Mac OS X Lion, iOS 5, and iCloud – exciting times

I’ve got to say that a week on from the release of iOS 5 and iCloud I’m pretty damn excited.  The level of integration I’ve wanted from the first day of having an iPhone 3G is finally here thanks to iCloud.

I’m trying an all-Apple solution full-time for a bit to see how it all works but so far I am impressed.   Why?

  1. iOS 5 finally means iOS devices can be completely PC-free.When I got my iPad (original iPad, not iPad 2) I was impressed but it wasn’t the type of device that should need a PC to work.   Before I could use it I had to plug it into a PC (and by PC I mean Personal Computer….not a Windows machine).  To get content on it I was pretty much OK but if I wanted a backup of that content again a PC was a requirement.  This was  a device crying out to be completely disconnected, independent.  That day is finally here with iOS5.
     
    I can say the same thing about my iPhone.   Over-the-air OS updates, WiFi sync, and a PC-free backup solution are all things I’ve wanted for ages (I’m not even going to get into the other improvements in the software like the new notification system).  Now they’re here with iOS 5.
     
  2. Pain-free syncing with Mac OS.With iCloud syncing mail, contacts, and calendars is now pain-free.   In the past I’ve used Google products for these things and for the most part they’ve worked well.  GMail is already web-based so that is nice but because it doesn’t support the concept of folders, replacing that with labels, using it via Apple Mail (whether iOS or Mac-based) has been kind of clunky at best.  That isn’t GMails fault.  I love the idea of using labels and am not a huge fan of folders but GMail’s implementation of IMAP, required to use if I want to have access via Mail, results in messages being duplicated (long story short: labels get their own folders.  If a message has multiple labels it appears in multiple folders).
     
    Calendar syncing was definitely the easiest of the bunch to implement.   Google Calendar supports the CalDAV standard as do iCal on the Mac and the Calendar application in iOS 5.   With a third-party application like BusyCal on the Mac it’s even better.   However now calendar sync is totally integrated with iCloud on Lion and iOS 5.  While I don’t gain much, and arguably  lose a bit in the calendar interface on iCloud vs. Google Calendar, I’m sticking with iCloud for the moment because of that tight integration.
     
    Contacts.  Ah contacts.  That has always been a mess with Google.   While syncing with Google contacts has been supported by the Address Book application on the Mac it’s never been intuitive.  Syncing with iOS has also been supported via iTunes but again it has never been intuitive.   Works yes.  Works well, no.   Those headaches are gone with contact syncing in iCloud.

With all that said iCloud isn’t perfect.  The web-based calendar application can’t subscribe to external calendars.  Sharing calendars between iCloud users is possible as is sharing calendars with the world.  It also unfortunately shares the ridiculous faux-leather user interface with iCal in Mac OS X.

And while iCloud is fantastic for storing backup data from my iOS devices, and apps that have specific support for it, I can’t just access it from finder like I could iDisk, or Dropbox, or any of the other cloud storage systems out there.  Maybe Apple has a plan for that in the future but paying for storage is a bit less useful to me without that option.

But again I’m pretty excited about what is happening on the Mac and iOS right now.   Apple continues to make things “just work” even if it isn’t with all of the features I might want.  I can live with that.

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