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iCloud could potentially do wonders for sync

Lex Friedman, | June 2, 2011
We don't yet know what iCloud is, but we know Steve Jobs will tell us soon enough. Lex Friedman hypothesizes (and hopes) that it will offer cross-device syncing like Dropbox, with the benefit of being built in to iOS 5 and Lion.

If iCloud merely simplifies that process with Dropbox-style syncing that’s baked into the core of both Lion and iOS 5, I’ll be on cloud nine. But if Apple wants to send my joyousness levels into the stratosphere—and really, why wouldn’t the company share that goal?—the process of saving files to and from iCloud will be seamless and nearly invisible. Unless you really muck about with it, Dropbox only syncs those files you tuck away in your Dropbox folder. I don’t know precisely how it should work, but I envision that iCloud should be an underlying technology more than a “service” in the truest sense; you save your files wherever you want on your Mac, and behind-the-scenes, iCloud takes care of the syncing.

There are two other broad areas I hope and expect iCloud touches upon. First, I want iCloud to embrace Google-style calendar and contacts syncing. Sure, Macworld can help you slog through the mess of unnecessary duplicates that MobileMe syncing can cause, but I’ve never run into those issues using Google’s Exchange server functionality to sync. Though I love Google Calendar, I prefer iCal overall, and iCal’s Google Calendar support is weak. So if iCloud can offer better, maintenance-free calendar and contact syncing, I can abandon Google’s offerings and let Apple’s baked-in solutions manage my life instead.

Finally, I’m optimistic that the broader iCloud service—when coupled with recent rumors regarding Apple and the voice recognition company Nuance—could mean system-wide voice transcription on iOS. For years, Android phones have supported voice transcription in various text input fields. Now, in truth, I’ve never seen a single Android-using friend take advantage of the feature, and that’s telling. But even the best virtual touch typists can talk faster than they can tap. If Apple and Nuance can get this right, and a cloud-based service can dramatically simplify certain kinds of text input on my iPhone, then I am very excited.

Which isn’t to say that it will happen. For all I know, iCloud will be entirely focused on media storage. (And the company has patented a clever approach for storing the first part of a song, and streaming the rest.) But I hope that’s only half the story. If iCloud also makes it easier to keep my files (and other data) in sync, and can make me more productive overall, I’ll be as happy as, well, a developer at WWDC.


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