Apple may have delivered a sucker punch to its own MacBook and iMac sales on Monday.
The separation surrounding the Cupertino company’s product lines has always suggested that Jobs’ Empire is not keen on its customers using one device for another’s mission. You can find some overlap between Apple’s product lines, but each column of its computing inventory has been differentiated just enough that having an iPod Touch function as an iPhone is difficult (since iPods can’t make calls without WiFi), having an iPhone function as an iPad is a strain (due to screen size), and so on.
Before the iPad bridged mobile gizmos and “real” desktop computers just over a year ago, the issue wasn’t so much a question of features as one of data capacity. You could buy a wireless keyboard, download an app like Evernote or Documents to Go, and be writing 5,000 word documents or properly-worded emails in no time.
Both of the aforementioned apps allow you to save documents, photos, and more onto their cloud storage spaces, but that’s never been flexible enough for me, especially since I’ve never been a big fan of the formatting tools in those tools or Google Docs.
Apple solved that with their announcement of iOS 5 and iCloud — a free MobileMe reinvented and rebranded with the hopes of getting every Apple user on board, when they are released this fall. But what about my tunes?
The iPad is currently available in three different storage capacities (16GB, 32GB, and 64GB), and none can fit my entire music library, which teeters in the 100GB range at 22,000 songs. Getting that hulking load of music files onto a non-computer has always been my sticking point, especially because the iPad doesn’t have a USB port for connecting to an external music hard drive, and I suspect other music fans have felt the same way when prospecting an iPad purchase.
Until now. The wave of cloud storage facilities that’s emerged in the past few weeks means it won’t be long before audiophiles can rid themselves of clunky external hard drives altogether, which casts the iPad in an entirely different light. The question now is how to access those online lockers on the go, especially when it comes to music.
As we’ve pointed out, Google doesn’t yet offer any dominant type of mobile music playing app. And while Amazon does support APIs, there’s still no local music player software that dovetails neatly with Amazon Cloud Drive. That’s no issue for Apple, which has led the pack in both listening hardware and software since it released iTunes and the iPod.
This brings us back to the iPad and iCloud. Giving users the ability to save not just music but pictures, videos, calendars, and word document files onto iCloud means that those looking to downsize to this fully-portable, flash-memory-reliant device should have a much easier time doing so this fall than they would have three weeks ago.
And Apple’s decision to go with iTunes Match, which can quickly mirror most of my music collection to the cloud instead of making me wait for the whole thing to upload the way the others do means I’ll be able to access nearly my entire music library from an iPad — even if I have to download subsets of my collection rather than streaming the songs.
For someone who uses their computer almost exclusively to read, write, and listen to music, iCloud blurs the difference between the MacBook and the iPad to the point where I can safely go with the sexier of the two devices.
So, when iCloud debuts this fall, my big computing question will switch from “Where will I store all this stuff?” to “Why bother with a clunky computer?”
(Note: To be clear, some Evolver.fm writers already have iPads.)
(Image courtesy of Flickr/Oldwoodchuck)