Apple's WWDC (World Wide Developer's Conference) keynote was an interesting show with lots of small, and a few major, announcements about the upcoming operating systems (Lion and iOS 5) and Apple's foray into serious cloud computing. I watched live blogging of the event, being awake in the middle of the night, and found myself both engaged and put off.
Over the last decade, I've purchased no fewer than 7 Mac laptops, a desktop machine, three iPhones, an iPad, and iPods too numerous to keep track of. I guess I'm a fan. For several years I lived with a foot in each camp, having a work PC and a personal Mac. I am not among those who believes Apple does everything right, and that functionality on the Mac platform is in all respects superior to the PC. A few things work dramatically better (networking connections, for example -- or at least they did when last I touched a PC). Its been years. But Apple does boneheaded things too.
The esthetics of the MacOS platform, however, have always been far superior to the PC's in my eyes, and that matters to me. The level of integration (things work pretty much the same in every application) means that learning curves are far lower as well.
The 'walled garden' which has been a cornerstone of Apple strategy keeps users safer, makes the computing environment more stable and predictable, and, well, in Jobs' parlance "just works". Especially if you're happy with the Ap Store as your content censor and holder of all your personal credit information (and raker of hefty royalties for every piece of content you buy). Two hundred and fifty twenty five million one-click credit cards, and counting. Mine is there.
Its all going to "just work" even better now. Across MacOS and iOS-5 devices, anyway. Apple will be more polished, more integrated, smoother, mouse-less, and siren-call-enticing than ever. Their $100/year still-born MobileMe attempt at cloud computing has been reborn as iCloud, and, Google-like, is now free.
I'm a GMail and Google-docs fan, and have been for a long time, but when every application has seamless access to the iCloud service, it will be very difficult to muster the additional key-strokes and effort necessary to save content to an alternative. We, the People, are slothful and lazy, mostly. And even if we're not, keeping track of stuff in multiple places with multiple access regimens (and the horror of uncountably many passwords) is a particularly noxious element of today's computing environment, and it will be easy to seduce people to a "just works" alternative.
But of course, there are no free lunches. Or clouds. Google trades heavily on the data they collect from our searching and mail-profiling. And while I am a GMail user from the start, there is always the nagging fear that someday I'm going to be faced with a draconian data-rescue choice denominated in currency, or effort, or time, that will be painful to pay off. And the price will be higher in proportion to the cube of the degree of integration.
I learned this by accident a few months ago when my Flickr account expired. As advertised, my pictures were still there. In one, long stream. All my effort at organizing in sets and providing location metadata was hidden. Still there, but hidden, to be unlocked at my reinstatement to their good graces (account paid up).
I actually think this is reasonable -- After all, they didn't consign my largish stash of images to the bit-bucket the day after my account expired. But when we blithley take up yet-another 'free-or-cheap service', we seldom read the fine print or anticipate what the price for losing it might be. And when our entire digital lives are concentrated in one place, and that place changes its terms of service, or pricing structure, or vanishes in a natural or business maelstrom, its going to hurt. My image file metadata is now, and always, hostage to Flickr's account fees.
So, replacing a clunky, $100 dollar a year cloud service (MobileMe) with a 'free', highly integrated, super-convenient cloud service that unifies content and services over the entire spectrum of our digital devices is likely to be very successful, and will assure that its users are lifetime one-click customers. Its brilliant, and it will work. I wish I'd held onto my Apple stock.
The dragon fount at a local shrine on the east side of Tsukuba. Looks like he's drooling, doesn't he? And why do we always assume that drooling entities are male?