WWDC iCloud improvements

by davidnielsen

The much awaited WWDC keynote is over and let’s start with the message on iCloud.

Much against my expectations Apple did not admit or hint that they understood the problems with iCloud for developers and platform lock in. They also did not announce any plans for addressing the problems it has with CoreData, perhaps such changes will be the focus of sessions in the coming week.

They also did not tone down iCloud mentions as I expected in light of the recent battering it has taken. Instead they doubled down on the message that this is the future and showed off some new iCloud uses.

iWorks for iCloud

iWorks is now essentially an iCloud using web application that allows you to work with Keynotes, Pages and Numbers documents in the web browser. There is no word on updates to the native iWorks applications for iOS and OS X but I am guessing this means the end of those.

I feel like the world is moving away from the traditional office suite in many ways but having the functionality be on the web makes sense for those legacy cases where it is still needed.

This is the right direction for iWorks and I am sure it will receive more love in this new form than Apple has given it the last couple of years. It is clear that Apple doesn’t see Microsoft Office as the competition but Google Docs, which shows that in terms of Office type work they have their eye on where the ball is going to be, not where it is right now.

iCloud Keychain

Apple also introduced iCloud Keychain, a useful cloud based locker for data such as credit card information, website logins, known wifi networks and account information. This is very similar to the wonderful 1Password and this type of application is something everybody should be employing these days to have good security and avoid problems like password reuse.

This is a very welcome addition for users, however it will currently be limited to OS X and iOS which I suspect makes it a lot less useful to most people than 3rd party solutions such as LastPass and 1Password, since these will support every platform you use (mostly). However compared to those, iCloud Keychain will be free to use which is sure to count it its favor with many users.

Additionally there is concern that Apple keeps a master key for users iCloud data and can decrypt it at any time of their choosing. Storing potentially important and private documents, all your website login, account information and credit card information in a service that can be decrypted at any time by a 3rd party seems.. insecure to me.

It is an especially worrying aspect of iCloud in light of the revelation of the NSA PRISM surveillance program which has apparent collaboration from Apple (and other tech giants). Though Apple are denying giving any government that level of access to their servers the mere fact that they can access your encrypted data is problematic to say the least. I would be worried about putting anything on iCloud, especially personal data.

All in all, I feel that Apple are committed to iCloud and their WWDC keynote shows that they will be working on its issues. It is a good sign that they are eating their own dogfood by integrating it in their core applications to a greater degree than in the past. This should expose them to the issues experienced by developers more readily than they have previously. I am far less worried about their ability to follow through than I was before but given Apple’s track record as a service provider there are still a lot of questions that need good answers. Hopefully those answers will come in the iCloud sessions over the coming week.

For the record, I now believe I was wrong with regards to Apple buying Yahoo!. It seems they have elected to double down on becoming good at running services on their own, it is a song and dance we have seen from Cupertino before and it has not worked out well so far. Maybe 4–5 times is the charm for Apple.