All sorts of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) have been thrown up around the iCloud announcement. While some of it seems unfounded, I’m still left with some concerns.
Firstly, the “iCloud is useless to me because I need to keep working when I don’t have an Internet connection” theme can definitely be set aside. iCloud’s Documents in the Cloud feature is about syncing, not live access to documents stored in Apple’s data centres. The idea is that you create a document on one device, save it, and then when you next have connectivity it is uploaded to iCloud, which then pushes it down to all your other devices when they are online. Make a change on any of those devices, and the process repeats - hopefully without transferring the entire file.
Then there’s “I can’t upgrade to Lion, but MobileMe is being closed down so I’ll lose the mac.com (or me.com) email address I rely on.” Apple has said that existing addresses will be transferrable to iCloud when it opens, and in any case MobileMe isn’t being shuttered until June 30, 2012. Furthermore, email is highly standardised so there’s no reason to assume that iCloud’s mail server won’t work with pre-Lion email clients. The only real question concerns how - or more accurately if - Apple intends to tie the opening of an iCloud account to Lion or iOS 5, but it’s hard to imagine borrowing a friend’s Lionised Mac wouldn’t get round that. My suspicion is that iCloud will ‘require’ Lion in the sense that a number of features won’t work without it, but mail won’t be on that list.
In any case, you really shouldn’t rely on an email address in a domain that you don’t control. If you’re on a tight budget, your own domain costs as little as $1 per month, and your options include linking it to a free Google Apps account (for up to 10 mailboxes), or using it in conjunction with a free email redirection service to route incoming me4ssages to a ‘real’ mailbox, whether that’s at your ISP, a provider such as Yahoo or Apple, or at work.
Web page creation with iWeb and MobileMe is a major sticking point. There’s no mention of web hosting as part of iCloud, so it’s safe to assume that’ll be gone after June 30, 2012. It’s a one-off change to tell iWeb to upload its output to another host’s FTP server instead of MobileMe, so that’s no biggie. If your site is important to you, surely you’re not relying on a MobileMe URL? Register a domain, find a new home for your site, and start redirecting traffic from MobileMe to the new location. You’ve got a year to change people’s habits. (I’ve written about this at greater length elsewhere.)
Uncertainty also surrounds other MobileMe features that weren’t mentioned in Steve Jobs’ WWDC keynote and don’t get a look-in on the iCloud pages at Apple’s site http://www.apple.com/icloud/ . Things like publishing clips from iMovie, using iDisk as a way of transferring large files (a la YouSendIt), and support for Sync Services (as used by applications from various developers including Microsoft and Apple’s FileMaker subsidiary). Since Apple isn’t discussing them, it seems reasonable to assume they’re missing from iCloud. The fact that they are largely Mac OS X related adds credence to suggestions that Apple doesn’t see the Mac as part of its medium to long-term future.