I haven't had a chance to play with it yet, Apple's long-awaited iCloud looks like a service designed as a better iTunes from the mid-noughties, when iTunes was the only real service of its kind and music-sync was as far as most people could conceive of going with a cloud-based service.
The result looks like a good service that was already obsolete in concept and interoperability before it even launched.
iCloud started the marketing lifecycle – according to hints and suggestions planted in the rumor mill by Apple insiders doing its secretive version of FUD – as a consumer music service designed to improve on iTunes without cannibalizing the iTunes market.
It would be attractive as a standalone service because it would let Apple customers do some "cloudy" things like sync their iPods, iPhones, iPads and iBrid electric vehicles (not yet announced, but cute as a bug [not that bug, a generic bug (not "generic" generic; an insect, but cute the way Apple would make it)]).
The beauty would be they wouldnt' have to leave the Apple environment, which is increasingly the focus of Apple's design and "integration" efforts. (Making sure all your own products, fully controlled by you without the aggravation of dealing with partners, does not count as "integration.")
Still, that's what plenty of Apple users wanted.
Before Apple could get it out there, the rest of the cloud revolution happened – or at least even consumers realized it had happened and they all already were using some cloud services, from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Netflix, Mint.com, Evernote – wherever.
The rest of the market offers some pretty decent functionality, at very low prices.
So Apple had to raise its ante a bit, at least to match what everyone else was offering.
It didn't make it.
"While Cupertino may act like theirs is the first such service to market, the reality is, as usual, something else entirely," wrote MacLife's J.R. Bookwalter, which I quote just to bolster the perception that this is not just some anti-Mac opinion.
Most of the other music services from Google, Amazon, Dropbox and others don't quite measure up in usability of iCloud. iCloud's ease of use and many of its features depend on features in Mac OSX and iOS 5.
You're not completely out of luck if you use Android on your phone or Windows on the desktop. But going multiplatform shatters the design assumption in iCloud that users would inevitably want to use mostly or all Mac gear.
That's not a safe bet. Even now, when iPods, iPhones and iPads (and blatant failures on Microsoft's part to keep up in mobile computing or consumer music and entertainment), it's arrogant and short-sighted to assume users will stick to just one vendor's products.
GottaBeMobile backs up MacLife's praise of the integrated function and cost of iCloud when compared to Amazon, Google, Dropbox and SugarSync.
All those services are a lot more than just conveniently designed music syncs. They run apps, offer raw storage, more apps and other services that are a lot more cost-effective considered as a group rather than just looking at the music service that is only a small part of each one's menu of cloud offerings.
If you're not homogeneous, iCloud looks much more like the other music services, with all their little inconveniences.
In addition to the pressure for homogeneity is Apple's odd prudery and tendency toward total control of both content and commercial potential – for which one German company is already suing it.
Unfortunately, by limiting its scope to music and focusing on a Mac-intensive operating environment, Apple managed a service that qualifies as Great—as far as it goes. Unfortunately – both in this case and as a habit for Apple itself – the greatness doesn't go far enough.