Users Will Need the Latest Version of OSes
This may not be a shocker, but I think iCloud will require the latest version of both OS X1 and iOS 52. It’s not easy, or worthwhile, to implement new, complicated features into older versions of operating systems. Plus this is a built-in reason for people to quickly upgrade to Lion3 and iOS 5, which for many will need purchasing a new iPhone4.
The only hiccup to this prediction would be if Apple wanted to launch iCloud immediately. I think we are still months away from the releases of Lion and iOS 5, so if Apple wanted to get iCloud out there it could work on Snow Leopard. Personally though, I think they are all a few months away.
Cloud Storage/Syncing for iOS Devices/Apps
There is a major trend lately of applications on iOS using Dropbox as storage. Most plain text editors do this, and other applications like 1Password allow users to store their database in their Dropbox folder so that both the Mac and iOS versions can sync data across multiple devices. As more and more people buy iPads, almost always a second device to a Mac or iPhone, the necessity to sync data across devices increases in importance. Apple has created built-in functionality on iOS for in-app purchases, subscriptions and push notifications, so why not data syncing?
I think this will also include existing syncing of calendars, contacts, e-mail and possibly pictures and settings.
Improved iDisk with Dropbox-esque Syncing
My friend Dave suggested the best implementation for syncing/iDisk. He suggested that you will be able to pick any folder on your Mac, right-click, and have it synced to your iCloud. This would make it easier and more robust than Dropbox because syncing wouldn’t be limited to one folder. He also suggested iDisk would continue to exist, but separately, as just cloud storage5 instead of being tied into the 1-click syncing.
I think he is on the right track, but despite it’s usefulness I don’t see the separation of services. I think iDisk will be replaced with the ability to sync and/or store folders in your iCloud and these folders will be synced across Macs. I expect this will tie heavily into the versioning system that will be built-in to Lion.
Only Content Purchased in iTunes Can be Streamed/Stored
This is my big, bold prediction. The music locker/streaming service that has long been rumored will come with a major caveat, only iTunes purchases will be streamable. Why would Apple do this? Simple, it’s the best way to get people to buy a lot more iTunes content. Apple also has a history of not doing exactly what consumers want. In this case they give them a taste of what they want, streaming, and then force you to spend money to make it work. I don’t buy the rumors that Apple will create a service like Amazon and Google6 that will allow you to store any music or “match” your library. Apple likes to keep it simple and profitable. By only streaming music they own it means they only need one copy and won’t need to pay for bandwidth for user’s to load upload their libraries.
Free for End-Users
Lastly, I think this will be a free service to end users who buy a Mac or iOS device. I think this will include calendar/contact syncing7, the Dropbox-esque syncing for both Mac and iOS data and streaming of iTunes purchases. Apple will be able to justify this price because it will only work for users buying Apple products and additional iTunes music to take advantage of syncing.
I would be remiss if I don’t pass along my favorite rumor that I heard second-hand. This theory took two interesting features of Lion, Launchpad and full-screen apps, and thought about how those features would look remotely on an iPad. This person has argued, like many, that Launchpad seems somewhat out of place on the Mac, and suggested that if you think about remoting into your Mac from an iOS device how much easier it would be to launch apps if they had icons just like in iOS. Couple that with the idea that full-screen apps would also make the remote experience from an iPad better, and suddenly this is a very interesting rumor.
The ultimate theory being that iCloud and the big data center could be a way for Apple to really optimize this “remote desktop” experience and make it secure. I should note that this theory was heard second-hand and the originator may have “borrowed” this idea from somewhere else. If that is the case, I apologize and would be happy to link to the origin of the idea.