Why Apple Needs to Win in the Cloud

Apple Continuity

Apple officially has cloud religion.

Its latest Mac OS X upgrade (“Yosemite”) introduces Continuity, a feature that blurs the line between the company’s desktops and mobile devices. Users can take phone calls on their Mac, or seamlessly transfer documents for further editing between laptop and tablet. Yosemite also encourages users to rely on Apple’s iCloud Drive to store documents and other vital files in the cloud.

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Apple didn’t have an easy road to the cloud. Steve Jobs infamously exploded at employees over MobileMe, iCloud’s predecessor. While archrival Google poured resources into expanding its online footprint, Apple decided to make the beauty and simplicity of its hardware the focal point of its competitive strategy.

While beauty and simplicity allowed Apple to rack up impressive annual revenues, executives within the company knew they would have to bulk up its cloud presence if they truly wanted to stay on par with not only Google, but also Microsoft, which has also repositioned itself as a “cloud first” company. In addition to more cloud-centric features in Yosemite, Apple has also taken the first steps into streaming music (via its acquisition of Beats) and e-payments (with Apple Pay).

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Now it all needs to, in Apple’s words, “just work.” If Apple Pay suffers a breach over the next few months, or if iCloud suffers one too many instances of catastrophic downtime, it could send a message that the company’s cloud efforts still aren’t comparable to whatever its rivals offer. If Apple can’t compete in the cloud, it won’t mark the immediate end of the company—it still sells far too many pretty devices for that—but it will make it more vulnerable to a gradual decline.

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