Developers give Apple an iCloud ultimatum: Fix it by June

Developers give Apple an iCloud ultimatum: Fix it by June

Summary: Developers agree that iCloud needs to be rewritten from the ground up or replaced outright. In fact, it might be Apple's greatest disappointment to date.

TOPICS: Apple, Cloud, iOS, iPhone, iPad
Developers give Apple an iCloud ultimatum: Fix it by June

iCloud is one of Apple's biggest liabilities right now, because it's getting a slew of bad publicity for being buggy and for breaking its promise with developers. Apple needs to completely rebuild it or replace it with something else entirely, or it will become an even greater credibility problem than it already is.

The problem is that Apple did a great job marketing iCloud and generating user demand for the cloud-based syncing service, but it hasn't delivered a reliable set of APIs that OS X and iOS developers can use in their apps.

The Verge's Ellis Hamburger spoke to a number of Apple developers for his piece Apple's broken promise: why doesn't iCloud "just work"? and they universally reviled the service. In writing about The Return of NetNewsWire, Black Pixel CEO Daniel Pasco noted that he planned to "embrace iCloud and Core Data as the new sync solution of choice", but lamented that "we spent a considerable amount of time on this effort, but iCloud and Core Data syncing had issues that we simply could not resolve".

And he was one of the kinder ones. Recent reports are filled with frustrated developers that don't trust Core Data or have abandoned it altogether.

In A tale of two iClouds, The Next Web's Matthew Panzarino explained that iCloud is comprised of two discrete services, one that powers consumer apps (like backups and Mail), and an API for developers called Core Data that handles database syncing. The former works pretty well, the latter, not so much.

The iCloud that is used for apps and services like iMessage, Mail, iCloud backup, iTunes, Photo Stream, and more is built on a completely different technology stack from the developer APIs that are causing problems. iWork actually does use developer APIs, but only the (still rough) document syncing, not Core Data, which has been causing the most issues.

Independent iOS developer Tom Harrington's iCloud: State of the Union provides a detailed overview on how Core Data is supposed to work in theory compared to how it actually works in practice. And it's not pretty. Harrington noted that it's a rare case of Apple over-promising and under-delivering that's putting developers into a bad position:

Users hear about how great iCloud is and how apps can use it to sync their own data. They quite reasonably wonder why your app isn't using it. Syncing data is a great idea, Apple gives you iCloud, why aren't you using it, dammit?

With the drumbeat of developers (like Brent Simmons and Michael Göbel) getting louder and louder, someone at Apple has to be listening. Right?

iOS 7 is expected to be previewed to developers at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June (although dates haven't been announced). Apple needs to provide a comprehensive cloud-based sync solution that works, or risk the mass defection of developers that will either skip iCloud altogether or develop their own solution that works. Black clouds on the horizon, indeed.

Topics: Apple, Cloud, iOS, iPhone, iPad

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  • I've noticed that a lot of apps are syncing over third party.

    I've noticed that apps *are* often syncing purely over Dropbox or similar service (or offering a choice).

    In fact, when I go to "Manage Storage" on my iPhone's iCloud, I find . . . .

    . . . one app that lists itself under "Documents & Data." That's it. Out of a total of 160 apps (probably need some spring cleaning, heh). That, and my iPhone backup.

    And it's not even a "Documents" app, even, it's a game. Documents to Go is using Dropbox on my phone.

    Nobody's really using the iCloud other than Apple and that game.
    • Very true

      For a user, iCloud is invaluable. With my android still not able to make a simple back up, let alone a wireless one, I'm left in a no options situation for my business device. Interms of app data protectionist it's excellent.

      In terms of app data communication... It's pants. Let us be honest though, if they do sort it out, won't data syncing still be primarily through 3rd party rather than apple's official routes? I can't imagine apple making it easy for your apple app to communicate with your android one. Even though this is what we really want. And I suspect that's why a lot use services like Dropbox or their own routes.
    • Apple has no expertise in internet-scale work

      They can fool around on iPhone w/ some cheap UI tricks but when it comes internet techniques there ain't no room for cheap tricks any more.
    • one game here too

      I just checked, I also have only one game using iCloud. everything else wants to use Dropbox. though a couple of those apps have a windows and android version so couldn't use iCloud. maybe that's also a reason iCloud isn't getting a lot of traction?
    • developers have tried

      "Nobody's really using the iCloud other than Apple and that game."

      Wrong. I have an app in the store that uses iCloud. And this article is wrong: Core Data is NOT the part of iCloud. It's a database API in the OS, and that data (among other things) CAN sync through iCloud.

      The core pieces of iCloud for developers are the key/value store (a way to store pieces of data by name) and document storage (entire files).

      The API is poorly designed, opaque, and unreliable. It's essentially impossible for developers to determine whether the user's device is even communicating with iCloud.
      Oscar Goldman
  • Iphone 5s Specifications

    apple launches its new iphone named iphone 5s
    check out its specifications on :
    • Errr....

      And what the phrack does this got to do with buggy iCloud? Let them fix one piece of crap before the next piece of crap comes out.
  • Thats asking too much

    of a company that makes toys
  • That's What They Get

    I had heard that the API was contracted-out to a third party development team. Sounds like it was true.
    • Yep

      It was contracted out to Microsoft.
    • no

      It was probably the iTunes team.
      Oscar Goldman
  • Apple

    is just like everyone else. It just works, until it doesn't :)
  • No ultimatum, no date

    Thanks for linking to my writeup, but the headline on this article is seriously misleading. Those of us who have worked with iCloud APIs have run into a number of problems, certainly. But nobody has laid down anything like an ultimatum, nor have they given any kind of deadline. "Developers give Apple an ultimatum: Fix it by June" is completely incorrect.
  • Who is surprised

    The company that gave us itunes, can't get icloud working either. I thought itunes was crap, but I see Apple has more crap to dish out.
  • Should of called it.....

    iCrap or iBuggy.
  • Wow!

    Where are the fanbois and fangurls defending their true love?

    Apple crap is getting squashed here.
    • No everyone wants to fan the flames.

      You "how dare you use anything but Microsoft products" shills will just have to talk amongst yourselves.
      The Danger is Microsoft