More Overcast Than Cloudy

Noted Canadian Patrick Gibson wrote a delightful piece on Apple’s piss-poor track record when it comes to web services. He listed such hits as Ping, the archaic App Store architecture and the lack of reliability that is iMessage. I’d like to add a few more to that list:

  • iTunes Match: I paid Apple $24.95 a year for their ‘don’t call it a streaming’ service to have my entire iTunes library in the cloud. Rarely has it ever worked reliably whereas the rdio account I pay for monthly has never failed me.
  • iCloud touts its syncing capabilities for third-party apps. How many apps outside of Apple do you see using it? Not many. If you’re a developer you likely know why. It’s about as reliable as the US Postal Service.
  • Beyond just the App Store’s architecture, its responsiveness as of late has been less than stellar. I spent fifteen minutes yesterday trying to download a single application on my iPad. I had a pristine connection and could do backflips while surfing the web. Downloading an app? Oh, come back later.

Apple has always been given a pass with the cloud stuff because they make such great hardware and the on-device software experience is top-notch. How nice it is to hold an iPhone in my hand is of little consequence to me if I can’t actually use it. As more stuff you care about makes its way into the cloud, Apple’s inability to reliably build a web service is becoming a bigger hindrance than my phone not working if I hold it the wrong way.

Tack on the fact that even as Apple struggles to be an online services company, they keep adding more online services to their portfolio. I’ve been sending text messages since I had to tap a 2 three times just to get a C and never once did I worry about the message not making it to the other party. With iMessage, it frequently just doesn’t work or will falsely say a message is delivered. Maybe it is delivered somewhere, but it certainly isn’t to the party I intended it for.

Call AT&T, Verizon and your carrier of choice evil all you want, but their SMS architecture never failed me.

Patrick suggested that Apple buy Twitter to beef up their cloud services offering, but I fail to see how an acqui-hire of the company that made something called a “Fail whale” part of pop-culture lexicon is going to offer much of an improvement. For a company with billions of dollars in cash, they should be able to back up a few proverbial dump trucks of money to the most talented web and online services people in the world.

Google’s Nexus 4 sold out last week as it went on sale. The $299 price tag probably had a lot to do with that, but it’s also because Google is getting really good at this mobile thing. The company that used to offer the best of breed cloud services, but a shitty hardware and software experience to go with it has now cleaned up their act in those regards. Aside from skipping the month of December, Android 4.2 is a fantastic mobile operating system. When you attach that to a piece of hardware designed internally by Google to be the best of breed Android device, it’s becoming harder to give Apple a pass when it comes to keeping my data in their giant data warehouses.

Most people have already declared their allegiances in the iOS versus Android versus please pay attention to us Windows Phone war. Each company has their own ecosystem with its own lock-in in terms of apps purchases, and other digital media tightly wrapped in proprietary DRM. Lock-in may prevent people from easily packing up and walking next door to try the waters of another platform, but if Apple continues to be the Apple of 2012 when it comes to cloud services, those little green robots start becoming a lot more attractive.

About Justin

Justin Williams is the Crew Chief of Second Gear. He writes about consumer technology, running a bootstrapped software business, and more from Denver, Colorado.

Follow @justin on Twitter or get new articles via @carpeaqua.