Tuesday, November 20, 2012

More Overcast Than Cloudy

Justin Williams:

Apple has always been given a pass with the cloud stuff because they make such great hardware and the on-device software experience is top-notch. How nice it is to hold an iPhone in my hand is of little consequence to me if I can’t actually use it. As more stuff you care about makes its way into the cloud, Apple’s inability to reliably build a web service is becoming a bigger hindrance than my phone not working if I hold it the wrong way.

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3 Comments

Williams writes:

Apple has always been given a pass with the cloud stuff because they make such great hardware and the on-device software experience is top-notch.

I'd quibble a bit.

Apple has always been given a pass with the cloud stuff because it's been easy for most users to avoid using their cloud stuff.

I mean, seriously, pretty much every Apple online service over the decades has sucked, but nobody except fanboys and the nescient have signed up.

You could use Macs, and happily avoid eWorld, 'free forever' iTools, MobileMe, etc, etc. The only Apple online service that was semi-necessary was OS X's Software Update, and amazingly, Apple managed to get that to work pretty damn well. (My theory is that it worked well because it had nothing to do with commerce, and thus had simple parameters that made it easy to design.)

But iCloud and especially the Mac App Store have become foregrounded into the OS to the point where it becomes difficult to avoid them once you get past Snowy. That's what's changed, and that's why it's become impossible to give them a pass anymore. They're becoming truly tied into the OS.

And seriously, just how bad have Apple online and sync efforts been over the past 20 years? It's hard to think of anything further from their core competency. Apple is to online and sync as Microsoft is to hardware: always four days late and four dollars short. (And at least Microsoft had one shining hardware success with the Xbox.)

If Apple had more wisdom, they'd stick with their core competency, outsource cloud stuff to multiple 3rd party companies like Google, Dropbox, etc, make their own version that only the suckers would sign up for, and stick with making high margin best-of-breed hardware that Just Works with the modern multi-company cloud infrastructure. No need to go all 'Microsoft in the '90's' and try to tie everything into your psuedo-monopoly...

@Chucky:

o Mac OS X Software Update is not that simple. It has to figure out which update packages were available to you (combo, delta) based on cases that may not have been foreseen at the time it was implemented and knowing that some components may have been updated independently.

o I wouldn't call the Xbox a shining hardware success. Considering the zillions of boxes they had to replaceā€¦

"Mac OS X Software Update is not that simple. It has to figure out which update packages were available to you (combo, delta) based on cases that may not have been foreseen at the time it was implemented and knowing that some components may have been updated independently."

I'm certainly not saying its architecture is as simple as reheating an item in a microwave oven. But it did seem to Just Work for the large majority of users. I certainly never had any issues with it. (Though I did my due diligence in waiting a few days before applying updates, and though I manually downloaded combo updates to the base OS.) But reading MacInTouch reader reports, it did seem to Just Work for the large majority of users.

And, again, no matter how simple or complicated the back-end, I do think the complete lack of commerce involved was a part of making it the rare example of an engineering challenge within Apple's online service competency level.

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