On walkabout in life and technology

The Post-PC Future, iCloud Turns One

Apple’s iCloud service turned 1-year old on October 12, 2012. The day passed with a whimper in a tech press focussed on irrelevant issues such scratching, purple flares, maps and other Apple so-called “failures”.

I think it’s a big deal, because with iCloud, Apple may finally be getting internet services right and the post-PC era just got real for most people. And no-one seems to have noticed.

As an early adopter, though, post-PC started early for me. I had one of the early Motorola V710 phones, the ones Verizon got sued for and lost because they advertised sync on the phone, then blocked it on release. I managed to acquire the original Motorola version of the V710 operating system and installed that. Whenever the phone was within bluetooth range of my PC, I could manually sync contacts. How amazing was that, I did not need to maintain two separate address books. Surely that was the post-PC future.

That was followed by years of Blackberry ownership. The Blackberry servers at my firm ensured that my Outlook contacts, mail and calendar were available and synchronized. And I used remote access to the corporate network to synch my home data with work Outlook. It was a hassle to set up, but it worked great. Result: My contacts, calendars and mail were on all my devices without manual intervention. Surely that was the post-PC future.

At home, I signed up for iTools, which became MobileMe. I paid $99 a year to make that my hub for mail, contacts and calendars because I needed to separate work and home. Then I got my first iPhone, and MobileMe copied my contacts and calendars on setup. With that, post-PC started to become real. MobileMe grew to enable synchronization of mail, contacts, calendars, mail accounts and web bookmarks. Now my phone, work Mac, and home Mac had all the same data, with no effort. Change one, they all updated. Surely that was the post-PC future.

Then I got an iPad. My first truly post-PC device. With one login on setup, it too joined the group. By then I was getting used to assuming that all my devices would have the same data. And I was arrogant in the face of others who still struggled with separate home and work devices and manual address books. Surely that was the post-PC future.

Then, one year ago, Apple rebranded MobileMe as iCloud. They added device location, and over the year added notes, reminders and document storage and synchronization. And with iTunes Match, I moved all my music into iCloud. I purchased an iPad 3, one login and it was set up. I purchased an iPhone 5, one login and it too was set up. Even my music was available without effort. Create a presentation on the iPad, edit it on the Mac, show it on the iPhone, without having to copy the file once. Surely, this is the post-PC future.

Apple is not the only player in this space though. Google has Google Sync for Android (Mail, Contacts, Calendar) and Google Drive for storage and these services are growing into it’s version of iCloud in leaps and bounds. Buy an Android 4.0+ phone (if you can find one), one login and you’re set up. For older devices, it’s harder to set up or you can get a easy workaround using ContactSync.

Microsoft has Device Sync for it’s older Windows Phones to copy music, photos and videos over, but that requires you to plug in to computer, and they now have backup to Skydrive. They already have Outlook Sync for over the air mail, contacts and calendar as long as you use an Exchange server. It won’t be long before they brand their iCloud too, maybe in Windows 8 Phone.

But this is just the beginning. iCloud is only one year old. We still need iTunes sync for some things like videos, ringtones and books. We still need products like Dropbox to keep live files in sync (because iCloud product limits files) and we still need Time Machine drives and Backblaze to back up our remaining devices. Who knows where the geniuses at Apple, Google and Microsoft will take this kind of technology in the future as they grow their post-PC device businesses. Exciting times ahead.

I do believe that the post-PC era started with the iPad, that easy to use, take anywhere, amazing device, but it became real with iCloud. I don’t think it will be too long, whether you use iCloud or Google or Microsoft, that we’ll forget what it was like not to have all our data synched across all our devices seamlessly. Can anyone remember what it was like before mobile phones? Surely, the post-PC future gets real here and now.