Thursday, June 16, 2011

iCloud: a change in Apple's strategy

The OriginalSpin summation of Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) announcements is entitled, "Today's Apple's WWDC Keynote: The PC Is Dead, Long Live the Cloud, Digital Amnesty for Pirates—Ahoy!"
... the PC is dead — or at least demoted to "just another device," as opposed to the "hub of your digital life" (their old slogan). The PC, as Jobs famously said in the last keynote, is like a truck. It's a heavy-duty info-mover that's not really necessary for 90% of the things we do today, especially with so much computing power sitting out in data centers and accessible via the persistent wireless Internet. We still need to fire it up for some things, but we really don't need to dock to it anymore — that's just annoying. Instead, the cloud` is the center of digital everythingness now.
[emphasis in the original]

There's a bit of sloppy phrasing in the foregoing. "Computing power" as such is not tremendously important for typical consumer-level activities. The value of "the cloud" for typical consumers is as a virtually limitless data store that is accessible from anywhere. (Having said that, the vision of "the cloud" from the beginning included virtually unlimited computational power and memory, too. The cloud, in short, always was intended to virtualize the entire general-purpose computer, with the network becoming the analog to the computer bus.)

I haven't been too interested in Apple's iCloud plans so this is the first coverage that I've read of them. I have a distinct bias against cloud computing because the necessary tradeoff between convenience and privacy is completely foreign to my tastes. I also mistrust many of those who seek to play in the cloud-computing arena. If they don't seek to charge us yet again for the media content we already bought, they seek as much data about each of us as they can get for the purpose of better targeting advertisements and other inducements to spend.

And don't forget that neither Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, nor any other company providing you cloud-computing resources is going to care about your data as much as you do. If you think you'll have any meaningful recourse if your cloud provider screws up and loses or exposes your data, you're dreaming.

It is possible to preserve some semblance of privacy by encrypting one's data before storing it in the cloud, but it's onerous so few will ever follow that path. Some will also wonder what cryptographic attacks could be mounted by anyone with access to the encrypted data, too, especially considering the commensurately massive computational power available in the cloud.

I understand the tremendous appeal of the cloud. The convenience of a single view of one's data shared across all the devices one owns is not to be overestimated. The cloud can also be thought of as a cheap, ubiquitous, and hassle-free backup, and for a lot of users will be the only backup they will ever have.

It's still not for me.

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