What I’d Like To See In (the next version of) iCloud

The promise of iCloud is really cool: a full MacOS/iOS integrated syncing system. But the actual iCloud is… only ok. There are a lot of things still missing from the system, some of them critical. In this article, I’ll try to describe a few of the things that I’d like to see in its next evolution. It won’t be as long as the previous one about iOS 6, but I think I’m actually more excited about the changes discussed here… Let’s go:

  • Background syncing for documents and data
    iCloud-stored documents suffer an important flaw: they are only synced when the application is launched. This defeats half the purpose of syncing to local storage in the first place (a strong differentiator with Google’s approach), the problem being that if you don’t have an internet connection when you launch your app, you don’t have your document at all.
    So I’d like to see these documents downloaded to all devices the moment they’re updated or saved. Basically, the system should manage this syncing, not the application itself.
  • Web apps for iWork (and iLife, and more)
    This is another one I feel really makes the iCloud offering incomplete: the iCloud.com version of iWork barely allows downloading documents, and the only trace of iLife is the semi-hidden iPhoto journals repository. Also AWOL are Reminders and Notes.
    I believe the bare minimum would be for documents to be viewable on the web. Hopefully the closing of iWorks.com means its features (viewing, sharing, commenting) will be rolled into iCloud.com, but I would also like to see full galleries for iPhoto (events, faces, etc) and iMovie, as well as a Garageband “jukebox” for example. Being away from your own machine wouldn’t mean you’re completely cut off from your “stuff”, which is the whole point of iCloud. Heck, the welcome screen on iCloud.com is organized as a series of apps, so let’s get more apps! 🙂
    NB: Basic editing would be a nice bonus, but I could see Apple never going there (their idea is that your “devices” are the best place for your documents, not a web browser).
  • Full iPhoto syncing
    This goes along with the previous point: photos on iOS are still synced through iTunes, which makes absolutely no sense (and means the changes you make in iPhoto on iOS aren’t synced with its MacOS counterpart, which makes even less sense). You should be able to determine what albums / events / folders you want to have on your iOS device, and it should sync automatically through the cloud: what you change on your computer is then reflected on your iPhone/iPad. And if you have iPhoto on your iOS device, the opposite would be true as well.
  • Document compatibility for iWork, iLife, and more
    Lastly, but most importantly, is document compatibility for Apple’s productivity and lifestyle suites. This is the last piece to make iCloud truly compelling. Actually let me rephrase that: without it, iCloud is hardly compelling at all (nice, but not great). Basically, I want to be able to edit a Pages document on my iPad, and find it already downloaded and ready to use on my Mac when I get home. I know the next version of MacOS will allow for applications to access iCloud documents as well as traditional disk documents, so that’s what I’m hoping for. Across the board.

To be honest, all of these features seem like no-brainers. So much so that I believe that they’re not only coming: they were planed all along, and might have gotten delayed (they decided to “go with what was ready”). With all these features, iCloud becomes coherent, logical and truly useful.

I guess we’ll have to wait until WWDC and the iOS / MacOS updates to hear what happens!


May 1st, 2012