5 Threats the Cloud Poses to Apple’s Future

Apple makes money through a variety of services and products. Unlike most competitors, all of these offerings are available through one entity: Apple Inc. It allows the company to make oodles of money through a variety of platforms, but what happens when most of the framework in these spaces change? What happens when the cloud and its pieces become the norm? iCloud causes its own problems while fixing others, so below are five things that are moving into the cloud that could threaten the tech giant.

1. Cross-Platform Environment

Almost every other competitor offers all of their solutions across any platform, with many of them operated through the browser anyways. Apple doesn’t understand this at all, obsessed with getting you to download bloated standalone applications to get the same job done. As the mobile and desktop space become one, proprietary systems will be almost impossible to use. One of the best examples is iOS 6’s Maps.

With the iPhone 5, Apple launched a replacement product titled Apple Maps. Aside from all of its problems, the largest is its inability to be accessed outside of Apple’s iDevices. Apple wants to replace as many Google products as possible, but the company’s inability to offer a cross-platform alternative defeats the point. When sharing a location with other devices, even iDevices running something other than iOS 6, it redirects to Google Maps anyways.

The best way to resolve this, is to create dedicated Web pages (like Google does) to have a place for people to go, regardless of device or operating system. This is something Apple will have to figure out across all of its properties as well.

2. Browser (HTML5 Apps)

In a not too distant future, browsers and operating systems could be one and the same. When that happens, having apps built in HTML5 will be essential. So far, the only browser to fully embrace this is Google’s Chrome browser. With many apps like Gmail and Google Drive offering offline support right from the browser’s apps (available in Chrome’s Web Store). Although HTML5 is still in its infancy, many agree it’s the future.

So it’s surprising to see Apple’s browser Safari not taking full advantage of this as well. After all, Steve Jobs bet big on HTML5 over Adobe Flash with the iPhone back in 2007. This set the stage for the eventual death of Flash and the rapid immersion of HTML5 on the Web. As HTML5 grows in the desktop environment, it will soon migrate to the mobile space. This will create a world where apps never have to be downloaded and updates happen in the background. But Apple seems more committed to localized information storage while tiptoeing around the cloud (iCloud), as opposed to fully embracing it.

3. Productivity Tools

So you’re a school board assessing various options for your students to learn word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations on. There are a couple of popular options available to you: Apple’s iWorks or Microsoft Office. One problem. All of these cost money, about $70 a license, and depending on how big your school district is, that’s a lot of licenses to fill up your school’s computer labs with. What if there was a cheaper option? A freemium option? Enter Google Docs and others.

With a simple login, now each student has the ability to accomplish roughly the same tasks at no added cost to the school. So how does Apple compete when they don’t have an ad system in place to leverage information for money through a cloud-based tool? And as these systems migrate into academic, personal and business life, iWorks and other locally hosted productivity tools could disappear.

4. Music

iTunes is bloated, local, and dated. As the most popular music store out there, it’s lacking some essential components that have become recent trends in music. The first being data streaming, the next being storage lockers. People want their music everywhere at anytime, with iTunes Match offering the ability to accomplish similar tasks, but not as well as Amazon or Google.

Currently, Google is the only company to offer data storage (20,000 songs) for free. With a simple login, users can access music from any Internet-connected device (besides iPads and iPhones). So as everything moves to the cloud, music and how it’s reproduced will be another solution Apple will need to resolve quickly. It’s pretty sad that users still have to download services like iTunes or the App Store on their desktop, an ancient approach almost nonexistent on today’s Internet.

5. Messages

Most people currently use Facebook to accomplish this task, with perhaps Apple already admitting defeat with its heavy Facebook integration in iOS 6. But for iMessages to truly be successful, they’ll have to exist outside of iOS. The current heavyweights, fighting for what will more than likely replace email, are Google (Gchat/Google+ Messenger) and Facebook; with the biggest reason for their success being their ability to integrate anywhere across Windows, OS X, iOS, Android, and multiple browsers.

Most people already know the answer to this, as iMessages will likely remain exclusive to iOS. So it’s hard to see them taking off with any regularity like Facebook or Google’s services. It’s important for Apple to recognize this threat, because eventually messaging services could replace text messages as well, with users connecting through a host of different services that will potentially render iMessages irrelevant.

The best part about all of this, for Apple, is that these problems are very resolvable. Many of them are obvious, others are harder in relation to Apple’s core-business model. Eventually Apple will have to make choices and bets on the future. This was something Jobs was very good at, and something Tim Cook and the remaining Apple team have yet to be tested on.

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