Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Can Apple Flourish Without a Strong Cloud Presence?

My first computer was an IBM Thinkpad. When I bought it In did not even know how to use Windows. My focus was the software I could run on the device, mainly MS Word. I connected to the internet using a dial up connection. I remember first having 14.4 kbps, then 28.8 kbps and then 56 kbps. This was all heady stuff for me at the time. What I bought mainly was hardware that could at times connect to the internet.

Now my focus is the cloud. Most of my documents reside on Google Drive, my music is on iTunes Match and on Google Music. If I buy movies or TV shows I buy them on Amazon or on iTunes. My photos reside on an external hard drive that is backed up to the cloud using Backblaze.

In other words, my focus now  is on the cloud not the hardware I buy. I can do what I need do on a laptop or desktop (Mac, Windows or Chrome OS), on an iOS device or an Android device. If all my hardware were lost or stolen I could recover everything or nearly everything in the cloud.

What this says to me is that future belongs to companies with a strong presence in the cloud. It is also really nice when everything works together. When it comes to the cloud, the two firms I primarily think about are Google and Amazon.

Apple makes beautiful hardware that I enjoy using to connect to the cloud but I feel less strongly about the hardware I use. I can do most of what I need to do on a $250 Chromebook. I might prefer an expensive Apple desktop or laptop but it isn't a necessity. I still need reasonably powerful hardware and local software for my digital photography. I use and enjoy Adobe Lightroom. But I am doing less of that and taking more photos from my phone. For photos from my phone, the tools Google provides are easy to use and quite powerful. They are also getting better and better. Google automatically backs all my smartphone photos to the cloud.

Apple is a company I respect and admire. I just wonder if it can flourish over the long term unless it has a stronger presence in the cloud. Right now the only Apple cloud service I use is iTunes Match. But I now listen to most of my music using Google Play Music All Access. Having said this, my next computer will probably be a Mac but in ten years or less I may be able to do everything I care about on a Chromebook or some other internet appliance.

Increasingly what I value most is a first rate cloud experience. Google offers all the services I need. Amazon is great for entertainment but weak in other areas and Apple is a distant third. In my mind, Microsoft is not even in the race. I can do everything I need to do in Google Docs and spreadsheets. I no longer feel I need Microsoft.

I hope Apple will step up its game in the cloud either with its own services or a partner.