Tech Soup  

iCloud a not so perfect storm

It’s been a month for everyone to get accustomed to Apple’s highly-touted iCloud service, and I finally feel like I’m in a position to make some sense of it. You probably know that it stores your calendar, notes, contacts, documents, mail, music and photos online and syncs them - wirelessly - to all your devices. The big questions: does iCloud work as promised and is it easy to use and set up?

That’s where things get, for lack of a better term, cloudy (sorry, couldn’t resist). First, it’s important to note what iCloud won’t do. In Canada, the ability to sync all of our music - even those songs we haven’t purchased through iTunes - in the “cloud” will likely never see the light of day. For the foreseeable future only content purchased through iTunes is sync-able. Also, don’t expect any of your Office documents (or documents that aren’t part of Apple’s iWork suite for that matter) to get the iCloud treatment. To take advantage of that privilege you’ll need to have Apple’s iWork on both your Mac and your iPhone or iPad. Even if you work exclusively in word processing and not spreadsheets or presentations, Pages will set you back $19.99 for your Mac and $9.99 for your iDevice... not exactly what I’d call Cloud-friendly (or even Cloud-worthy, as Elaine Benes might say).

My annoyances with iCloud aren’t limited to the issues above. Another thing I don’t quite get is the mail component. Perhaps get isn’t the right term; I get it, but I question the overall practicality. To get mail in the cloud, you’re required to set up a new email account with the .me domain. Now, along with your [email protected] email account, you’ll have yet another horse to add to your email stable, something like [email protected] I’ve helped several people over the last few weeks setting up their iCloud, and the requirement of a new email address is at best confusing. I can see the need if one doesn’t have a regular email address, or maybe they just want to take advantage of the enhanced .me features like keeping track of which emails have been read, sent and deleted. Otherwise...

iCloud life isn’t all grey and gloomy, however. Effortless syncing of calendars and contacts is awesome, and something you’ll want to take advantage of right away if you can. Something that needs mentioning is the little-publicized fact that iCloud isn’t limited to Macs. PC owners who own an iOS 5 iPad or iPhone that haven’t made the switch to Mac need not be left out of the fun. As long as you’re running Vista SP2 or Windows 7 you can download the iCloud Control Panel from Apple and you’re good to go. Isn’t it peculiar that PC users running a 5-year old operating system can sync their calendar and contacts, yet loyal Mac users are forced to upgrade to Lion to do it? Freaky.

Setting up iCloud, while not exactly the most straightforward process in the world, shouldn’t be too difficult. When you upgrade to iOS 5 your device will automatically walk you through setting up iCloud, so that’s a good thing. Instructions for setting up can be found at http://www.apple.com/icloud/setup/.

It’s not a total disappointment, but overall I think iCloud can use some work. If iCloud were a male Seinfeld character, Elaine would hold off on sleeping with him, and deem him not sponge-worthy. iCloud is like that hot chick you’ve been flirting with online for the last few months, but now you’ve met her in person, and she’s not nearly as hot as her picture. But hey, the service is only a month old; I have no doubt that in time iCloud can be everything we’d hope it would be.

Video of the week

This may be the best video game ad of all time. A mock commercial for the recently-released Saints Row video game, by Adult Swim comedy Duo Tim and Eric, should be the blueprint for all future game ads. “I tried to eat it cause it looks like a bagel but I choked.” Too funny.


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Each week, Tech Soup will be written by a member of the Okanagan's burgeoning first-rate technology community. We already have a few regular contributors, but if you're interested in writing a tech piece for this weekly column, send us an email to [email protected]

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