iCloud Drive Propels Apple a Little Closer to Dropbox Territory

Among the highlights of Apple’s WWDC announcements this week is iCloud Drive, a major update to its cloud storage system. iCloud Drive is a file-sharing and storage product optimized to sync across several platforms.

iCloud Drive is designed to be a central platform for users to share or access files across Apple devices, but it’s also now compatible with Windows PCs. Documents will be accessible via the Finder Window. As with cloud storage service Dropbox, users will be able to drag and drop documents into their iCloud Drive and then organize, tag or edit them within the system.

That content also can be shared seamlessly across compatible apps in the Apple ecosystem, meaning a user could build a graph in one app and insert it into a slideshow created in a different app.

Cross-Platform Syncing

Photo-sharing and storage capabilities are a key part of the update. Every photo taken on an enabled iOS device will be uploaded to iCloud’s photo library, where it can be accessed by other Web-connected devices. Photo edits will be synced across platforms, so a user who takes out red eye using a tool on a Mac, for instance, can view the edited version on an iPhone, as well.

Users will continue to get 5 GB of storage for free. After that, tiers start at 20 GB for 99 US cents per month.

iCloud Drive will be part of Yosemite, Apple’s update to its OS X platform, which is available in a beta program now and is expected to launch this fall.

Playing Catch-Up

It was about time that Apple revealed a product able to compete in the cloud storage space, said Randy Kerns, senior strategist at Evaluator Group.

“Since many people have already gotten familiar with file-sharing with products led by Dropbox, the novelty is no longer there,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Without that fresh spark, Apple has to rely on what it can offer that Dropbox can’t — but even that isn’t as buzz-worthy as it might have been if Apple had gotten into the cloud around the same time Dropbox did, said Kerns.

“The value currently is the integration with OS X and the Finder utility. What will be compelling is the integration with applications, which is not there today and will require other companies and developers to deliver on a broad scale. This would have been much more significant a couple of years ago, but now Apple is in catch-up mode.”

Enough to Switch?

There’s still room in the market for Apple to improve, said Kerns, but that will mean the kind of expansion that will take time.

“Currently, iCloud Drive only has Apple OS X and Finder integration. Other application integration can make it a threat to Dropbox, but not yet,” he pointed out.

“Probably more important is the ability for companies to be able to integrate their own software around this and make it a secure sharing usage tool. This moves beyond the consumer use to business use, which will increase the capacity and potential revenue,” Kerns noted. “The key will be the developer kits and security mechanisms that Apple provides.”

Lack of innovation in iCloud Drive’s first version could mean that the company will have to rely on the Apple devotees or new users for its main consumer base, said Michael Silver, research vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

“This is great for users with lots of Apple devices,” he told the E-Commerce Times, “but it’s catch-up and overpriced compared to some of the competition. There doesn’t appear to be a lot new here or much to get users that are happy with their current service to switch.”

Rachelle Dragani is a freelance reporter based in Brooklyn, NY. She enjoys staying on top of e-commerce deals, reporting on what new gadget is coming your way, and keeping tabs on anyone trying to hack into your info. Feel free to e-mail her at [email protected]. You can also connect with her onGoogle+.

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