If anyone mentioned iCloud at Apple’s announcement event yesterday, it went by so quickly that I missed it. And that means that a glaring hole will remain in its otherwise strong ecosystem for the foreseeable future.
iCloud does a few things reasonably well, notably syncing contacts and calendar among iPhones, iPads, Macs, and to a limited extent, Windows. It also provides a clunky conduit for moving documents created in Pages, Numbers, and Keynote among devices, along with files for some third-party offerings whose developers have found a way to work with the baroque iCloud APIs.
But this leaves Apple way behind the competition in the increasingly important area of cloud services. I use SugarSync to make sure that important files are available on all my documents. I use DropBox to share files among my devices and, on a very selective basis, with third parties. I’m an officer of a non-profit that runs on Google Apps and we use Google Drive to share documents all the time. And I make occasional use of Microsoft SkyDrive and Amazon Cloud. All of these services are more comprehensive and useful than iCloud, which I is relegate to calendar and contact sync and Photo Stream.
iCloud’s 5 gigabytes of free storage is also relatively stingy compared with SkyDrive’s 7 GB and Google Drive’s 15. Using iCloud for music storage is essentially impossible without a paid account unless you have a really small music collection. And the fact that you cannot use it to store arbitrary file types severely limits its usefulness.
At a time when Apple is both beefing up its key iOS and Mac apps and driving their price down to free, its failure to provide a better–and cheaper–iCloud remains a strange anomaly.