The Future of Apple, iCloud and Siri


As of June 30th 2012, Apple will be taking away one of the few main reason’s I’ve continued to pay for its services, iDisk.  iDisk has been a slug for most of its life but its integration with the operating system and the available apps on iOS devices make it a great storage bin for transferring, backing up and sharing files.  I’ve used it daily for backups and it’s gotten much better over the years.  Apple has also continued to offer the desktop app Backup, the lightweight sibling of Time Machine, that I’ve used for critical off site backup.  In case anything happens to my computer, there’s a good portion of my computer’s fingerprint in the cloud that I can restore on to a new one.  Of course, you should always do a backup of your entire hard drive for the sake of a catastrophic event.  Backup gives me that little extra sense of security since it only does critical info and takes about 3 minutes.  It seems it will be retired along with iDisk as well.

Or is it?

We’ve all read about the server farm in North Carolina.  Do you think this is all about music and movies?  It has been speculated in the past, but seems to have been forgotten, that there’s a great possibility that Apple will one day, assumedly prior to June 30th 2010, backup your entire computer in the cloud.  The iCloud to be precise.

Apple-idatacenter-finished

Apple moves slowly, with intent, caution and precision.  They hardly ever come right out of the gate with every bell and whistle to wet our appetite; always leaving us hungry for more.  Let’s briefly look at iCloud and then speculate where Apple is heading.  

Currently, iCloud is a free service offered by Apple that let’s you sync your contacts, calendars and email.  It also lets you find your phone, iPad or Macintosh computer via GPS satellite.  The most interesting part is that it let’s you, very crudely, sync your iWork files between your computer and your iOS device.  It took me a while to figure this out.  You have to go to iCloud.com and drag your file in to your browser window in order for it to show up on your iPhone.  Well, that’s not very Apple-like.  It certainly isn’t very Jobs-like either.  There’s no doubt in my mind that phase two will eliminate the need for the web browser to sync your files.  
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Back in 1997, after founding NeXT Computer only to return to Apple, Steve Jobs spoke at a developer’s conference.  In one part of the speech, he spoke of how he could sit at his desk at work and pick up exactly where he left off working at home.  When he got home, he could log in to his computer and pick right up where he left off back at the office.  Back then, in the context of his speech, that didn’t seem too profound.  Not to me at least.  Back in 1997 I was 20 years old and had no interest in bringing my work home with me.  Back in 1997, there was no such thing as an iPad.

What if you could sit at your MacBook Pro at home and start a spreadsheet, a presentation or even some photo manipulation and then decide to go out for coffee and continue to work on that project on your iPad?  Without any syncing or uploading or any thinking about it at all.  What if Apple’s iCloud was the final part of NeXT Computer that Steve never had a chance to fully bring over to Apple?  

It was initially appalling to many geeks and gadgeteers to hide the folder structure of the iPad and iPhone.  Apple, once again, told you that something was outdated without asking you. See: The Floppy Disk.  There will be no file structure in the future.  There will only be the cloud.  iCloud.

So, if I’m working in Photoshop and I’m looking for a file I was working on two weeks ago for Mrs. Jones, I know that that file is in Mrs. Jones’ project folder.  Occasionally I misplace that file so I have to do a spotlight search.  Why not just jump to the spotlight search to begin with?  Oh, hold on.  You forgot the name of the file, didn’t you?  Now, how could you ever ask the computer to find you a file that you’ve forgotten the name of?  

Enter Siri.

In addition to the (now evidently) profound WDDC speech in 1997 where Steve Jobs told us what the future of iCloud would hold for us, there was a video produced 10 years earlier by Apple’s marketing division called Knowledge Navigator.  Siri..  excuse me, Knowledge Navigator was a small desktop notebook type device that had a personal assistant built right in to it.  You could walk around the room and have a discussion with it.  Ask it about the weather, important meetings and to place a video phone call for example.  It doesn’t take much imagination to see a future where we can ask our device to find a file for us either.  
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“Hey, Siri, what happened to that file I was working on for Mrs. Jones about ten days ago?  I’m sorry Anthony, you deleted that file.  Would you like me to pull up the last version I saved in my library for you?  Yes Siri, thank you!”  Just like that, Sisri has gone out to Apple’s server farm, otherwise known as iCloud, and restored that file I accidentally deleted.  But without a folder structure, where did the file restore to?  It has always been, and forever will be, on the server.  This gives you access from any computer, iPad, iPhone or other future device with iCloud embedded.  

Let’s stick with the Jobs timeline.  In 1984 he revolutionized the personal computer industry with Macintosh.  In 1998 he announced another all-in-one machine called the iMac.  The ” i ” stood for internet because it was one of the very first computers to have a built-in ethernet jack and had the option for a wifi card.  So far, we’ve got a guy that put desktop publishing AND the internet in to our hands.  Let’s see, then in 2000 he put all of our music in our pockets with the introduction of the iPod.  2007 brought a phone, the internet, our music and our email in our pocket.  These are all huge milestones in the tech industry.  What’s a reasonable amount of time for Apple to come out with another game changer?  And what is that game changer?

2010. Hello iPad.

We’ll be able to look back to 2010 – 2012 and see that this is when the computer industry changed once again.  All of our data will live on the iCloud, in those big server farms that Apple built, bringing to life Jobs’ vision in 1997.  We’ll look back at 2010 and think how needlessly complex a file system was.  How mounting a drive to sync and share files was so archaic.  We’ll see how much time we wasted trying to get Dropbox to work properly but remember it fondly.  We’ll have an artificial intelligence assistant to help us keep track of things, suggest things, even buy things for us.  Imagine if Siri got hold of all the stuff you “like” on Facebook!  “Good morning Anthony.  I see that Groupon has a deal for that restaurant you were looking at last week on Facebook.  Would you like me to purchase this deal for you?  Yes Siri, and please make a reservation there for next Saturday at 7pm, notify Laura and remind us twelve hours prior to the reservation.”  The scary part is this science fiction is just one page-turn from science fact.

2019 will be the 35th Anniversary of Macintosh.  What did our world look like 35 years prior to Macintosh?  Well, we didn’t have a national highway system, had never been to outer space and Steve Jobs’ mom was only 17.  Steve would have only been 64 years old. 

~ AJS

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