Apple job postings indicate iCloud will target app-based web services rather than web clients

Posted:
in Mac Software edited January 2014
Speculative reports that Apple will throw away all of its existing web services in the transition from MobileMe to its new iCloud service appear to be reinforced by the company's job postings for iCloud web engineers, which describe web services but make little mention of web clients.



Apple presented iCloud as a new Internet service during the keynote presentation of its Worldwide Developer Convention last week, profiling nine different services that build upon portions of its existing MobileMe services but appear to erase the existing service's web clients, which provide direct browser access to email, contacts, calendars and shared media.



In with the new



Apple's current iCloud marketing materials make no mention of web clients for mail, contacts or calendar. The new product also seems to entirely replace MobileMe's other web clients such as Gallery (for sharing photos and videos via the web) and the company's iDisk and iWork.com services (for sharing large documents via the web rather than email attachments) with native app-integrated web services rather than a web client used within a browser.



Instead, iCloud portrays Contacts, Calendar and Mail as a push service for native apps, making no direct mention of a web client alternative to using iOS apps, Mac OS X apps, or Outlook on Windows PCs.



MobileMe's Gallery photo and video sharing appear to be completely replaced with the new Photo Stream component of iCloud, which immediately populates photos and videos to other mobile devices, Mac or PCs, and Apple TV as they are captured. Despite the presence of web-based sharing features, Photo Stream appears to be an app-based cloud service, with no elaborate web client in the model of MobileMe's Gallery.



MobileMe's iDisk and the short-lived iWork.com service similarly appear to be replaced outright by iCloud's "Documents in the Cloud" feature, which is designed to work not just with Apple's own iWork apps but third party developers' apps as well, enabling users to synchronize document edits across their devices and computers, and share them with others using a similar web-based URL link rather than having to email attached documents, a feature that originated with the iWork.com service in 2009.



While iCloud also appears to make some use of web-based sharing and event acceptance related to calendar invites (shown below), there has been no detailing of full web clients for calendaring, contact management, or email access.



Along with other new iCloud components related to syncing iTunes media, Apps, and iBooks purchases and maintaining wireless backups for iOS devices (part of a shift in strategy to support "untethered" iOS devices that don't require being plugged into a PC running iTunes), there appears to be no publicly detailed, web based component of Apple's iCloud service at all.







Out with the old?



This apparent shift patterns the company's evolution of online services from its initial origins starting with iTools in 2000. That service provided a suite of web based services ranging from "iCard" greeting cards to "iReview" profiles of websites to "HomePage," an entirely web-based publishing service.



Two years later, Apple scrapped most of its iTools services and rebranded its online services as a paid new ".Mac" program providing the same email and web hosting of iTools alongside a cloud Backup tool. Apple later added a web client for email in 2006, followed by a Web Gallery app for posting photos and videos online. Apple also released iWeb as a Mac app to eventually replace the HomePage web app for posting content online.



In 2008, Apple again rebranded its online services as MobileMe, dropping a variety of less popular services (including an online .Mac Groups collaboration tool and a web client for accessing synced bookmarks) and launching new web apps for Mail, Contacts, Calendar built using the same SproutCore technology that had been used to build Web Gallery. That service was also rebranded as Gallery under MobileMe.



Since opening the iPhone App Store, Apple has delivered a variety of custom iOS apps for accessing MobileMe services, including iDisk and Gallery, as well as adding the new "Find My iPhone" service, which introduced both an iOS app and a web client for locating and remotely contacting or securely wiping a missing device.



Is the web missing in iCloud?



Apple's current focus for iCloud appears to target native device apps rather than web clients, suggesting that the company will discontinue most of its suite of web apps next summer when MobileMe is scheduled to terminate.



However, the company is still listing multiple job postings that detail "the development of software systems to support existing and new product features" of MobileMe, requiring experience in the "development of scalable Web 2.0 Applications in Java in a Unix environment" as well as knowledge of "HTML, CSS, Javascript, Ajax, JSON, Prototype, Scriptaculous" and web servers, web application servers, and web development frameworks.



The company also lists an active position for a site support engineer for MobileMe capable of supporting users and testing, among other things, "new feature implementations associated with MobileMe."



At the same time, Apple is also recruiting multiple iCloud Java Server Engineer positions that demand a "minimum of 5 years experience designing, implementing and supporting highly scalable applications and web services in Java," as well as an "iCloud C++ Server Engineer."



That position details required experience in "designing, implementing and supporting highly scalable applications and web services in C / C++ on Unix platforms," as well as knowledge of Apache and event driven HTTP servers such as lighttpd and nginx (two high capacity web servers that are used to power high transaction services such as Google's YouTube and the PirateBay).



Apple's web-like security in native apps tied to web services in contrast to web apps



All of Apple's new iCloud job postings describe "web services" as opposed to web clients, indicating that the company intends to migrate from web-based tools to native apps, leaving the web component of iCloud reduced to a more faceless background service that talks directly to apps rather than attempting to support direct access via a browser.



Such a strategy would reduce the company's efforts required to develop and maintain feature parity between its MobileMe web version of its existing native apps such as Mail, Address Book, Calendar and Gallery, enabling it to focus on native iOS and Mac apps instead.



Such a strategy would be directly opposite to what Google, Microsoft, and other vendors of consumer cloud offerings related web services have detailed. Google has focused all of its energies toward making the browser a suitable replacement for native apps, positioning Chrome OS and web-based apps as the eventual goal of the company. Microsoft recently revealed that the next major release of Windows would jettison native Windows APIs and instead offer a Chrome-like layer of web apps optimized for direct touch interfaces.



In contrast, Apple has progressively moved toward enhancing and securing the environment for native apps on both iOS and the forthcoming Mac OS X Lion, introducing new features that will allow users to install apps that are restricted by the system from engaging in malware behaviors or from accessing any user or system data without the express permission of the user, two features that originated in the sandboxed environment of the web browser.



Two years ago, Apple surprised many industry observers by releasing iWork.com as a tool for sharing documents directly from iWork apps; many had predicted that Apple would release a web client version of its iWork apps to compete directly against Google's Docs and Microsoft's Office 360 suite of web apps. Today's iCloud appears to be an extension of that strategy, moving even more aggressively to make iOS and Mac apps the focus for sophisticated app development rather than targeting the web itself.



Not everyone agrees that Apple will actually abandon all or most of its web apps however. Mac blogger John Gruber of Daring Fireball wrote yesterday, "I would wager that, sometime between now and 30 June 2012, iCloud will offer a web interface just as good as if not better than MobileMe?s (and quite possibly, under the hood, based on MobileMe?s). They just haven?t announced it yet, and if Apple hasn?t announced it, they won?t talk about it."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 29
    Well, native app versus cloud app. Guess which one is more attractive? Remember, both can utilise cloud data. Cloud app may be convenient but nothing beat native app on a light MacBook Air and plenty of juice. Besides, this will open up the Mac Store to developer to offer choices and thus generate traffic and income to both.



    Plus, people easily forget there are still 11+ months away for something else to happen before MobileMe will be gone forever. Stop predicting with thin evidence already..
  • Reply 2 of 29
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    I agree with Gruber, I don't see why Apple will get rid of having a browser-based option. In fact, I will go even further and predict a browser-based version of iTunes to access their music (if not other media) from a web browser. If you have iTunes Match you will then be able to stream your music from Apple's servers to your work PC, for example.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Splash-reverse View Post


    Well, native app versus cloud app. Guess which one is more attractive? Remember, both can utilise cloud data.



    I've stated on these boards many times that Apple and others have been using "the cloud" for years. Usually I get ridiculed when i say that so you better watch out; some here think "the cloud" is only for accessing from a web browser.
  • Reply 3 of 29
    sheffsheff Posts: 1,407member
    I gotta disagree with Gruber on this one. I think that apple is going native on this one, quite literally, and that the days of web interface are gone, because native apps on mobile devices is what apple does best.



    Currently I use google for mail, contacts and calendars, but all of those are already synced up with iCal, Address book on both Mac and iDevices. So I've had "iCloud" in a form of "gCloud" for a while now, and with exception of backup and some itunes features, I wont even notice the update I think.
  • Reply 4 of 29
    If I stop and think, the most I use mobile me web apps for is to share product builds with a business partner. I use ios and mac native apps that are synced automatically. It doesn't get any easier than that.



    With millions of people slated to take free iCloud accounts, developers are going to be able to easily sync preferences and documents in the cloud, of course assuming a person has an always connected lifestyle.



    I've used gmail since it's inception but that faded out as I stopped caring to access the web-based mail clients. However, with features like Find My iPhone and Find My Mac, you can be sure there will be an iCloud website to access.
  • Reply 5 of 29
    dick applebaumdick applebaum Posts: 12,505member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    I agree with Gruber, I don't see why Apple will get rid of having a browser-based option. In fact, I will go even further and predict a browser-based version of iTunes to access their music (if not other media) from a web browser. If you have iTunes Match you will then be able to stream your music from Apple's servers to your work PC, for example.



    I've stated on these boards many times that Apple and others have been using "the cloud" for years. Usually I get ridiculed when i say that so you better watch out; some here think "the cloud" is only for accessing from a web browser.



    Yes! iTunes is probably the best example of people using the cloud without thinking about the "cloud" -- it's just an app on my computer where I store my content and buy my content -- not that confusing Internet thingie!



    There is no reason that Apple or some 3rd-party developer couldn't carve up some of your iCloud storage and present it as an iDisk equivalent -- though I doubt they will.



    A browser-based iTunes in rather easy to do -- though they will need to replace XML with a more efficient transfer protocol.



    I suspect that you will be able to access most iCloud features through a web browser -- though less-capabily than with a native app on the iDevice, Mac or PC.



    I would not be too surprised to see Apple release a Windows version of the iWork Apps.
  • Reply 6 of 29
    firefly7475firefly7475 Posts: 1,502member
    So much wrong with this article



    The cloud strategies listed are wrong. Google have web apps (Google docs, gmail etc). Apple have the client side which interfaces with the cloud. Microsoft are in the middle, they have local apps which interface with the cloud and limited web apps when the client side isn't available (see Office 2010, Live Essentials, WP7 etc)



    IMO Apple with do the same thing with iCloud eventually and add in some basic web app functionality.



    Microsoft didn't jettison the native APIs for Windows 8, the actually haven't stated what they are doing. All that was mentioned was HTML5 was used for the tile based UI... and saying that using HTML5 for a client side UI makes it "ChromeOS like" shows a complete lack of understanding of what ChromeOS is!



    It's Office 365, not Office 360... and it's not a set of web apps. It's primarily a hosted service for Exchange/SharePoint/Lync. Last time I checked there was the option to actually select client side licenses for Office 2010 (which interfaces with the cloud) as a part of the package. (EDIT: From Wikipedia "Office 365 includes the Microsoft Office suite of desktop applications and hosted versions of Microsoft's Server products (including Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, and Lync Server), delivered and accessed over the Internet, in effect, the next version of Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS).")



    I think there were more things wrong in the article, but I'm typing this on my iPhone... So I might come back later and have another go
  • Reply 7 of 29
    mennomenno Posts: 854member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Splash-reverse View Post


    Well, native app versus cloud app. Guess which one is more attractive? Remember, both can utilise cloud data. Cloud app may be convenient but nothing beat native app on a light MacBook Air and plenty of juice. Besides, this will open up the Mac Store to developer to offer choices and thus generate traffic and income to both.



    Plus, people easily forget there are still 11+ months away for something else to happen before MobileMe will be gone forever. Stop predicting with thin evidence already..



    What's more attractive? both.
  • Reply 8 of 29
    djames4242djames4242 Posts: 497member
    Apple had better not completely abandon its web apps. Many (if not most) of us spend our days in an office where Internet protocols such as imap and pop are blocked. If Apple no longer provides a webmail interface, I'll be forced to give up my .me/.mac addresses. I'm not going to use my iPhone to tap out replies to my personal email!
  • Reply 9 of 29
    Ah yes, well if the living god Jon Gruber says so, his will be done.



    This entire article should come with a diagram, the changes are that confusing. (Not a criticism.)
  • Reply 10 of 29
    I couldn't get into this article because the basic premise felt so illogical. Apple is hiring iCloud web service people, therefore Apple is dropping all their client facing web apps. How does that follow? Was there a story about firing their current web client developers that I missed?
  • Reply 11 of 29
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,131member
    No



    Web access is essential. I can add calendar data much faster through a browser. With Web access I can go to a friends computer...login to MobileMe and upload content to my iDisk.



    iCloud without browser access is a neutered product. If a Mac/PC is just another device (demotion) then I need to have as many Mac/PC connected to my network as I need. I can't always be guaranteed to have my iPhone in my pocket or iPad in my bag.
  • Reply 12 of 29
    tbelltbell Posts: 3,146member
    I agree. I use Google's Gmail web interface because while I am at work I am not going to type on my iPhone when I have a large screen computer in front of me with a full keyboard. I will switch to Apple's service again (after abandoning when Apple started charging for what used to be free), but I will need a web interface.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by djames4242 View Post


    Apple had better not completely abandon its web apps. Many (if not most) of us spend our days in an office where Internet protocols such as imap and pop are blocked. If Apple no longer provides a webmail interface, I'll be forced to give up my .me/.mac addresses. I'm not going to use my iPhone to tap out replies to my personal email!



  • Reply 13 of 29
    cameronjcameronj Posts: 2,357member
    Uh... wouldn't Apple already HAVE plenty of web developers for that aspect of iCloud, and only need to hire new people for the new stuff? Hello?
  • Reply 14 of 29
    jmmxjmmx Posts: 341member
    To not have web access to email would be insane! and only slightly less so for document storage.



    I was at a conference last year and needed to update a file to submit. The iDisk had automagically synced so I was able to fix errors at the hotel on their PC. Saved the day.
  • Reply 15 of 29
    myapplelovemyapplelove Posts: 1,515member
    Good article Dan, and I agree for a change with jg here, though I don't like the guy and his site, he's right here.
  • Reply 16 of 29
    matrix07matrix07 Posts: 1,993member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    I agree with Gruber, I don't see why Apple will get rid of having a browser-based option. In fact, I will go even further and predict a browser-based version of iTunes



    If there'd be no browser-based, iCloud will be a big FAIL. This may be news to Apple but the majority of Windows users didn't access their e-mail through Outlook. They accessed it on the net.
  • Reply 17 of 29
    matrix07matrix07 Posts: 1,993member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    MobileMe's Gallery photo and video sharing appear to be completely replaced with the new Photo Stream component of iCloud, which immediately populates photos and videos to other mobile devices, Mac or PCs, and Apple TV as they are captured. Despite the presence of web-based sharing features, Photo Stream appears to be an app-based cloud service, with no elaborate web client in the model of MobileMe's Gallery.



    I can't see how Photo Stream can replace Gallery. I think most of the users will opt for multiple Apple ID: one for iCloud (personal) and one for Store (family). Who's gonna want to buy app or music for each of family members? If this is the case then Photo Stream is useless for sharing service even though it can share to AppleTV because that AppleTV will more likely be tied to family ID anyway.
  • Reply 18 of 29
    apfelapfel Posts: 29member
    We don't need Web Apps. We need security. We need Client Side Encryption. And Client Side Encryption and Web Apps will not work (or the key has to be in the Cloud = failure).
  • Reply 19 of 29
    bregaladbregalad Posts: 816member
    I don't think Apple is going to completely remove web access. They'd have to be insane not to realize that people sometimes have to access data using someone else's device.



    Photo sharing is rendered virtually useless if the only people who can see the photos are those who know your Apple ID and password. Or is Apple truly saying that we all need Flickr accounts so grandma can see the kids?
  • Reply 20 of 29
    mgl323mgl323 Posts: 247member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by matrix07 View Post


    If there'd be no browser-based, iCloud will be a big FAIL. This may be news to Apple but the majority of Windows users didn't access their e-mail through Outlook. They accessed it on the net.



    I agree. Hopefully Apple doesn't overlook browser-based iCloud. Joshua Topolsky wrote an interesting article about iCloud.



    http://thisismynext.com/2011/06/13/i...strategy-flaw/
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