photo by raneko on Flickr
Friend of the blog Philip Elmer-DeWitt with Fortune Tech uncovered a gem of a note from Bernstein Research's Toni Sacconaghi wherein, after a "meeting with Apple executives," he came up with quite the sampler platter of predictions for Apple's North Carolina data center. As DeWitt points out, the data center was supposedly slated to be ready last year. Sacconaghi seems to think that it will open in the spring, which jibes with a rumor we heard in February. It makes sense, particularly in-between iPad 2 and iPhone 5 announcements. But what will the thing do?
DeWitt says that Sacconaghi believes the data center could "transform Apple from a hardware company to one that excels at what he calls 'differentiated services.'" I don't know about that, but it's nebulous enough to mean anything. Here's what Sacconaghi claims is coming and here's my take on each one.
Scaled-up downloads of things like e-books, video, even advertising. Well, maybe. If you've had the pleasure of seeing the iTunes store crap out on you as I have and many of our readers have reported, it's pretty clear Apple needs more server capacity. I'm not sure they are dumb enough to throw the white gas of HD video downloads onto an already-hot fire. Maybe they are just ramping up capacity to provide an impeccable experience -- you know, in line with their core competencies.
Cloud sync and storage. Well, again, they've got this. The argument goes that "more" would somehow make them "more" competitive with Google's offerings. Guess what? Optimizing code, creating better, universally accessible (like supporting Firefox) web apps would do that without needing to build a gigantic server farm. Cloud storage is of course possible, because if MobileMe were to go free or get cheaper or store your first 1,000 photos free (sort of like the free vs. paid versions of Flickr) they would indeed need more capacity. This is hardly a new concept, however. What could be new is a completely revamped MobileMe service, reliant upon a new data center for tons of storage by freeloaders.