Apple is set to launch its much speculated iCloud service next week. In the following I will take a quick look at what we at ABI Research are expecting from Monday’s announcement and its implications.
*The most mundane stuff – syncing contacts and calendar items, maybe 5-10GB of file storage – will be offered free of charge to all Apple users. So iCloud will essentially replace MobileMe, which never grew more popular than it did because in its price, $99 a year, there was $99 a year too much.
*It obviously is no longer a secret that iCloud will come with something musical, most likely in theform of a digital locker. At a later stage, this will also coverfilms and TV series, but probably not yet. Music licensing has kept Apple busy enough – and besides, adding the video hub later will give iCloud another wave of hype and speculation.
* If the rumors about the revenue-sharing model are even remotely true (Apple 18%, labels 70%, publishers 12%), it’s clear that the main purpose of the iCloud Music is to boost iTunes and Apple’s devices vs. competition. It’s not meant to be a stand-alone service.
* The biggest advantage that iCloud will have against Google’s and Amazon’s rival offerings is likely to be its central repository, which is where the music is. No need to upload anything unless it’s a really quirky piece of art, which saves users some time/nerves and Apple some money. I’d stress that ‘some’ bit here: it’s a plus, but not a game-changer. Catch Media does the same already.
It stillescapes my understanding why the record labels didn’t embrace the locker model a few years ago, when it would have been something genuinely innovative, but then again it’s by no means the only thing in their business that has managed to do so. Nonetheless, assuming that labels and publishers do get a better deal out of download sales than on-demand subscriptions (such as Spotify, Rdio and KKBOX), it would have been in their interest to make iTunes and Amazon better muchearlier.
Perhaps the most far-reaching implication of iCloud: consumer education. Apple, with its big marketing budget and general excitability, willhelp demystify the cloud and teach people what it actually can do, especially for mobile. That will benefit other cloud players as well.