Apple really ought to admit to itself that its so-called iCloud is not even approaching the cloud computing ideal and design to the reality of its technological limitations.
What do I mean by the cloud computing ideal? I mean that your files are simply available everywhere, simultaneously on any device.
iCloud very dramatically fails to achieve this effect. Its technological operations are front-and-center. It is painfully obvious that files are being synchronized across devices, and that the user must wait for the synchronization operation to complete before the files from one device are transferred to the new one.
This synchronizing files model requires a different kind of user experience design than a true cloud computing model, which permits a featureless simplicity. The process happens so invisibly and reliably that there’s no question of availability of data or files, or whether the available data or files is the most current.
Syncing, however, requires visibility and control so users know what going and and can do something about it. Because with syncing there is an obvious temporary discrepancy between what a user sees on one device and another. This is most certainly the user experience of “iCloud”. A user moving across devices must patiently wait for files, photos, contacts, etc. to appear, and there is absolutely no way to see what’s going on. You just have to wait and wait and wait and hope there isn’t another damn glitch requiring you to sign out and sign back into your iCloud account on one or both of the possibly malfunctioning devices.
But Apple seems to think its Jobsian Reality Distortion Field is still operational. It thinks that if it keeps pretending its botched syncing is a magically simple cloud experience — if it sings out “ta da!” insistently enough — its cult of uncritical boneheads will just believe what Apple wants them to believe. And you know what? Apple is 100% correct.
But I do not believe. I do not believe because I notice things and think about them. That is what smart people do. Stupid people copy the thoughts of people they think are smart, and then stupidly imagine that copying smart person thoughts makes them smart.
If, God forbid, I were the product manager of iCloud, I’d drop all pretense of cloud computing.
First, I’d rename the product iSync, to avoid accusations of false advertising. Just kidding: there are no such accusations. I’d rename it out of shame.
And then I would give users visibility into synchronization progress and manual control over the synchronization, similar to what Google Drive provides (except, of course, I would use UX best practices and do the design work right, instead of letting my tech team mangle the j0b, and consequently subjecting users to frustration and confusion, and then trying to unmangle the mangledness in real-time, creating yet more frustration and confusion, in the manner prescribed by Eric Ries — an approach that seems absolutely logical if you happen to be a typical omniscient techie sociopath who thinks “experience” is a glitzy synonym for “user interface”). That’s right: I’d have a damn progress bar with some info on what files are syncing, along with some kind of time estimate. And there’d be a nice fat “Sync” button on every screen, if only to function like a cross walk button placebo. The machine is listening and at least pretending to respond to my incessant button poking.
Then I would re-hire Scott Forstall, revert iOS to version 6 and try to pretend the last decade of iOS never happened. And anyone heard saying the word “skeuomorphism” in the halls of the Apple’s headquarters would be tased and ejected from the glass bagel into the artificial wilderness of Cupertino.
Happy New Year.