The shift of critical software and information off my devices and onto the Internet is incomplete, but it has crept up on me. I’m pretty sure this is common for my peers, and it’s been a pundit-prediction staple forever, so why is this interesting? Because my movement toward the cloud occurred backwards: the most important, most sensitive data went first.
Keep your photos; how about some bank records?
Of course, I bank and pay my bills online. My wife’s small business is using online accounting and payroll, too. Credit cards, sure, as well as personal finance software to monitor all this – Yikes! The entire financial scope of my household and spouse’s business are already “in the cloud.”
One notch down in importance sits professional contacts. I left a long-time job at CBS this summer, and before anyone knew I planned to depart I performed that age-old act of independence: backing up your contact list. All of a sudden, it struck me that my copy of this list wasn’t nearly as important as it used to be. If I know you and need to contact you, chances are very good I can reach you via LinkedIn or Facebook.
Sure, I dumped my contacts into a CSV file anyway, but then I had to choose where to upload them. That’s when the cloudliness of my life sunk in. It seemed absurd to load these contacts on to just one device. Where would I put them? The phone? Laptop? Data that lived in one place didn’t make any sense. What I wanted was — and is — an invisible service to host my contacts and connect well with all my devices. (Memo to LinkedIn: Why not you?)
iCloud uses the wrong pronoun
My most important data was already in the cloud, and I couldn’t imagine taking it back down. Huh, why did it happen this way? It’s obvious in retrospect: This data isn’t just mine; it includes information from other people and institutions.
My contact list is much better now that the people on it keep their information up-to-date. Accounting is better when the bank confirms the transactions. The big cloud benefits are not always social, but they are never solitary.
Apple’s most-touted benefits for iCloud — storing my music, my photos, books, and apps – are all surprisingly solitary. Yes, I want my contacts omnipresent on all devices, but I will switch to iCloud this month mainly to share a household calendar so I can invite my wife to date night. (We had that working well with Microsoft Exchange, but then she shifted to MobileMe and mediocrity broke loose.) What I really need from iCloud is MobileMe that doesn’t suck.
Apple is investing amazing amounts to build the iCloud infrastructure. They will surely lock-in customers better by backing up and connecting each person’s devices smoothly. But upon examination iCloud 1.0 seems too much about each person’s solitary stuff: data in the “I” category. The cloud’s exciting territory of possibilities, and its biggest successes so far, is around information that is shared: data in the “us” category.