When Apple announced that it was moving into cloud based computing, the Tame Apple Press enthused about it so loudly the more sceptical voices were shouted down.
The reason there were sceptics was because while Apple gear might look sexy, its networking capability was legendarily pants. Right from its early days, Apple’s networking solutions were incredibly unreliable.
Anyone who had to suffer through the 1990s on AppleTalk who had not been reduced to a gibbering wreck was unlikely to trust Jobs’ Mob networking technology ever again.
Things did not get better either. From Apple server to AirPort, Jobs’ Mob seemed to be light years behind networking on other computing. When Steve Jobs returned, the inconsistency was made it even more unpleasant by the fact that every bit of networking gear was peddled with the same smugness as its consumer gear.
When we heard that the iCloud was coming out we expected there to be huge problems. Cloud technology is supposed to be cutting edge networking and it is exactly the sort of thing that Apple has done badly.
Yet, out trotted the usually marketing. Apple smugly told us that it was a “convenient and centralised way to manage data on Macs and iOS devices: sync contacts and bookmarks, re-download music and apps, back up iOS devices, and sync documents and data for third-party apps as MobileMe did.”
Hang on, MobileMe? That was launched to negative reviews and even Jobs could not work out what the product was supposed to do. When someone explained to him what it was supposed o be doing Jobs reportedly shot back, “So why doesn’t it do that?”
In an internal email sent to Apple employees in 2008, Jobs admitted that MobileMe was “not up to Apple’s standards”.
Jobs was expecting trouble when he announced iCloud in 2011 and it was supposed to entirely replace the still troubled MobileMe. According to CNN, he asked why should people believe Apple when they were the ones who brought MobileMe to the cosmos.
Only a year later cracks are starting to appear in the iCloud distortion field. Third-party developers have begun to speak out about the difficulty involved in working with Apple’s cloud service.
The Verge said that people are moaning about data loss and corruption to unexpected Apple ID use cases. They are also unable to ship products with working iCloud support.
It is starting to look like Apple’s inability to understand networking is coming to fore again.
Bare Bones Software’s Rich Siegel told Ars Technica that the iCloud is made up of too many bits, each with a role to play.
He said that there were many different ways in which the iCloud enables the syncing of data and users and developers are kept in the dark when things go wrong.
Apple’s iCloud simply declares that a file upload has timed out which is about as useful as a chocolate teapot, because it does not say what has gone wrong.
Jobs’ Mob also forgot to put in an option to recover, which means the user has to try again until it finally works, if it ever does.
Developers fume how iCloud handles a user’s data if the user chooses to turn off document and data syncing. For some reason this completely removes a user’s locally stored iCloud data.
This is all basic stuff for cutting edge cloud tech and the question was why Apple thought it was qualified to do it in the first place. If there were not a lot of people wanting to play with Apple’s Walled Garden of Delights, it is unlikely that developers would be following it at all.
Recently an outfit called Black Pixel wrote that iCloud and Core Data syncing had problems that it could not fix.
Since Apple has not been able to fix the problems, Black Pixel created its own syncing services and moved to Dropbox instead.
iCloud’s failure represents a philosophical problem Apple just does not get. The cloud is networking and networking is allowing the free flow of communications between users. Apple’s philosophy is totally alien to that idea. The cloud is about things being interconnected and seamless. But to Jobs’ Mob each seam is another layer of protection, another thing to control and as a result it has built a controlled cloud which does not really work.