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iCloud’s place in Apple’s ecosystem

We investigate why iCloud could be the spiritual embodiment of Steve Job’s vision for Apple.

All Men in Black agents are issued a neuralizer. This, as you might know, is a weapon they use to wipe the memories of regulars. It wouldn’t be completely wrong to assume that Apple is in possession of a similar weapon. Instead of wiping our memories, they can place a certain preconception about their products into the collective consciousness. They’ve used this propaganda gun on all of the modern society. How else would you explain the fact that the term ‘Apple’ is associated with the letter ‘i’ more than it is with the fruit that is as old as time itself? Adam and Eve’s story revolves around God, a snake, and an apple. Yet the iPhone is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word. It makes you wonder just how well they’ve sold their brand to the world. One of the latest in this series of iDelights is the iCloud. While it may seem like just another cloud-based storage service, it is much more. Ideologically speaking, it is almost the culmination of Apple’s work – the secret sauce that permeates and binds the veritable ecosystem.

Rule Number 1 of the Apple Club: Using non-Apple devices is blasphemy

Apples and Oranges: How Apple ended up like no other

Somehow Apple has created an ouroboros-like environment where the end of every technological query is the start of the newest Apple product. Take for example their unique lightning ports. In 2009, the EU convinced 10 of the most popular cellphone manufacturing companies to switch to micro-USB slots. Apple wasn’t one of them. They stubbornly stuck to their guns and ended up possessing sole rights to the proprietary hardware required to charge their devices. There is a logical reasoning behind all this corporate stubbornness, but it also goes a long way in adding to the sheer uniqueness of the company.

Even without such idiosyncrasies, all you have to do to understand the Apple ecosystem is indulge in a short thought experiment. Consider how easy it is to work in an Apple device-only workplace. Now consider a workplace with Windows desktops and Apple phones. You don’t even need to think twice before realising that there is a vast difference in the functionality of these two environments. Objectively speaking, Apple cares a lot about creating a wholesome experience if you own Apple-only products.

The new Apple Headquarters is life imitating art. A sealed off environment?

This is where the iCloud comes in. The iCloud is the end product. It is the ultimate aim. Not only do you use all Apple devices, but you trust them with your deepest secrets and most valuable bits and bytes – your cell phone and laptop data.

The Multifaceted Cloud: the many features of iCloud

iCloud was launched in October 2012, as an easy way of storing data. It replaced Apple’s MobileMe, which was an assortment of online tools that Apple provided to their users for data storage and backup. MobileMe shut down in June 2012, by which time all its services had transitioned to iCloud. From the very beginning, Apple based iCloud out of Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. As of 2016, some of the data is being stored in the Google Cloud Platform as well. In October 2016, it was reported that Apple was working on creating their own network. This might result in speed and efficiency but more importantly, the self-sufficiency attained will go a long way in securing one of Apple’s primary aims – the non-permeability of their ecosystem. iCloud offers a multitude of services that have long been awaited by Apple fanatics worldwide. It basically pushes all the data you possess into the cloud and allows you to sync it across all your devices. Here are some of its more impressive features:

  • iTunes is totally synced. This means that all your past purchases on all your different devices are now available online. The best part is that it is now available to all your devices.
  • You get 5 GB of free cloud storage so that you can backup all your important data into the cloud. You can pay a nominal sum to increase the amount of storage available to you.
  • Just like MobileMe, all your calendar appointments, emails, notes, and Safari bookmarks are now synced across all devices.
  • Pages, Numbers, Keynote work simultaneously. Inasmuch, they are updated instantly so that you can work on your documents without any lag.
  • One of the most underrated features is the ‘Find My iDevice’ app. Losing such an expensive device would pinch anybody’s pocket, so Apple included an app which you can use to locate your Apple device so long as it is synced with iCloud.
  • Thanks to iCloud, you can take a photo or import a photo on one of your iDevices and have it appear on all your other devices. You can view all of them in an app called Photo Stream.
  • You can play detective (or a 1984-like Big Brother) with the ‘Find My Friends’ feature, as it allows you to locate your friends when you meet up with them. It doesn’t stop at that, however. If you were so inclined, you could track any of your iOS contacts. You can opt out of this service whenever you feel like it. Phew.
  • All your Apps sync and backup automatically into iCloud, so now you have unfettered access to them from any of your devices.
One Cloud to rule them all, One Cloud to bind them

The Cloud Wars: iCloud vs Others

Apart from iCloud, the major players in the Personal Cloud business are Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive. The first three are pretty alike so we’ll focus on them here:

  • iCloud: It gives you 5 GB of free storage, and has monthly prices ranging from 1 dollar for 50 GB to 20 dollars for 2 TB. For Apple users, it is the easiest to access. It automatically syncs up all your devices with zero fuss. It operates on the Just Works principle because it requires little setup and even little-er effort. It offers a wider range of storage options than its competitors.
    It is slightly more expensive than its competitors for the 1 TB option. Further, it is still a little clunky. Sometimes it doesn’t sync immediately and it takes time for files to appear on other devices. With the creation of their own Cloud Computing Services, Apple aims to eliminate all these glitches from iCloud.

    iCloud is the Apple Cloud service. It is the conduit through which all other Apple products seamlessly serve up their iDelights
  • Dropbox: The grand old patriarch in the Cloud game. Dropbox was, for the longest time, the only way for users to backup their data on Cloud. Unlike the others, Dropbox doesn’t provide any service apart from backup. It provides 2 GB of storage for free, and 2 TB for $12.50. The most popular 1 TB service costs 10 dollars a month. It is a simple service where drag-and-drop rules supreme.
  • Google Drive: It functions just like iCloud, but for Android devices. It provides a similar dollar per TB pricing, as 1 TB of storage costs 10 dollars. The trump card is that it provides 15 GB of free data storage, plus unlimited storage for all your Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Add this to the fact that unlimited storage for photos up to 16MP is also provided, and it’s clear why Google Drive is really the service to beat nowadays. It also has similar real-time services that iCloud offers.

While iCloud might not be the most superior of the Cloud storage services available in the market, it is up there with the best of them. For an iOS user, the reason iCloud reigns supreme is because it was designed while keeping the functionality of iOS devices in mind, whereas the others were made for a more general audience. The rare glitches in the system are a small price to pay for the little-to-no effort it takes to implement iCloud into your daily routines.

iCloud isn’t the first Apple attempt at online storage. MobileMe was an earlier version

The culmination of Steve Job’s Efforts: iCloud

Steve Jobs will forever be the face of Apple. His vision was instrumental behind the advent of the iPhone, the iPod, iTunes, iMac, and all the other assorted iDevices. He led the charge towards a more compact world. As the CEO of Apple, he reinvented how we listen to music, how we work on laptops, and how we purchase software online, but most of all, he redefined cool. This is the other reason why iCloud is so essential to the Apple ecosystem. Philosophically, it exists for the same reason as the new Apple headquarters.

iCloud is the end product of this cool. You no longer have to use non-Apple devices to store your data. You no longer have to log into iTunes from 3 different devices to listen to 3 different kinds of music. You no longer have to keep re-editing documents you have already edited. You have everything at your doorstep, all courtesy of Apple. It is the odd kind of gilded prison (or haven) which you create for yourself. You can’t exit it – and maybe you don’t need to.

This article was first published in the September 2017 issue of Fast Track on Digit magazine. To read Digit’s articles first, subscribe here or download the Digit app for Android and iOS. You could also buy Digit’s previous issues here.


Meghana Gupta