One of the key technology trends in the enterprise over the last decade (thanks to iPhones and iPads) is a collaboration and work anywhere mindset. Long gone are the days of employees, students, and teachers logging into desktop computers at work or school. Now, work is wherever we are. Work isn’t a place, but a state of mind. You should be able to work anywhere. You can, and that has led to companies who are distributed around the world. My concern today is that a world where it’s “cloud-first” from a services standpoint has left Apple as vulnerable as Microsoft was when they missed the smartphone era.
About Making The Grade: Every Saturday, Bradley Chambers publishes a new article about Apple in education. He has been managing Apple devices in an education environment since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing 100s of Macs and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple’s products work at scale, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for students.
From 2012 to 2018, I co-hosted a K–12 podcast with Fraser Speirs. Fraser is known as the person who deployed the first 1:1 iPad program in the world. Fraser and I used to talk about iOS devices acting as a “cloud remote”. They were ways to trigger and access information that was cloud-only. Modern versions of iOS have always assumed strong network connections with how they offload and download data from services like iCloud.
Our computing world is local devices accessing data located on a network elsewhere. Even our games are moving this direction. Google is launching Stadia as a streaming gaming service. Apple Arcade on the other hand is marketing its service as playable offline (as something different). The world assumes connectivity.
Apple has entirely missed the next wave of computing, which is cloud-first workflow and collaboration. Google and Microsoft are there and Apple is absolutely nowhere. Apple is now merely one amongst many possible clients to these clouds and Apple's traditional values don't hold.
— Fraser Speirs (@fraserspeirs) April 3, 2019
My concern is that Apple is missing the coming age of computing where data is cloud-first if not cloud-only. iWork and iCloud Drive are perfect examples. In iCloud Drive, there is no way to share a folder with someone. I have 2TB of storage, but no way to give someone access to an entire folder and collaboratively work on documents. Folder syncing is something Dropbox had as a feature from day one. Dropbox and Google Drive are online file managers with apps that sync locally. iCloud Drive is a feature of the Finder with syncing in the background. Fundamentally, these are just products with different mindsets.
The cloud is the source of truth for documents. Docs are not shared or downloaded or emailed. All document creation, editing, review, discussion can happen on any client device or browser. Versioning is integral and not dependent on any manual processes eg. renaming files.
— Richard Gaywood (@PenLlawen) April 3, 2019
As good as the iWork apps are for working on your own, you are lying to yourself if you think they are as good as G Suite. Keynote is my preferred app for working on a presentation alone. Google Slides, while not as fully featured as Keynote, is way better for working on a presentation with someone else. Apple’s apps are desktop versions with cloud syncing. G Suite’s productivity apps live on the web. They are web first. From a fundamental core, Google and Apple see collaboration differently. Apple sees it has local documents you sync when finished (and share) where Google sees documents as always online.
Long Term Risks for Apple
My concern here is that if this trend continues, Apple’s strengths (hardware and software integration) will become a secondary thing if web and collaboration continue to take over in the enterprise. Increasingly, our devices are windows into our cloud environments. iCloud.com services work, but no one would prefer to use them over Gmail, Google Docs, Google Drive, etc.
The next age of computing is the OS in the cloud, and this is an area that Apple lags behind at the moment. iCloud.com and iCloud Drive need to become first-class citizens alongside Office 365 and G Suite.