The big cloud in the room

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So my speculation the other day that the cloud would be embedded in the home by Apple didn’t show up today. Instead, Apple unveiled iCloud that would back up Apps, Music, Docs and Photos to the cloud. Significantly, it would also push software updates for mobile devices and Macs wirelessly.

But the elephant in the room is download limits. Your iPhone will back up every night to the cloud. That means data movement. If you have a few of these in your household, that may well add up. In the US, there are no download or upload limits on broadband. Not so elsewhere including Australia (and, this is what I now care about, Canada).

What is more, the next version of Mac OS (Lion) will only be available wirelessly. That will be a 4GB download to every Mac. Not that everyone has this problem but that will strain things in the Gans household.

So there is a big issue coming with regard to bandwidth and it will likely hit the US too especially on the day Lion is released.

How will it play out? This is a battle related to the net neutrality debate. ISPs are going to start worrying about this. In the US, they may well try and place some limitations on Apple. It is unclear how that battle will resolve itself.

In Australia, if Apple are sensible, they will work out a way to manage some of this. One option will be to store key files locally to minimise transit costs especially over the Pacific. The question is whether ISPs will play ball. I suspect some will and that will provide a boost to them. But what of Telstra and the NBN? How will that work itself out? Should be interesting to watch.

8 Responses to "The big cloud in the room"
  1. In a previous life I had a nokia phone that ran a unix operating system.

    I installed latex and an editor. I put all my files on it. I could plug it into any computer and edit my files on a big screen. I could also plug it into a projector and display my presentations. It was my own mini computer and I could do all of this without Internet access. All the files and programs were stored locally on my tiny computer. It could compile a thirty page paper using latex in a few seconds.

    I hope that that is the future of personal computers.

  2. One option will be to store key files locally to minimise transit costs especially over the Pacific.
    It is almost a certainty that Apple already use the services of a commercial Content Delivery Network like Akamai to do this.

  3. I keep all my files on a 16GB flash drive and plug it into any Mac computer to work on it. That’s even smaller than a phone. And now there are bigger flashdrives and SD cards. This makes more sense to me than storing everything in the “cloud”. Backing up key things now and then to the cloud could make sense.

  4. Is this a case of technology fashion running ahead of commonsense, or the distorting effects of mispricing by ISPs in the US (with no download limits)?
     
    As David Stern notes, local storage (flash memory or external hard drive) is dirt cheap.  Why bother with the cost, unreliability and insecurity of the “cloud”?

  5. As an aside, iiNet exempts Apple content from the download limit in Oz.  

    About net neutrality, cloud synching presumably does not require a particularly fast transmission rate, as opposed to video conferencing and streaming. At least potentially, cloud synching could be shifted to non-peak times and thus be capacity neutral.

  6. “… the next version of Mac OS (Lion) will only be available wirelessly.”  Do you really mean wirelessly, or merely via internet (which might be cable or ADSL WAN followed by cat5/6 LAN)?

  7. Sven,
     
    That’s a good point.  On gas pipelines, one can use a “firm” or “interruptible” service.  The firm service is always available, but the interruptible service is only available when there is no pipeline congestion.
     
    Is there anything similar for ISPs?  And, if so, how would applications (like backing up data) make use of this “interruptible” service?

  8. Dave / David Stern: A single flash drive or external hard drive is statistically far less reliable than a decent online service provider.
    It’s equivalent to keeping your money under the mattress rather than putting it in a bank.

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