The biggest advantage of first-party clouds is that they’re baked right in. That means you typically get them for free, or at least some basic level of service for free, and they don’t require any additional account credentials to set up or use. Similarly, they’re usually supported by APIs (application programming interfaces) that make it trivial for developers to include them in their apps, essentially also for free.
Let’s use iOS as an example. iCloud provides a host of useful services, from device backup and restore, to app and media re-download and sync, to messaging and device location, to password management and more. All “for free”, all thanks to the same, simple, single login I use to sign into my device and activate it to begin with.
One step, all that stuff. Boom.
Same for developers. If they use iCloud, they know everyone using their app already has an account and it’ll just work. (Insert iCloud not working jokes here. Lots of them. I’m making a gross point, not a specific judgement, alright?!)
The quintessential first-party cloud
Apple has long struggled with internet services. Their original hard-drive-in-the-cloud launched in 2000 with iDisk in the iTools suite, long before the concept of “the cloud” had taken hold. iTools was retooled as .Mac in 2002, and became MobileMe in 2008. MobileMe users were offered 20GB of storage for iDisk, which mounted as an addressable drive on OS X.
When MobileMe was revamped as iCloud in 2012, Apple announced that iDisk would not be migrated to the new service. iCloud offered backup and restore services for iOS devices, remote access for Macs, IMAP email with an @icloud.com address, device locating and secure wiping, and cloud sync for logins, music, and photos.
Compared to the 20GB space offered by iDisk, iCloud’s free storage is set at 5GB. While photos synced through iCloud and music purchased from iTunes don’t count against that limit, everything else does. iCloud users can opt to pay for upgrade storage, ranging from $ 20/year for 15GB to $ 100/year for 55GB.
If I want to use Google’s messaging instead, or Dropbox’s backup, or Microsoft’s storage, I have to have separate, additional accounts with Google, Dropbox, and/or Microsoft. I have to login to them as well, often on a per-app or service basis, and I have to hope to hell the apps and services I use support them.
Lots of steps. Bummer.
If developers want to use Google or Dropbox or Microsoft or something else, they also have to insist their users have accounts with those services. That means potentially forcing users to sign up for yet-another-account, or encouraging them to pass on your app for one that does support the native cloud.
Crazy steps. Bastards!
No one cloud does it all, for everyone, all the time.
Sadly, no one cloud does it all, for everyone, all the time. So, many of us already have many clouds. I’d be lost without iCloud, Google, and Dropbox all. But the stuff iCloud does natively on iOS is just impossible for Google or Dropbox to come close to even offering.
That’s why native always has its place.
The advantage of first party clouds really comes down to deep software and hardware integration.
– Derek Kessler / Managing Editor, Mobile Nations
Do cloud services influence which phone you buy?