Dropbox is quite popular with iPhone users. Not for much longer, though. Apple is planning to launch its own web-based host filing service (or cloud computing), called iCloud. Just another tree in the Garden of Steve. By SIPHO HLONGWANE.
In an unusually dour post titled “Beware the Garden of Steve”, the popular tabloid online publication Gawker took the opportunity, while reporting on the launch of streamlined Macintosh, iPhone and iPad services by Apple, to warn that the tech company was slowly consolidating consumer experience under one, safe haven: the Garden of Steve. “The virtual utopia controlled by Steve Jobs will expand greatly, bringing even more of the world under the thumb of the Apple CEO,” Gawker said. To them, the danger was that Apple was forcing developers and advertisers to fall in line behind their march – or suffer the consequences of being shut out of the garden. This was bad for the internet, apparently. They continued to say, “When you see a bunch of kings frantically manoeuvring to get out of the way, that's a pretty good sign there's an empire on the march. That's not an entirely bad thing, if you can avoid getting squashed.”
Whether or not Apple’s business model can be considered bad, the company is certainly looking to consolidate all the viable technology consumer experiences under one brand – that of Apple. The new cloud computing service, iCloud, is just another example of that.
Apple say that they will be launching iCloud sometime this spring (September is a usually “new product launch” month at Apple) which will allow its users to synchronise and access files from multiple Apple devices. It will also be a way to sync your emails, calendar and applications across platforms. Each user gets five Gigabytes of storage for free. That is a lot, Apple says, because “your purchased music, apps, books, and TV shows, as well as your Photo Stream, don’t count against your free storage”.
If 5Gb is still not enough, then you can pay for additional space. Ten gigabytes extra will cost you $20 per year, 20Gb will cost $40 and 50Gb will cost $100 every year.
There is nothing new about cloud computing technology. Other companies, most notably Dropbox, have been very successful with it. More importantly, cloud computing is very popular with Apple device users. TechCrunch named Dropbox for iPhone one of the top 10 apps available on the iStore. In February last year, Dropbox released some figures (http://blog.dropbox.com/?p=339) about its users: 20.9% of their users accessed the service via a Mac. In April this year, Dropbox said that it had 25 million users. Not bad at all for a company that was founded in 2007.
The runaway success of Dropbox indicates that Apple will enjoy good fruit with iCloud. According to Fortune, it is on track to generate R716 million in revenues this year, and is worth R9.12 billion. Their business model isn’t that much different to the iCloud’s: two gigabytes of free storage, and a paid-for 50Gb account.
However, not all is well in the world of cloud computing. The problem with entrusting someone else with your stuff is that if they lose the key, or gave your key to someone else, you are pretty much buggered. In June 2011, a major bug in Dropbox was found which allowed access into any account using any password. This meant that any account could be accessed by typing in the respective email address. The hole was only closed four hours later.
Software security researcher Derek Newton argued in April this year that Dropbox’s authentication architecture rendered it insecure.
This doesn’t seem to be fazing the millions that are migrating to cloud-based storage systems. However, Dropbox has yet to suffer a major security breach like Sony did when its cloud system for Playstation was hacked in April this year, which exposed the confidential data of 100 million people.
The risk of losing data through each user’s incompetence (which is what usually happens) is far greater than the risk that the likes of Sony, Dropbox or Apple are under. Fin24 columnist Simon Dingle wrote back in May, “ I'm quite sure that my data will be safer in a big data centre with built-in back up and redundancy systems than it will be on my hard drive at home in a country where it is more likely to be stolen by burglars than a hacker in South America. Conventional hard drives (as opposed to the new, expensive, solid state variety) break down often too.
“Yes, if you put things online they might be stolen by hackers, as we learned last month with the attack on Sony's Playstation Network systems. That's a risk I'm willing to take,” Dingle wrote.
That is where the genius of the Garden of Steve comes in. Apple users already enjoy the Mac, the iPad and the iPhone. They have the online stores, filled with all the goodies they could ever want. All of this is in a safe environment. Why wouldn’t they trust Jobs with the security of their data as well? DM
- Apple reveals iCloud Details and Pricing in New York Times Gadgetwise Blog;
- What is iCloud in Apple.com.
Photo: Apple Inc CEO Steve Jobs is pictured with an image of server farm in Maiden, North Carolina as discusses the iCloud service at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, June 6, 2011. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach