disappearing through the skylight

If you have had any involvement with technology in the last decade there is one term you use quite often: the cloud. It is a metaphor really, but a graspable way of talking about and thinking about an ill-defined idea – network-supportable-interaction. See, the cloud sounds so much nicer. Even if you are a case hardened nerd.

If you stumble into the business section of any major newspaper this week, you are reading the same term in headline after headline. The cloud. Not a dark thing that hangs over you. But a friendly thing that watches out for you. “It just works” apparently, only this time it is called iCloud. “The truth is in the cloud” apparently. Easily said. But so much harder to do. I mean who made the internet so hard to use in the first place? But iDigress.

Apple have decided to make ‘the cloud’ a consumer category this week. Which involves motivating business journalists to explain it to consumers in advance of the new iOS 5  launch. 

This explanation from MG Seigler:

“…With iCloud, Apple is transforming the cloud from an almost tangible place that you visit to find your stuff, to a place that only exists in the background. It’s never seen. You never interact with it, your apps do — and you never realize it. It’s magic…”

When innovation planners, plan, they assume it is a race; where first to market has an unshakable advantage, for upwards of about 40 pct of the pie. Yet Apple who regularly schools the world on ‘what we mean by innovative’, is most often fashionably late to market. Not just gobbling what is left on the table. But making more of it to compete for.

Google, Microsoft and Amazon have been making consumer grade cloud-offerings already. In Google’s case this effort has been under way for years.

This news today from ifixit:

“…With today’s release of the first production Chromebook, the Samsung Series 5 3G, Google has officially entered the retail consumer laptop market with a device they promise will change computing forever.

Running Google’s own ChromeOS, the Series 5 Chromebook is Google’s answer to machines running monolithic operating systems, which they regard as overbearing and process intensive…”

And, Amazon announced cloud drive and cloud player months ago to consumers. With the help of Lady Gaga they have been breaking it in, and breaking their servers.

The Telegraph saw it this way at launch:

“…Amazon weren’t the first to launch such a ‘music locker’ service but they are one of the most high profile companies to do so. In the process they’ve beaten Google and Apple, who are widely expected to launch similar services soon…” 

Once again we see the conceit, that the first mover defines the rules of engagement. Reviewers, are regularly stunned by new introductions from Apple.  ‘The ipod will never fix their computer business… the jesus-phone amounts to some kind of toy…the ipad is just a really big ipod touch… Perhaps that says something Apple’s cunning. Perhaps it is a statement about what innovation really is. Perhaps that speaks to the state of journalism. But we will surely look back at this week in five and ten years time. Certainly in the first two categories, at least. 

When you prefix ‘the cloud’ with the letter i, there will be no shortage of hype getting written about the event. But few pundits appear ready to explain the significance of the event itself; what happened this week, to Apple, to it’s rivals, and to the rest of us.

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