Recently, Amazon introduced a new cloud-based file storage and media playback system aptly named Cloud Drive and Cloud Player. The debut of this system, which is compatible with Android handsets, kicked off a debate on cloud storage and Apple's lack of a similar mechanisms for its iOS devices. In a lengthy post, John Gruber of Daring Fireball discusses this deficiency and points to four areas that Apple should move to the cloud. These cloud features include the transfer of media to an iOS device, the ability to backup and restore an iOS device to the cloud, a mechanism to deliver iOS updates wirelessly and a way to activate your device without connecting it to iTunes on your computer.
Gruber points to the Apple TV 2 as a preview of this cable-free future as the device streams its content. There is no need to transfer and backup up content as its media is stored in the cloud. Unlike other iOS devices, the ATV 2 also updates itself independently of iTunes. If Apple can develop such a system for the Apple TV, it could do the same for other iOS devices.
This system, though, is difficult to put into place with the large number of devices Apple has in the wild. Apple will also have to accommodate a wide range of user scenarios, including those who have never synced their device to those who synced but ran out of space on their device. In these two example cases, Apple must have a method to resolve these customers' issues before a sync can be performed. You only need to look at Microsoft's botched Windows Phone update to see how difficult this can be.
Gruber asserts Apple is interested in the cloud, but the company is taking an incremental approach. Rather than sever the tie in one major update to iOS, Apple will slowly cut the cord one piece at a time starting with the Apple TV 2. Eventually, the Cupertino company may move to an over-the-air update system and iTunes-free activation system for iOS. Later, Apple may introduce streaming but still require users with large media libraries to sync via a Mac or a PC. Apple may never completely cut the cord as it is not feasible for someone with a 10 GB library to backup and restore their media over a cellular or even a Wi-Fi connection.
Google, Gruber points out, has a cloud syncing system that performs better than Apple's MobileMe service, but it lacks the slick UI and ease of use associated with Apple's products. Apple is admittedly behind, but it still has a chance to catch up if all these rumors of free MobileMe and a cloud-based media storage and streaming service come to fruition.