When Apple announced the iCloud, which didn’t come as a major surprise for many, there was a lot of talk about how Apple would do best what others have struggled to do – bring much talked about cloud to the consumer.  Apple had been using social media and cloud as secondary strategies but with the evolving technology world, these two have been increasingly at the forefront of their long-term strategy – first with MobileMe and then with Ping. The social media world is abuzz with discussions, posts and tweets about iCloud – every single beta release is talked about in much detail that Apple can no longer ignore this as a viable marketing and communication medium.

Apple’s first stab at bringing the cloud to the consumer was a disaster (or something short of that!).  I had signed up for MobileMe using my iPhone 3G back in the day when it had launched and used it for almost a year – there wasn’t a single feature that wasn’t new or innovative that justified a $99/year commitment. After a year of trying it out I decided to give it up and move to Google, which is working out quite well – I get over the air (OTA) calendar and contacts, which are my primary requirements and on top of it Google Music for my music collection.  One of the things that I really miss though is the refinement that Apple brings to the table, which is what makes the iCloud very exciting!

Features Features Features!

Apple promises a whole new set of features that have been done up from scratch. My first impression with iCloud beta is the same – they have definitely taken customer feedback seriously and presented an interface that should be very familiar to iOS customers. The calendar and contacts are just minor upgrades to MobileMe with the interface being consistent across Mac OS X Lion.  Apple throws in 5GB of space for free for all iCloud customers, which will be sufficient for most users. The only thing missing (or maybe not released yet) is a dropbox like interface for storing documents. I have recommended dropbox to several friends and there has been no going back ever since and Apple would do well to replicate or make something better.

With Google+ and an Android phone, any photo or video that is clicked is automatically pushed to Picasa. Through the Photo Stream feature, Apple is pushing the envelope further by ‘pushing’ photos to all iOS and Mac OS X devices as soon as it’s clicked! In this day and age of instant messaging, this is bound to be quite a feature!

iTunes in the Cloud – Music for the Ears!

iTunes in the cloud is probably the most exciting and talked about feature being offered as a part of  iCloud and we haven’t seen any glimpse of it since the announcements. Many view it as an amnesty program for people with music that hasn’t been acquired through the best of channels. My experience with Google Music definitely makes me want to try out iTunes in the cloud. The pain of having to upload over 10,000 songs through slow upload rates is definitely a point to consider while choosing between Google Music and iTunes in the cloud.  iTunes Match promises to scan your music collection and match it to the cloud server without the need to upload or download anything!

It is going to be a pitched battle for dominance over the consumer cloud and Apple and Google are going for it.  Watch out this space for more as Apple opens up its beta program for more features.