October 12, 2011: Apple launches iCloud, a service that lets users automatically and wirelessly store content and push it to their various devices.
iCloud’s arrival marks the end of Apple’s Mac-centric “digital hub” strategy — and ushers in an age of inter-device communication and non-localized files.
iCloud launch: The end of Mac as digital hub
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who presented iCloud at 2011’s Worldwide Developers Conference during his final keynote, died prior to the service’s launch. iCloud essentially replaced Jobs’ vision of the digital hub, which focused on the Mac for centralizing media from other devices and syncing various Apple gear. That concept worked well for close to 10 years.
However, the writing was on the wall for the digital hub the moment Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007. The iPhone was no straightforward peripheral to be plugged into your Mac. Instead, it was a constantly connected, internet-enabled device that, for many users, replaced their need for a PC.
MobileMe: Apple’s first failed attempt at cloud computing
After the first iPhone launched, Jobs’ vision for a digital hub gave way to one based on cloud computing. Apple’s first attempt came in 2008 in the form of MobileMe. The company charged $99 per year to store address books, documents, images and more in the cloud, and then distribute the data to other devices.
The problem? MobileMe proved horribly unreliable.
“Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?” Jobs barked at the team responsible after the service launched in 2008. When he received answers, he snapped back, “So why the fuck doesn’t it do that?”
Saying MobileMe “tarnished Apple’s reputation,” Jobs scrapped the disastrous service. Then he gave longtime Apple exec Eddy Cue a new job overseeing the entirety of the company’s internet content.
iCloud emerged from the ashes of MobileMe. Jobs joked that iCloud essentially performed like a big hard disk in the sky. Of course, it was much more than that.
“iCloud is the easiest way to manage your content, because iCloud does it all for you and goes far beyond anything available today,” Cue said in a statement at the service’s launch. “You don’t have to think about syncing your devices, because it happens automatically, and it is free.”
iCloud: A step up from MobileMe?
Receiving somewhat mixed reception over the years, iCloud is not one of Apple’s unequivocal successes (although it’s certainly better than MobileMe). The company continues to develop iCloud and iron out various bugs.
However, much like Siri — Jobs’ other pet project during the last year of his life — iCloud plays an increasingly large role in Apple’s current plans. From getting songs on all your Apple devices to the centrality of iCloud Drive, which previously worked a bit like an Apple-branded Dropbox, iCloud can be seen throughout macOS, iOS and iPadOS today.
In 2021, Apple introduced iCloud+. This premium version of the service offered multiple storage tiers — 50GB, 200GB and 2TB — for a monthly fee. The paid version also comes with several privacy-related features, including iCloud Private Relay, HomeKit Secure Video and Hide My Email. In 2023, recognizing the increasing amount of data we store these days, Apple boosted the maximum iCloud+ storage size to 12TB.
As Apple continues to embrace its “wireless future,” iCloud undoubtedly will only play more of a role in the company’s plans.
Do you remember the iCloud launch? And do you use iCloud today? If so — or if you ditched iCloud for another service — what do you think of it? Leave your comments below.