There's good news in Apple's iCloud announcement at WWDC, but it may not be from Apple.
Let me explain. For the past five years we've been roaring headlong toward a digital disaster. A conflict that puts form factors, data creation, and consumer behavior in a trajectory that could only be catastrophic.
Here's what's been happening -- pretty much to all of us.
- The web has become part of our lives, 24/7. Work, home, family, friends all use it to connect, work, share, and play. It's not something we can be without.
- Devices have multiplied. We have our work computer, our home computer, our mobile phone, our iPod. And now lots of us have tablets or e-readers. One person, many devices.
- The size of files has gotten bigger, video is now HD and we're pushing more bits to the web. Blog posts, tweets, photos, check-ins, location updates.
Simply put -- we broke the web. Meanwhile, Apple has been on a mission to replace hardware with software. Jobs is building a business that sells bits rather than disks or shrink wrap software. In fact, not only do they want to sell bits -- but really what they want to do is sell other people's bits, and charge a hefty 30% commission for building an efficient marketplace.
Along the way Apple figured out that individuals didn't want to 'sync' data -- as the frustratingly kludgy Mobile Me tried to do unsuccessfully, but rather access data -- multiple devices from a single source. That's where the cloud comes in.
Now that Apple has a portfolio of lightweight SSD flash memory devices, they've created a need for an always-on, infinitely scalable, cloud-based storage solution. I want my music on all my devices -- but I sure don't want to have that much memory on board. Hence, iCloud.
At the same time, Apple's App Store makes it possible for me to buy software and then use it when I need it on my device -- rather than having to install it multiple times, and wrestle with licensing schemes for which devices I can legitimately put my software on.
So, whether it's Apple's iCloud, or WindowsAzure's "cloud power", or Amazon's "CloudDrive" -- there's no doubt that the word of the moment is 'cloud'.
Here's the problem. The real opportunity of the cloud is about sharing, not controlling content. Sticking your files on a shared server is great, as far as it goes, but it's not a computing revolution -- it's just a secure storage solution.
The opportunity -- the game changer -- is the Curated Cloud. The place where you can store, and selectively share what you know and what you wish to share. It was the promise of the Semantic Web. Back when Tim Berners-Lee coined the phrase 1998, he expressed his vision of the web with the powerful phrase: 'I Have a Dream.'
Said Berneres-Lee: "I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web -- A 'Semantic Web' [in which] the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The 'intelligent agents' people have touted for ages will finally materialize."
In order for this to emerge, people need to have a place, and a secure sharing environment within which we can provision permissions and create not a single 'cloud' of data, but a series of unique clouds for different constituencies.
Today -- the promise of a Curated Cloud is not yet a reality, but is an emerging opportunity. Will Google, or Apple, or Microsoft, or Amazon give users of the media sharing service the tools to both store and selectively share? If one of them does... the web's fast moving evolution could take a remarkable turn for the better.