frog design: Why iCloud Will Be As Important As The iPod

Design mind discusses points of iCloud that could indicate same success as iPod.

Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference keynote last week will be remembered for two things: the bloodbath of disrupted developers and apps it left in its wake, and that it was as important for cloud services as the iPod was for digital music, and that the iPhone was for smartphones.

The Developer Bloodbath

Despite the many cheers from the crowd of developers at the keynote, I reckon there were several hundred third party developers and apps collectively put on notice (and maybe put out of business) by the various announcements. As the NY Times wryly put it, “How do you know if you’ve created a really great, useful iPhone app? Apple tries to put you out of business.” (The Times provides a handy list of apps now scrambling for a second act.)

In truth, quite a few of the things that Apple announced – such as a basic to-do list app, and ways of storing web articles offline for later reading – have become such fundamental needs for so many people that they deserved to be part of the core OS. Unfortunately they are also the bread and butter of many niches developers who saw the same need and leapt to fill it in the intervening years. They will have to rethink and improve what they do, and many of them will I’m sure.

Such is life in the shadow of an ecosystem behemoth. Apple giveth (App Store to give independent developers more visibility and access) and Apple taketh away (obviating the need for those apps in the first place).

Apple has been pretty consistent in adopting good ideas from third parties into its core offerings. Perhaps most famously, Apple introduced the Dashboard feature (a precursor to the iconized app view on the iPhone), to loud complaints of it ripping off a third party developer, Konfabulator who had created something very similar.

As problematic as this can be, it’s all part of Apple’s plan. Chetan Sharma put it succinctly: “Apple’s goal is to commoditize the software, Microsoft’s goal is to commoditize the hardware, Google – both”

Apple has high tolerance for making software free, even if it makes life painful for its developers, because it makes almost all its profit on hardware. For the time being at least, Apple has enough strength and/or momentum relative to Google, Microsoft, media companies and service providers that it can thrive with this approach.

The Mainstreaming of Cloud Services

The announcement of iCloud was met with both enthusiasm and incredulity.

Apple has been firing on all cylinders for years with hardware and software, but has consistently stumbled with services, whether it be the expensive and lackluster MobileMe (the launch of which even Jobs had to admit at the keynote was “not our finest hour”), or the weak reception to its music “social networking” service Ping. (This isn’t a new phenomenon – anyone remember eWorld?) The only service area where Apple has really sung is with its retail stores.

With iCloud, Apple is cinching up the ecosystem it has painstakingly built up, cinching it so tight that it will become increasingly difficult for others – even ones as big as Google – to crack open.

MobileMe was an expensive, under-performing sideshow, but iCloud aims to reach deep into all the other Apple devices and make them all work together better. What was announced on Monday is surely only a hint of what lies ahead in the next 18 months for iCloud, iOS, and OS X all finally getting in sync.

(Continue reading here.)

[Written by Adam Richardson. Reprinted with kind permission from design mind, a publication of global innovation firm frog design.]

design mind is a publication of global innovation firm frog design that is updated daily to keep the design and innovation community updated with fresh perspectives on industry trends, emerging technologies, and global consumer culture. Learn more about design mind and frog design.

Adam Richardson, the VP of Marketing Strategy, oversees marketing strategy and thought leadership for frog design and its 9, 400 person parent organization Aricent. He is also the author of Innovation X: Why a Company’s Toughest Problems are its Greatest Advantage. Learn more about Adam Richardson.


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