Saturday, November 12, 2011

iCloud: how is it going?

Apple, for about the fourth or fifth time, is trying to deliver network based services (their early attempts predate the internet).

This time it's iCloud.

I don't have any personal experience with iCloud. My family is still on MobileMe; at the moment I use it only to sync Contacts between iPhone, multiple OS X machines, and even an instance of Outlook running in an XP VM [1]. To Apple's credit, they extended our service period after introducing iCloud [2].

I haven't moved to iCloud because, although Apple 3.0 did well with iTunes, it has an abysmal track record with things like Calendars, Contacts, and Tasks. I don't know why. I assume it's because those were career killers at Steve Jobs' Apple. Maybe he wasn't interested, maybe he assumed the considerable problems were trivial compared to the things he cared about.

I'm hoping Apple 4.0 will do better, but iCloud is a Jobs-era project. So I don't expect it to start well.

So far there haven't been many iCloud reviews I trust. I suspect the people I do trust don't trust Apple -- so they're hanging back. Tidbit's Rich Mogull posted on his experience. It was miserable...

... within minutes I realized the enormity of my error as all my calendars, on all devices, simultaneously disappeared. Lacking a corporate calendar server, this meant years of old appointments, and months of upcoming appointments, were all gone...

... Since I’m good about backups, I figured I could restore from Time Machine. In a few minutes my calendars were back to normal... and a few seconds later they were all gone again. “This,” I thought to myself, “is bad.”...

... but as anyone who experienced a sync conflict could tell you (which was pretty much everyone) each device maintained its own data and made its own decisions...

Yep, that's what I expected. It's not that Mobile is any good -- Rich isn't joking when he wrote that every MobileMe user has had sync problems. Synchronization is Hell, after all. Rather that there's been no reason to expect Apple 3.0 to do better with iCloud than they did with MobileMe.

Elsewhere Calendar Swamp has given up on iCloud. That's two.

On the other hand, nobody has anything good to say about iCloud support for Contact, Task and Calendar synchronization.

So my best guess is, iCloud is doing as expected. That is, badly.

Now we get to see what Tom Cook cares about. Will he invest resources to make iCloud work? Heaven knows, these days I really want an alternative to Google.

I'll check back in about 2-3 months.

[1] Where one can use Access 2003 to manipulate calendar data. I use Google Calendar for our family's 15 (total) calendar subscriptions. It works pretty well, though I fear for its future.
[2] That's the way to sunset a service. Google hasn't done nearly as well with its recent service terminations.

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