Even as Google talks up cloud computing with the pre-release-almost-release of its CR-48 Chrome OS netbook, Apple may be refining its own attempt at cloud-inspired computing, with January's Mac App Store launch set to mark the beginnings of the plan.
What suggests this?
- Apple is preparing the Mac App Store
- Apple is bringing what makes the most sense in iOS to the Mac
- Apple is already developing applications for sale at the Mac App Store, including iWork.
- Apple is expected to introduce some form of cloud-based services via iTunes "soon"
- Apple has invested in a huge data center in North Carolina, and already owns the land to let its center double in size, if required.
- Apple is already in battle with Microsoft and Google, both of whom have ambitions for the cloud.
- Apple's battle with Google is extremely personal with the former allies now competing on all fronts.
- Apple's MobileMe service by its name alone suggests a move to mobility.
- Apple's iOS devices are moving inexorably to complement and reflect Apple's Macs.
While Google attempts to tie the entire user experience to the cloud with Chrome OS, this makes for some big compromises in usability, not least the loss of some productivity features.
Apple will take a different path.
Rather than slavishly determining that the experience should be 100 percent cloud-based, Apple will integrate cloud-based features into existing desktop paradigms. The Mac still matters.
In this model, cloud becomes an additional string to the existing computing experience (not in the sense of a legacy experience). It's another means by which users can access data and applications online or on other supported devices.
Apple will implement its great advantages: it offers its own applications, has an active developer community and already has a succesful low bandwidth computer experience within its iOS ecosystem.
The importance of the Mac App Store cannot be under-estimated. Critics already complain Chrome OS lacks applications, though to be fair Google's system remains in prototype, so an active developer presence hasn't evolved yet.
User experience is Apple's killer punch: it is already evolving a unified user experience.
In future, there will be less and less difference controlling Apple devices, whether it be phone, tablet or Mac. You may touch the screen on some, but you'll interact with the screen on all of them.
It won't matter if the data you are accessing is held on the gadget you have with you, a server, or your Mac at home. It won't matter because in terms of accessing this data, you'll become ever less aware of the difference.
In future, your iPad, iPhone or Mac will offer you as intoxicating a Web-based experience as you might want while also supporting more intensive local or hosted tasks.
In the end, of course, the outcome of these evolutions will depend on whether players in this space can get the staff.
How would you like to see Apple implement cloud-based features on the Mac? How would you like iOS and Mac devices to work together? Perhaps you have a different opinion? Let me know in comments below. I'd also like to invite you to follow this blog on Twitter or RSS.