iCloud, you sneaky little devil you

Another iCloud gotcha called Photo Stream is calling to you from the great Cloud. Resistance is futile. You and your PC will be assimilated.

[UPDATE: This article has some errata in it concerning Photo Stream and iCloud storage but is updated in: OK, I take it back. Photo Stream is cool. That said, this one is still fun and educational.]

Some people view Microsoft as The Evil Empire, while others give Apple that moniker. I've never thought either one was particularly evil but when I found iCloud installed on my PC after upgrading to iOS 5, I'm beginning to wonder. I discovered the iCloud icon in my Windows 7 system tray after a recent update/reboot exercise. So, being the curious sort, I opened it and to my surprise, Apple is trying to make me use their Cloud service on my PC. What's next? Will Microsoft start making applications for Mac computers? Oh, wait, nevermind.

OK, so I know I installed iCloud during the update but I thought it was just a way to manage my iOS device backups or to keep track of them. Little did I know that Apple is now willing to backup data and pictures from my PC.

You might remember my post from last week, "Avoiding the iCloud storage gotcha," where I describe how to avoid using up all of your free 5GB too quickly.

But, now there's an added bonus way to burn up that free space: your PC. Apple wants me to use their Cloud-based storage on all of my devices not just Apple ones. Pretty darn sneaky, if you ask me. Smart too.

If you installed iCloud along with your recent iOS 5 update but can't find the iCloud "App" on your PC, it's lurking in the Control Panel. You might have to change your view to "Small Icons" to see it but it's there. On your next reboot, you'll see it in your system tray (bottom right hand corner of your computer screen).

When you open the Control Panel applet or the system tray icon, you'll see the same interface, shown in Figure 1.

The iCloud PC Application.

Figure 1: The iCloud PC Application.

I don't use Microsoft Outlook but, for now at least, you can only backup your Outlook contacts, calendars and tasks. You can also backup your Internet Explorer bookmarks. But, the most intriguing of all is the Photo Stream part of the iCloud application.

To setup your PC to use Photo Stream, click the checkbox and then click Options to see the screen in Figure 2.

Setting up iClouds Photo Stream Folders on the PC

Figure 2: Setting up iClouds Photo Stream Folders on the PC

Here's the really sneaky part: People take more photos with digital devices because it doesn't cost anything to do so. Why is that sneaky? Because everyone wants those photos to be of the highest quality. Higher quality photos means bigger photos. Bigger photos means that they take up more space. Sneaky.

This means that you'll burn through that five free gigabytes with one or two uploads from your iPod, iPhone, iPad or PC. You'll have to buy more space as described in, "Avoiding the iCloud storage gotcha."

Gotcha.

iCloud is less expensive than Dropbox and it works on all of your iDevices, Macs and now your PC too.

Awesome.

And, very Microsoft-esque of Apple to do that.

To learn exactly how Photo Stream works with your iCloud service, go to the iCloud Help: What is Photo Stream? link and read all about it.

Yeah, it's cool, but somehow I know I should be offended by this but I'm just not sure how. Maybe you can write back and tell me what's wrong with this scenario so that I can clarify it in my own mind.

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