At Apple’s Worldwide Developers’ Conference, the company unveiled upgrades to its cloud storage service, iCloud, that might put it in a better position to compete with the likes of Google Drive, Dropbox and various other storage services.
The new iCloud Drive features a UI overhaul, and now gives users 5 GB of cloud storage for free, 20 GB of storage for $0.99 per month, and 200 GB for $3.99 per month. Apple also plans on adding storage tiers up to 1 TB.
Apple is making iCloud Drive more easy to use by more deeply integrating it into its new operating system, OS X 10.10 Yosemite. This move, of course, follows Microsoft’s tight integration of OneDrive (previously known as “SkyDrive”) into Windows 8. All iCloud Drive files, for instance, are available to be searched and accessed via the Finder app which is used to navigate files and the filesystem on Macs. And, like previous versions of iCloud, iCloud Drive allows users to store music and books bought on iTunes, and photos taken on their iPhones to be backed-up up to the cloud.
In the latest versions of OS X and iOS, Apple seems to be striving for greater integration between its desktop and mobile operating systems, making it easier for users to share and send files. “AirDrop” is a new feature that allows direct file sharing between iPhones and Macs.
With the latest OS updates, Apple devices can even transfer the state of running applications to other devices. This lets them, for example, start writing an email on a phone and “handoff” this application to a Mac where they can finish writing the email and send it.
This convenience for those who use multiple Apple devices might give it an added appeal pure-play services like Dropbox that require more effort to setup.
Apple had abandoned a previous attempt at online cloud storage known as “iDisk”, which was included in the MobileMe online service. And while iCloud Drive is an improvement over the iCloud service originally unveiled at WWDC in 2011, but it’s still an attempt from a company that that, in many ways, is behind the curve when it comes to online cloud storage.
Meanwhile, the Terms of Service to which iCloud users must agree is being disputed by foreign courts on the grounds that the contract terms are unfair, and that Apple should not have the ability to unilaterally alter the terms of the contract – even if users agree to allow it.
While this may deter some users, a wide variety of choice among online storage providers is something that could also keep iCloud Drive from meeting its goals.
Still, even as companies flood this segment, Apple has an uncanny ability to dominate existing markets with their products and services, and could bring cloud storage to the attention of the millions of people who use Apple devices.