Apple and the Cloud: A Cautionary Tale

4/6/12

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naturally connected and collaborative. When the data never moves, we’ll use information at Web scale, and everyone will have access to the best of everything worldwide. The World Economic Forum says personal data is the new oil. We are just beginning to see a new way of working and playing.

The Road Ahead

Sony’s stock price peaked in February of 2000. That was the beginning of the end for analog devices, and for Sony. Here in 2012, it’s clear that Apple’s current business model is good for many more years. Apple will likely become a Dow component before the company feels the sting I have described. But Apple might want to think about making a small investment in the datacentric future.

Remember distributed computing? We’ve taken that as far as it can go. Now we’re shifting to distributed data. This shift will happen; it’s just a matter of when. Before building an Apple store in Kathmandu, I recommend that Apple take a billion dollars out of the money market account and start building the cloud-based infrastructure that will one day save the company. A few suggestions for Apple’s management to consider:

Make some vision videos. Are Microsoft and Corning really going to show people what the future will be like? John Sculley’s 1988 Knowledge Navigator video is worth revisiting, if only for inspiration. I’ve made a personal data locker video I think all Apple influencers should see. It’s time Apple’s creative team showed us what 2020 will look like. How open will Apple be in ten years? We, the people of the Web, would love to know.

Fix identity. Soon, anyone with a smart phone will be able to take your photo and learn more about you than you may want him/her to know. Digital identities are a massive train wreck that gets worse every day. In the long run, Facebook, Apple, Google, and others have more to gain from cooperating on identity than competing. They should come together and fix the identity problem. The standards exist, but the momentum is going the wrong way.

Get started on the Internet of Things. Now that LogMeIn has acquired Pachube, Apple should think about acquiring LogMeIn and iDigi and getting ahead of the game on the Internet of Things. Here—IBM will show us how.

Get started on distributed data. Read my book—there are dozens of companies and groups already building meaningful data infrastructures. Sooner rather than later, Apple must understand that the cloud is not just for storage. If Apple is going to learn about it, Apple should start trying some experiments.

Build the architecture and developer tool kits for distributed data and services. This is what we call the programmable web. We need to reinvent everything from collaboration to printing to transactions and much more. Look at companies like Kynetx, Mashery, Programmableweb, FacetApp, and others. Read The Live Web, by Phil Windley.

Make Safari into the data-centric browser of the future. Get a jump on Google by overhauling the server/client/data/service/scripting/presentation stack that keeps browsers in the stone age. The W3C people will be glad to take time out of their busy schedules to help.

Join the movement. The online world of data and services is nothing like the closed world of Apple hardware. Apple should join a bucketful of standards organizations and foster industry acceleration of distributed data and services. A good example would be fonts and printers—when you can work online from any device, how do you print to any printer? And how do you … Next Page »

David Siegel is an author, consultant, and investor focusing on the future of technology, the Internet, and business. He has written three bestselling books about the Internet and started one of the first web design and strategy agencies, Studio Verso, which he sold to KPMG in 1999. He is an active angel investor and advisor to startups and the author of Pull: The Power of the Semantic Web to Transform Your Business. Follow @

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