Apple CEO Steve Jobs will launch its iCloud service in a move to move to bring its iTunes juggernaut into the cloud computing era. The company will clearly have the content lined up, but the information technology details will be critical.
CNet News' Greg Sandoval reports that Apple has wrapped up licensing agreements with three of the top four record labels. No. 4---Universal Music---is likely to join forces with Apple shortly. In addition, Apple is aiming to line up film and TV shows for iCloud, which will debut at the company's developer powwow.
With the move Apple will be set up for a subscription revenue model.
Now the challenge for Apple will be the not-so-simple IT details such as uptime, responding to outages and meeting all those informal service level agreements consumers have. Simply put, consumers are going to expect a lot of uptime for Apple. These Apple consumers will be forgiving, but not for long should something go wrong.
Apple's challenge will be to make the IT details fade to the background just like it does in its retail stores. Apple's retail outfits have supply chain connections and nifty point of sale tools. The best thing that can be said about IT is that it just works.
Is Apple up to that with its cloud services? Let's face it: MobileMe left a lot to be desired. And when you talk cloud computing you talk Google and Amazon and those two companies have had high profile cloud outages. Apple hasn't historically been a cloud player. With that backdrop here are some of the biggest items Apple will have to work through with iCloud:
- Uptime. We all know about Apple's massive data center in North Carolina. Expectations will be high for Apple and its cloud will go from zero to millions of users and streams very quickly. No amount of internal testing can account for the scale iCloud will see.
- Transparency. It's a given that Apple's iCloud will stumble at some point. All cloud services do. The trick is to be transparent, respond to customers and tell folks what's going on. Whether it's through a support site or a dashboard, transparency is key to earning customer forgiveness. Apple likes to be secretive and that could be a big handicap in the cloud model.
- Integration. Given Apple's affinity for software and hardware integration, you'd think it's a no brainer that cloud services would just fit in. The odds are in Apple's favor here, but the company has layer in cloud services seamlessly.
- Redundancy. Apple's iCloud will face big demands and that'll translate into fail-over planning. How will Apple architect its services to manage peak demand? I doubt Amazon Web Services will be much of an option for Apple given the two companies increasingly compete.
Those four items won't make any part of Jobs' keynote and they shouldn't: IT basics tend to be boring. Nevertheless, iCloud's success will rest with cloud computing basics.
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