Let me start with a confession – I don’t own or want to own an iPad. I use one for in-house testing of the sites we build, but for me personally the iPad is still a solution in search of a problem. However, I realise that for 95% of people the iPad is (or will be by the time the iPad4 rolls around) all the computer they’ll ever need. And there’s the rub – why do I still need a Mac (or PC) to sync this supposed ‘post-PC’ device to?
Back in 2005 it seemed pretty cool to plug a cable between a Mac and an iPod and sync a bunch of tunes that I could take on the road with me. In 2011 it seems pretty clunky to still be doing the same thing (albeit with a wider range of media). And half the time I’m syncing stuff I’ve bought over the air to my Mac so I can sync it back down to my mobile device. Meh.
So I’m kind of excited about what iCloud could be. Obviously I’m tempering my optimism based on Apple’s track record with iTools / .Mac / MobileMe, but their current massive investment in data centres coupled with their negotiations with the major record labels over streaming content gives me hope. So here’s the dream…
What if iCloud removed the need for owning a Mac / PC altogether? Users would store all their media and documents on iCloud and sync them directly to their iPhone / iPad via wifi (or 4G / LTE if the data costs ever drop low enough). Given Apple is now financially more stable than most small nations, and given Facebook already know everything there is to know about everyone, I suspect most people will have few reservations about letting Apple act as gatekeeper to their online life. With a 50Mb+ connection to the net, the ability to read / write MS-Office (or iWork) documents, import photos (via the SD slot in the iPad3), and sync apps and media – for most users the PC goes the way of the dodo.
Of course there’s the potential that this PC/Mac-less syncing could cannibalise Apple’s sales of Macs to consumers in the short term. However, over the longer term Macs will be the obvious choice for a generation raised on iPads and iPhones, particularly in if iOS and OS X continue to converge.
Castles in the air? Given that Google have just announced their Music Beta service, I can’t imagine it will be long till Apple unleashes iCloud