@icloud.com – Apple and Google square up for the public cloud wars

17 Jul 2012

As Microsoft prepares to roll out its snazzy new Office experience – a move that should bring legions into the cloud whether they realise it or not – in the public cloud world Apple is about to go toe-to-toe with Google’s Gmail and Drive business with new iCloud.com email addresses and IDs.

From the hardware and user-experience perspectives, Apple is winning in the hardware and OS worlds in terms of sentiment. From an integration point of view, no one has sewn it up quite as nicely as Apple has.

This is much to Microsoft’s chagrin and efforts such as the Surface tablet and the arrival Windows 8 are attempts to right this situation. And no doubt, Microsoft’s ‘new Office’, which went to consumer preview with some snazzy cloud features, will help it stem the tide.

But the latest news that Apple is going to roll out iCloud.com email addresses with iOS Beta 3 to developers signals that Apple is about to go about addressing a long overdue opportunity in terms of cloud productivity and potentially consumer cloud services.

The obvious target could be Google and its well-entrenched Gmail ecosystem and then of course its Google Docs and Google Drive platforms.

It would be tantalising to think just what Apple could achieve if it went about making an @icloud.com address and related services as pervasive as an @gmail.com address.

The importance of being clear

But this is just conjecture at this point. MobileMe was a failure because it lacked clarity and the integrated services that would have made it stick.

Apple has a major opportunity with iCloud.com because it has the potential to be the glue that sticks a coherent iPhone, iPad and Mac experience together, not to mention services like iTunes and hardware like the Apple TV.

The part that has been missing so far and might be the answer to the mystery is productivity. If Apple can succeed in making icloud.com an anchor for productivity and compete against services like Dropbox, Evernote, Microsoft’s Sky Drive and Office 365 and of course Google Docs and Gmail.co, it could be onto something magnificent.

According to MacRumors.com, this is the message Apple put in the iOS 6 Beta 3 change log: “icloud.com email addresses are now available for iCloud mail users. Users signing up for new Apple IDs, or enabling Mail on their iCloud account for the first time, will automatically receive an @icloud.com email address instead of a me.com email address. iCloud users with @me.com addresses that have been used with iOS 6 beta 3 will receive an @icloud.com email address that matches their @me.com address.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years