Almost as if in response to the Amazon Fire Phone’s announcement of unlimited cloud photo storage, Microsoft announced an aggressive expansion of the limits for its cloud-based storage offerings by increasing the free quota for OneDrive from 7 GB to 15 GB on Monday. In addition, Microsoft announced that all Office 365 subscriptions will include 1 TB of cloud storage. Finally, Microsoft reduced storage prices for cloud storage independent of an Office 365 subscription by 70% such that monthly prices for 100 GB of storage are now $1.99 as opposed to $7.49 and 200 GB are $3.99 instead of $11.49. Microsoft’s pricing of free storage represents an astute move to continue its aggressive rollout of Office 365 by shifting customers to its cloud-based productivity suite in contrast to the client-based installations via download or DVD. Moreover, Microsoft continues to tout the possibilities for collaboration enabled by the cloud and as such, users are likely to see enriched collaboration functionality coming to the Office 365 suite soon. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella underscored the importance of the connection between the cloud and collaboration in a blog post by noting that “the cloud is enabling a world where you can walk up to any supported device, sign in, collaborate, communicate and share your creations with the world. Doesn’t matter what you make, where you make it or what device you use. The cloud is there to help.” Whereas Steve Jobs introduced iCloud primarily in the context of device synchronization, and the resulting operational simplicity specific to accessing the same version of every file and folder from every machine, Nadella appears to be taking things one step further by positioning the cloud as a platform fundamentally for collaboration, communication and sharing.
The following text is a partial transcription of Steve Jobs’s June 6 keynote address at the 2011 Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC), with a specific focus on Jobs’s remarks on the iCloud. Jobs introduced the vision for Apple’s iCloud product by discussing the contemporary difficulty of synchronizing files across multiple machines and devices. Apple’s CEO goes on to describe the comapny’s vision for iCloud and the changing nature of computing, more generally. Jobs proposes to relegate the PC and Mac to just another device and provide an infrastructure for a personal computing experience that enables synchronization across multiple devices. iCloud also pushes application updates to users in a way “that just works,” thereby absolving users of the responsibility of learning about cloud computing.
Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple Inc, June 6 keynote address at the 2011 Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC):
“About 10 years ago we had one of our most important insights and that was, that the PC was going to become the digital hub for your digital life. What does that mean? It meant that’s where you were going to put your digital photos, where else were you going to put them? Your digital video off your digital camcorder, and of course your music. Right, you were going to acquire, in the device or potentially on your Mac, and you were going to basically sync it to the Mac, and everything was going to work fine.
And it did, for the better part of ten years, but it’s broken down in the last few years. Why?
Well, because the devices have changed. They now all have music. They now all have photos. They now all have video. And so if I acquire a song, I buy it right on my iPhone, I wanna get that to my other devices.
Right. I pick up my iPad and it doesn’t have that song on it. So I have to sync my iPhone to my Mac. Then I have to sync my other devices to the Mac to get that song but then they’ve deposited some photos on the Mac so I have to sync the iPhone again with the Mac to get those photos and keeping those devices in sync is driving us crazy. So we’ve got a great solution for this problem. And we think this solution is our next big insight. Which is we’re going to demote the PC and the Mac to just be a device. Just like an iPhone, an iPad or an iPod Touch. And we’re going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud.
Because all these new devices have communications built into them. They can all talk to the cloud whenever they want. And so now, if I get something on my iPhone it’s sent up to the cloud immediately. Let’s say I take some pictures with it, those pictures are in the cloud, and they are now pushed down to my devices completely automatically. And now everything’s in sync with me not even having to think about it. I don’t even have to take the devices out of my pocket. I don’t have to be near my Mac or PC.
Now some people think the cloud is just a hard disk in the sky. Right, and you take a bunch of stuff and you put it in your Dropbox or your iDisk or whatever and it transfers it up to the cloud and stores it and then you drag whatever you want back out on your other devices.
We think it’s way more than that and we call it iCloud. Now iCloud stores your content in the Cloud and wirelessly pushes it to all your devices. So it automatically uploads it, stores it and automatically pushes it to all your other devices. But also, it’s completely integrated with your apps and so everything happens automatically and there’s nothing new to learn. It’s just all works. It just works.”
Contemporary discussions about cloud computing typically revolve around the concepts of Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). Amazon Web Services (AWS) constitutes the paradigmatic example of IaaS whereas Microsoft Azure aptly exemplifies PaaS while Salesforce.com illustrates SaaS. Where does Apple’s iCloud stand in relation to the Iaas, PaaS and SaaS trinity? Technically speaking, iCloud constitutes a SaaS application insofar as it represents a software product, delivered over the internet, that empowers users to:
•Synchronize photographs, music and iWork files across multiple devices such as iPads, iPhones and personal computers
•Remotely access iTunes or music files by matching them against iCloud’s online collection.
•Resume working where they left work on one device, upon opening a different one.
•Synchronize user settings such as passwords and browser settings across all devices.
•Enjoy free email, calendars and online storage.
•Leverage pushed updates to applications across all devices.
But taken as a whole, these features amount to a disruptive technology with the power to transform user relationships to personal computers in a way that the SaaS moniker fails to accurately capture. In other words, whereas cloud computing has traditionally acted either as a (1) platform for software development (IaaS or Paas); or (2) a mechanism for software delivery (Saas), iCloud promises to use cloud computing to create an infrastructure for personal productivity across PCs, Macs, iPads and iPhones. As Apple CEO Steve Jobs remarked in his keynote address at the 2011 WWDC conference, “We’re going to demote the PC and Mac to being a device. We’re going to move the digital hub into the cloud.”
Apple’s iCloud features all of the benefits that enterprises obtain from cloud computing in addition to some functionality specific to personal users. For example, just as enterprises often use cloud computing to harmonize updates across an ecosystem of machines, the iCloud serves the same purpose of keeping machines in sync. iCloud transforms the role of the personal computer from a platform for personal productivity to a means of inscribing upon a virtual environment for personal productivity. The personal computer becomes one point of access amongst many to an online space in which all of one’s personal productivity is performed. In other words, the iCloud promises to turn a cloud based, virtual environment into the fundamental plane for accessing music, pictures, writing, spreadsheets and more. Understood in these terms, the iCloud is less SaaS than an online space from which multiple SaaS applications originate and interact with a constellation of machines.
Read more about Apple’s iCloud, in Jobs’s own words, here.