Two different visions of the cloud
Apple unveiled its iCloud, which deeply differs from the cloud as viewed by Google. “We are going to demote the PC to just be a device,” Steve Jobs said.
But still, Apple keeps the focus on the devices. The cloud only aims at improving your experience when using multiple different devices by ensure data sync and application update on all your devices. With the iCloud, all your devices, be it phones, tablets or whatever, locally have the same picture of your data.
On the opposite, Google aims at abstracting the devices. Google wants the devices to be transparent between the user and the cloud. The devices are only terminals used to communicate with the cloud. You do not need a chromebook to access the cloud. You don’t even need chromeOS to access the cloud. All you need is a browser, though it is warmly advised to opt for the chrome browser (have a test of web apps with firefox and you’ll understand). Google “opens the sky to everyone”, After all, you should not need any particular device to look at the sky right? The cloud is omnipresent and you can send request to it from anything and automagically get it done (see chromebook : the end of the personal computer).
Two different timescales
The Google’s solution is very audacious, because it is based on the assumption that in a not so far future, the world will have low-cost, ubiquitous Internet access. This might seen as an utopia especially in the many places where high speed access is not (and might never be) profitable. I have the strong feeling that Google might have to contribute to the broadband deployment (see “Chromebook for a free internet“) to initiate refactoring of the current service provider market.
The approach of Apple is much more reasonable considering that the iCloud is finally sensibly similar to Dropbox: the users can sync their personal data from their computers and mobile devices up to a personalized central repository. Then, that central repository on the Internet syncs all of the data back down to all of the user’s devices so that all of them – e.g., a computer, a tablet, and a smartphone , The connectivity is thus only mandatory for data sync and applications updates. The good thing is that you still control your own data and have local copies of everything. However, syncing might get a little complicated, especially if you choose to not automatically sync all of your devices (to save on performance and bandwidth).
So finally, what is the cloud war?
The cloud war is essentially a philosophical and strategic divergence between Apple and Google. The former aims at improving the quality of its devices with the help of the cloud. The later ambitions to provide an universal access to web services. The situation was well resumed by Jason Hiner (TechRepublic) : “For Google, the Web is the center of the universe. For Apple, your device is the center of the universe”.