There have been a lot of rumors floating around for a while now about what Apple is going to do with the data center that they built in North Carolina and now the new one they are rumored to be building in Silicon Valley. There are two cloud services I think they can develop with these new data centers.
The first possibility, is a web-based synced service for iOS devices that synchronizes and backups apps, music, pictures and all the other data on your iOS devices without having to plug it into a computer. We discussed this possibility many times on The Weekly Spin and it is something you can already do on Android and the Palm WebOS platform. This would make life so much easier, instead of having to connect your iOS device to your computer via USB you can just automatically sync with the server every time your connected to the web which will also allow you to backup more often. This would also allow people to use their iOS devices independently from their computer instead of tethering them as we are now. By doing this you could give someone who doesn’t have a computer an iOS device like an iPad and you won’t have to figure out how to do the initial setup which requires connecting to iTunes. The iPad is the perfect candidate for this because it could easily be used as basic computer for someone who just wants to surf the web, check email and other basic computer functions. Syncing to iTunes is unnecessary and could all be done through the cloud. This could easily be tied into a new version of MobileME which I think would benefit from having a freemium model, a free version to compete with Gooogle’s Mail, Calendar and contacts and then a premium version for more storage, picture sharing etc. I also think another crucial part of this service will be over-the-air updates so we can just get iOS software updates like other app updates in the App Store without having to plug the device to a computer, this is yet another feature that is already available on Android and WebOS. Maybe they could even tie it into the seemingly abandoned iWork.com service that was announced in 2009 and hasn’t really been mentioned since then.
The second possibility is that Apple will launch a music streaming service allowing users to stream their iTunes library over the internet where ever they go. This rumor has been floating around since 2009 when Apple acquired and subsequently shut down the streaming music service, Lala. Streaming music services have become very popular recently with Amazon’s Cloud Player and now Google recently announced their new music streaming service, Google Music Streaming, at Google IO. Both of these services allow you to upload your personal music collection from your computer to be streamed, while other services like Rhapsody charge a monthly subscription to stream any song you want over the web, whether you previously bought it or not. I personally think Apple is more likely to use the first model and stream the music you already bought in iTunes than have a subscription-based service, but you never do know.
I think that both of these services would be great for Apple to announce and hopefully they will announce both eventually not only because they are helpful, but because they need to have these services to stay competitive with the rest of the industry . I personally, being the cloud computing advocate, would prefer the cloud sync service because I think that would be more beneficial than the music streaming service personally because I have all my favorite songs on my iPod already, while I love not to have to plug my iPod Touch and iPad in just to back them up. I think if they unveil them this year the streaming service would be unveiled at Apple’s annual music event in September when they typically announce their new iPods. While the sync service I think would be announced either at the upcoming Worldwide developers conference or at it’s own Special Media Event.