June 4, 2011

∴ Pre-WWDC

A few thoughts before Apple formally unveils their iCloud service.

The iPhone debuted in 2007. Its form hasn’t changed much since then. It’s become less rounded, but not much smaller. Its industrial design was right, right out of the gate. Apple has continued tweaking its operating system, iOS, all along, making the iPhone a greatly more useful tool. Monday brings a new version that will link the device to Apple’s new service, iCloud. More on that in a moment.

The iPad debuted in 2010. Its single hardware revision since then made it thinner and lighter, providing a fundamentally different feel. It morphed from a tablet of modest heft to something like a magazine. Again, iOS has steadily improved since the device appeared, and will link the iPad to iCloud Monday.

In effect, these devices, and Macs, too, are about to be linked into a single, Internet-based service that will revolve around the user, not the hardware, by iCloud. The hardware remains isolated and independent. Software will make the connection, and usher in the third age of computing.

I wrote about this a while back. These mobile devices have done something unlike any before: they put a computer network node right in your pocket or portfolio. A computer constantly connected to the global Internet, worn on your body as you move about the world. Now iCloud will be the glue that makes the user the network node, by surrounding him or her with a populated data cloud available everywhere.

Consider what happens when all the data you’ve amassed, both your personal collection and those public items of interest, whether music, movies, books, documents, friends, magazines, accounts, bookmarks, travel plans, are unified by their connection to you and independent of the device with which you access them. Your location is not relevant to what you can do with them. The focus becomes less on the device you’re using and more on you and the task you’re doing. You live with all of your data, full-time. Constant access, for instant reference.

I think that’s what iCloud, the cloud that moves with you, will be all about.