There are no shortage of cloud photo services, but none of them have $159 billion in cash lying around. Until now.
At Apple’s developers conference, the company drew back the curtain on iCloud Drive, a cloud storage service to rival Dropbox, Box and others. Like those services, iCloud Drive can store all manner of digital files — photos, documents, PDFs, etc. It will have dedicated apps for iPhone/iPad users to access stored content and to upload files (like photos) on the go.
If you use a Mac, iCloud Drive will be integrated into your Finder just like any other local folder. PC owners will also be able to access Drive on their desktop like a local folder.
Apple plans to offer 20GB of storage for $0.99 a month or 200GB for $3.99 a month. These prices are roughly in line with the industry average (Google, for instance, charges $2 a month for 100GB of cloud storage).
Nothing in iCloud Drive is revolutionary. Remote file access, syncing across devices, integration with a PC’s file system — these have been available from Apple’s competitors for a few years now. But Apple has something these competitors don’t: the aforementioned $159 billion in cash.
Why is this important? Because it’s a massive insurance policy.
The biggest problem with cloud storage today isn’t functionality or the cost of storage. It’s the concern that the company that’s housing your digital life will go out of business. (It happens frequently.) Box lost over $160 million last year. Dropbox reportedly burns through $25 million a month. Anyone willing to bet a lifetime of baby pictures that these services are going to last a generation or more?
Though Apple hasn’t made this link explicit, the giant pile of cash is a quiet reassurance to iCloud users that the company isn’t going anywhere — that your digital life is in good hands. Even a spectacularly mismanaged company would have a hard time going out of business with $159 billion in the kitty (and Apple, for now, is definitely not mismanaged).
Of course, Apple could botch iCloud Drive, but if you’ve been on the fence about storing your photos and videos in the cloud (especially if you currently use Apple products), I’d say Apple just made you an offer you shouldn’t refuse.