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TIMO ZIMMERMANN

balancing software engineering & infosec

The Lie About iCloud

posted on Friday 24th of February 2012 in ,

I have seen .Mac, I have seen me.com and now I see iCloud raise and
fail. The problem is not that iCloud is a bad idea or that Apple screw
up like they did when they released me.com. The problem is that they did
not get it right. Again.

First I have to add that I am not a regular user. This means that I have
some features I would love to see that are just not important for everyone
and I can totally understand that they did not implement them. On the
other hand some of them would be great for every business owner. And those
are the features iCloud currently lacks. But it is not just about features.
It is about some basic stuff that just does not work and makes your life
unnecessary hard.

I will talk about three common setups and they are just horrible solved.
Before I start just one appeal. Do not believe that I hate iCloud or that
I would stop using it. It does many things right for me. But I am writing
this post because it lacks some features and is sometimes a bit annoying.
I would love nothing more than seeing Apple understanding some of the
points I want to mention and solve them.

This post is based on the hardware I am using. An iPhone 4s, an iPad 1
and OSX Lion. All the iOS devices run the latest release, developer previews
excluded.

Bob the regular user

Bob is an ordinary user. He likes the hype and the feeling having an
Apple product. He has no idea what they are capable of and it does not
bother him. He just wants this shiny gadget to impress, at least he
still believes it is impressive, his friends and family. He got an iPad
and an iPhone.

Someone told Bob that there is iCloud. He could send and receive mails,
and synchronize his contacts and appointments. Impressive, isn’t it?

There is not much that could bother Bob. iCloud does exactly what he
needs. Beside one little problem. And I hope all those years with an
trojan and malware infects Windows ME system did not kill hist last
brain cells and he notices this.

If you receive a mail on iCloud an read it on your iPhone your iPad still
tells you that there is an unread message. I mean seriously? Synchronizing
the number of unread messages does not work? Come on guys this are just
five lines of code.

Clara the small business owner

Clara is making her living with hair clips. She got two employees that
produce them the whole day and she manages the business. There is an iPhone
and a Mac. Synchronizing everything using iCloud is easy. Clara also
forwards her mails she receives on her company mail adress to iCloud so
she can have push-notifications and does not drain the battery of her
iPhone.

Beside the same problem Bob has, that she never knows if there is a new
mail till she opens Mail on the iPhone there is something else. She wants
to send mails from her company adress. Let us be honest for one moment.
You pay for a domain and a mail service so you have a identity. And you
want to use it. You do not want to switch to a me.com adress for your
business.

It is not possible to add just one smtp server. You have to add the whole
account which means you always receive your mails twice. One time pushed
by iCloud one time when you open Mail. This also means you have to mark your
mails as read twice.

The best solution would be one that was already available. Using your own
domain or having the option to set the mx to iCloud. But for some reason
they decided to remove it. No matter if it was a question about costs or
if they have other plans, currently it is not implemented.

Charles the sophisticated business dude

Everybody knows exchange, nearly everyone hates it. At least those people
who have to administrate and maintain the servers and installations. You
know what would be great? Hosted Exchange. Oh wait a moment we already got
this. What would be even greater? If iCloud could replace Exchange. Please
do not believe that I consider hosted Exchange as a viable alternative or
solution for everyone.

You can share calendars, you can send invitations to other people, you
cannot really work with people that are not using iCloud or something
similar. And they cannot just create an iCloud account. They need an
iOS device or a Mac.

Charles is not really the target audience. I will not consider him in the
final conclusion. If you run a business, if you need to manage many
appointments and coordinate them with your employees and if you are free
in your decision what hardware you use just get a Mac mini server and
you are set.

If you are not Charles – iCloud is for you

The primary target groups are clearly private users and one-person
companies. You get all the fancy stuff you want for free with your shiny
new gadget. Reminders, mails, appointments are synchronized between your
devices and you do not need to care about backups and other stuff.

Sadly the drawbacks are currently huge. One of the main reasons so many
people use Apple products are philosophy based. They just work. But the
fact that they cannot push the state of unread mails or that you have to
read your mails twice is just a joke compared to everything Apple stands
for.

From my current point of view there is another problem. I cannot use my
domains. I cannot integrate it in my workflow and still manage a corporate
identity. And the most essential part when communicating with a client is
a working CI. Using me.com is absolutely not working. And Apple removed
the option to solve this problem.

In the keynote Steve promised that they learned their lessons. That
they now understand what went wrong with me.com.

Of course I complain on a really high standard for a free product. But it
is the future of Apple. They are focusing the whole product line and
company on it and I love Apple products. So I want to see this right.
If you get a gmail-Account you can have everything that is not possible
with iCloud. Less troublesome, less beautiful, less everything and you
sell your soul to Google instead of Apple. Far worse deal. So please Apple –
fix iCloud.