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Apple iCloud Isn't the Answer for Businesses

Stocks in this article: AAPL

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Apple (AAPL) may be relearning the old Madison Avenue saw that nothing kills an average product faster than great marketing. To wit, Apple's latest attempt at online file sharing and storage: iCloud.

Earlier this week, largely overshadowed by the -- let's by honest here -- disappointing iPhone 4S news, Apple formally announced iCloud, a mostly music- and photo-sharing tool aimed at consumers that puts the same songs and photos on all your iPhones, iPads and iPods.

For personal music and photo sharing, the new iCloud is a nice add-on, but for business collaboration it's weak.

All well and good, save one thing: The patented Apple hype machine got so huffed and puffed that a larger notion got loose in the business wild -- that iCloud would somehow be the business-ready upgrade of Apple's first flawed mobile sharing service, the simply awful MobileMe. iCloud, the word was, would enable work-oriented content sharing for files, contacts, emails and calendars.


I want to officially report that yes, those functions do work; at least in the beta of iCloud you can share a file or email. But I also want to report officially to business users that you should be very skeptical about using iCloud as a legit sharing and syncing tool in your shops.

Here's why:

iCloud is mostly an Apple thing. While PCs are nominally supported, iCloud is really all about sharing content from one Apple device to another. It gets that song from your iMac to your iPhone, and for Apple fans, it's great. I plan on using my 5 GB of free storage to get my favorite Jimi Hendrix clips from my iPad to iPod. Love it. But, as of now, there is no support for Google (GOOG) Android, BlackBerry (RIMM) or Windows (MSFT) Phone devices. And honestly, that's a deal breaker. You cannot put up that kind of hardware wall in your business merely to be able share some files. It's suicide.

iCloud's business syncing capabilities are not clear. While the service is perfectly capable of sharing files, contacts and calendars, at least from what I have seen, it is still uncertain how it handles versions of that content. Especially for larger groups, I have doubts about the robustness of the service with heavily group-edited, version-intense documents. And considering how much time and effort truly collaborative players such as Google, or SugarSync have put into this sort of mega-group sharing, Apple seems to be offering -- at best -- basic collaboration features. If you want cutting-edge collab, iCloud is not it.

The mobile Web makes much of iCloud redundant. Here's the real back breaker: I already share my documents, emails, calendars -- and tasks, bank accounts and other business data, by the way -- on my iPhone, iPad and iPod. As well as my PC, BlackBerry PlayBook and other hardware. Without iCloud. I, like millions of other businesses, already use a mix of off-the-shelf, readily available, low-cost or no-cost tools to get stuff on Apple gear. So while iCloud has some nice direct integration with Apple devices -- the music sharing, for example, is pretty darn slick -- I don't see myself going through the agony of unwiring my current tools just to use it. Particularly when more robust collaboration tools for businesses exist elsewhere.

Bottom line
I have to say, Apple lost me with iCloud. For my personal music and photos? It's a nice add-on. But it does not fill a clear niche in the business collaboration mix. iCloud is a proprietary technology that offers limited functions, many of which are already offered by competitors.

On a larger level, if iCloud is supposed to be Apple's answer to online content, I have to wonder if Apple really has an answer to online content.

I know I won't be using iCloud in my "ioffice" anytime soon.

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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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