At WWDC 2014, the senior Vice President of software engineering at Apple, Craig Federighi, introduced iCloud Drive, the revamped cloud offering from Apple, which struggled with early offerings of cloud services. Apple is still playing catch-up with its cloud storage services, though its introduction of iCloud Drive appears to be the recipe Apple needs for success in this venture.
The importance of the ecosystem
iCloud Drive is an extension of the next generation of OS X, version 10.10 Yosemite, and the forthcoming iOS 8, although it will also interoperate with Windows via a web browser. Apple’s big bet with iCloud Drive is the ability to integrate it into the aforementioned updates to OS X and iOS, and by extension, into existing devices, such as already deployed iPhones, iMacs, and MacBooks. With this, Apple can likely sway users of third-party services to using iCloud — product integration being a key strength of the Apple ecosystem.
An important feature is that files stored in iCloud Drive are tagged and indexed and visible to Finder in exactly the same way as files stored locally. Additionally, attachments in Mail will be automatically synced to iCloud Drive through a feature called Mail Drop. All photos taken with an Apple device will automatically be backed up to iCloud.
The importance to enterprise
With this announcement, Apple has a complete document creation and collaboration suite with attached cloud storage to rival Google Docs and Drive and Microsoft Office and OneCloud (formerly SkyDrive). This is the latest piece of the puzzle to be added, after the addition of iWork for iCloud in August 2013.
Under Steve Jobs, Apple was famously disinterested in catering to corporate buyers, with Jobs reportedly calling Chief Information Officers "orifices" in 2005. Under Tim Cook, the firm has been much friendlier to enterprise users. Notable enterprise adoption has occurred in Cook’s tenure at Apple, with North American home improvement chain Lowe’s deploying iPhones with an inventory control system and project cost estimation utilities, and United Airlines replacing the frequently updated flight instruction manuals with electronic versions on iPad.
Apple made additional strides with the February 2014 update of Apple Configurator (the software used for mass deployments), which allows administrators to set up and configure devices without needing to physically interact with the device (beyond turning it on and plugging it in). This upgrade will likely keep people already inside the Apple ecosystem firmly entrenched inside it, while providing a solitary bullet point on the benefits of the Apple ecosystem for corporate purchasers and/or IT decision makers looking to migrate employees to a new ecosystem.
Ultimately, while the addition of iCloud Drive to the Apple ecosystem is one that can only work in the benefit of Apple and its users, commodity consumer cloud services are absolutely fungible. The vital point is the extent to which iCloud Drive is deeply integrated in future versions of OS X and iOS.
How competitive is the pricing?
With the ever-changing price points of data storage in the consumer cloud and enterprise cloud, figuring out how competitive the announced pricing is compared to other cloud vendors is one that takes a good hour of searching.
Here is the basic rundown of pricing. Of note, although Google Drive offers the most space for free, iCloud Drive pricing is cheapest for the 200 GB price point. This is in stark contrast to previous iCloud pricing, with a total of 55 GB costing $100/year.
Apple iCloud Drive
5 GB — free
20 GB — $0.99 monthly
200 GB — $3.99 monthly
1 TB — TBD
15 GB — free
100 GB — $1.99 monthly
1 TB — $9.99 monthly
10 TB (and up) — $99.99 monthly
2 GB — free
100 GB — $9.99 monthly
200 GB — $19.99 monthly
500 GB — $49.99 monthly
Unlimited business plan — $15 per user monthly, with a minimum of five users
7 GB — free
50 GB — $25 annually
100 GB — $50 annually
200 GB — $100 annually
1 TB — $2.50 per user monthly
10 GB — free
100 GB — $5 monthly
Unlimited — $15 monthly (per user, requires three users)