Just a little while ago I received an email from iCloud – a cloud computing application I’d been taking for a spin – telling me that they were changing their domain name to CloudMe. If somehow I had missed Apple’s worst kept and best publicized secret, the name change should have alerted me. As we moved closer to the beginning of the Apple’s Worldwide Developers’ (WWDC) Conference on Monday June 6, speculation was rife about the features and cost of Apple’s latest foray into cloud storage, especially after the abysmal failure of MobileMe. Expectations were further heightened by the news that Apple had negotiated with the four major record labels so that users could store their music on secure servers. Perhaps films and TV could be stored there as well? Well, the cloud is out of the bag – almost. Steve Jobs announced iCloud as expected on Monday though when it becomes available is anybody’s guess.
So not quite film and TV, but there is plenty that can be stored in Apple’s iCloud including music, calendars, photos, apps and documents. Everyone will be given 5GB of storage for free and your purchased music, photostream, books and apps don’t count against your quota so 5gig should go a long way. So take a photo with your iPhone and it can become available on your computer or iPad.
iCloud is supposed to take the hassle out of syncing your numerous devices via plugging into iTunes. Instead, your devices will automatically be synced though in very small print on the bottom of the page you’re warned that 10 devices could be your limit – should be enough for most people though. It will be possible to stream your music to any Apple device: iPod, iPhone or iPad. This is made possible because Apple will automatically scan your computer for licenses and store them in the cloud automatically freeing up storage space on your device. This feature has been facilitated by Apple’s purchase of online music service, LaLa in 2008. And importantly, this is something not available from other cloud storage services including Google and Amazon, which both launched cloud music services of late, allowing users to upload music via a browser or smartphone. In truth, uploading your music to either of these can be a lengthy process lasting hours. For sure, iCloud will threaten the long term viability of these services.
iCloud is a way of Apple retaining its dominance of the smartphone market which has recently given ground to phones powered by Google’s Android system. This will improve how users access content from different Apple devices. But be warned, once committed to this system, it will be difficult to move away because it just won’t be convenient.
It’s difficult to know at this early stage how iCloud can be leveraged for education. Perhaps, coupled with Apple’s educational discount on bulk apps for education, distribution to Apple devices will become supereasy. Ready distribution of material is an obvious application, but what beyond that? What does iCloud hold for mlearning? I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Dr Helen Farley – Mission Leader (Mobility)