How the iCloud could be huge

One of the key things that I think a lot of us techies are overlooking is that we’re used to syncing music and movies to our iPhones and iPads. Its second nature for us to pick playlists, artists, etc to copy them over. A few weeks later we want to change it up, so we fiddle with options and sync again.

But what if we didn’t have to put up with that garbage anymore? What if we just added new music to our iTunes collection – either through buying it at the Apple store or adding in iTunes – and it showed up on all of our devices? And our iDevices were smart enough to know what music we like, what music we listen to, and just use the local storage as a cache. It seems to have the following benefits…

1. Increase usability of iTunes store – purchases are sideloaded into your cloud storage, and then pushed down to your devices automatically if you’re on wifi (and manually if you’re on 3G). Amazon lacks the hardware device to make this work, and Google’s music store doesn’t really have any traction.
2. Increase usability of iTunes app – now you don’t have to manage your music syncing preferences, it just goes and does its thing. As long as Apple’s caching algorithm is smart enough, it’ll be fine.
3. This can also extend to apps & app data, podcasts, etc. Everything except for movies, which are too large to sync over Wifi/3G (though they could be re-encoded to lower bitrates and streamed to devices like the AppleTV and iPad over fast home broadband connections and WiFi).

Doing a mental “full stop” on the current way iTunes works an rethinking how to architect it with the iTunes Store and iCloud at the center seems to make it really compelling for all of the non-experts who buy Apple products because they’re easy. Put another way, I can teach my parents how to do this – buy songs from Apple music store, wait 30 seconds, music shows up on iPhone, hit play, listen.

The big question isn’t whether or not the concept of the cloud will work, but rather whether people are that in to music to do this (especially with a monthly fee), and can Apple pull it off without any glitches (like MobileMe had)? We’ll see in the next few weeks.

Remember, Apple’s ultimate goal isn’t necessarily to sell you another service to add to their revenue, its to make the iPhone more compelling than any Android, RIM or Windows phone. To get users to say, wow, that is really amazing, I need to get an iPhone because it fits me and my lifestyle.

Gripe: Apple Update Sizes

[Edit: and at WWDC, Apple announced support for delta updates, which should mean I don’t have to download the entire OS image to upgrade my iDevices]

So far this year I’ve downloaded at least 18.8GB of Apple updates over my home internet connection. Consider I have three Mac OSX devices and four iOS devices. Here is how it breaks down…

OSX 10.6.6 update: 143MB

OSX 10.6.7 update: 475MB

iPhone/iPad 4.3.0: 670MB

iPhone/iPad 4.3.1: 666MB

iPhone/iPad 4.3.2: 662MB

iPhone/iPad 4.3.3: 600MB

Times all the devices I have, is 12.2GB worth of software updates in five months, or about 2.4GB per month. This doesn’t include the OSX software updates or iOS app updates. iPhoto 9 (which has been through at least one revision since I bought it in February through the app store) weighs in at about 900MB, so two downloads to three OSX boxes is another 5.4GB. iTunes is comparatively smaller, 75MB or so times four computers (3 Macs and a PC) times four updates so far this year is 1.2GB. Plus many other smaller updates – from app updates to printer driver updates, etc. So lets round it up to 20GB total in five months. Thats 4GB per month. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but its more than the monthly cap I have on my AT&T iPhone, and likely to squeeze out any chance I have using some alternate wireless ISP, leaving me with only DSL and Cable to choose from.