your purchased music, videos, books, apps or the Photo Stream service. Photo Stream will keep your most recent 1000 photos, or your last month's photos, in iCloud.
Is this enough?
As anyone with a camera knows, you never really have enough space to store all your photos and videos. So as usual photo management is probably an important issue.
As far as music goes, I know my library is very close to 5Gb, and growing all the time. Of course purchased music doesn't count towards your limit, but for those of us who still like to buy our music in hard copy this isn't terribly helpful. This is where the iTunes Match service comes into play.
When is it available?
iCloud will be a part of iOS 5, which is coming out in the Fall, but no exact date has been given.
For those of us in the southern hemisphere, or those who don't speak fluent yank, that's September-November 2011 :)
iCloud will be available on iOS 5 & OSX 10.7 (Lion)
Can i look at what i have in the cloud (is their a iCloud app)
No. iCloud will be 'invisible' to the end user. You will just notice that documents used by apps that support iCloud (like Pages, Numbers and Keynote) will magically appear wherever you need them.
Do i need a new iCloud account?
Yes. Apple will sort out account setup processes at the go-live time.
What happens if i'm using 3G, will it cost me money
No. iCloud will not work over 3G.
Is this as good as Apple is telling me it is
At the moment iCloud is being lauded as the answer to all our problems, and it's easy to get become a little sceptical about the real difference it will make. But iCloud may actually lead to some very real improvements in the way applications work for us. There are a lot of apps out there that already use Cloud behaviour, so iCloud is not revolutionary, but it will make this more accessible to your average application.
If you use Evernote or the various cloud-based Task Managers, you already use the cloud and are used to always-on data. I don't think iCloud will make a big difference to these apps since iCloud won't run over 3G, so will be limited in its usefulness.
We'll have to wait an see how useful it really ends up being.