Apple's storage strategy: Clear, not cloudy

It's all about selling more iPhones, more iPads, more Macs, not beating Dropbox

Apple has no plan to broadly compete in the online storage market, its recently-unveiled iCloud enhancements and new features notwithstanding, an analyst argued today.

Instead, the moves -- long called for by pundits and advanced users -- are simply more of the same in Apple's long-standing strategy to build a better experience on its own devices so it sells more hardware, said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research.

"[The idea] is to add value to their own ecosystem," said Dawson.

Others agreed. "Everything Apple does is about selling more devices," Benedict Evans, an analyst with venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, echoed on his blog last week about Apple's WWDC announcements, particularly those related to iCloud.

Those opinions were contrary to how others saw last week's announcements of iCloud Drive, price cuts to additional iCloud storage and access to files on both iOS and OS X.

During the June 2 keynote at its annual developers conference, Apple said that iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite -- both slated for a fall launch -- would be accompanied by significant changes to iCloud for end users and developers alike.

iCloud Drive received much of the follow-up attention. Seen by some as a return of iDisk, the online file hosting service discontinued in mid-2012, iCloud Drive will let iOS 8 and Yosemite users store files in the ether; allow system-wide access to documents on iOS, liberating those once held in app-specific silos; and store all photographs and videos automatically for sharing and access from any Apple device.

iCloud will also serve as the synchronization backend for "Handoff," one of the elements in the new "Continuity" initiative that also features text and phone call forwarding between the iPhone one on hand, and the iPad and Mac on the other.

Many observers couched the iCloud Drive revelations as Apple finally "getting" the cloud, and a sign that Apple would go head-to-head with the likes of Dropbox and Box, Google, Amazon and Microsoft in storage. But even as they staked out those positions, they bemoaned iCloud Drive's lack of cross-platform support -- particularly its shunning of Android -- citing that as another example of Cupertino's lack of online smarts because without said support its effort is doomed to be an also-ran.

Dawson saw similar complaints about Apple's messaging strategy in much the same way: As missing the point. "Apple has never been about creating cross-platform services," Dawson wrote in a post-WWDC blog Thursday. "[iTunes and iMessage are] both products ... [that] Apple developed to add more value to its hardware products, and should not be seen as products in their own right."

Ditto with iCloud Drive.

What's thrown off some analyses is iCloud Drive's support for Windows. But rather than view that as a step toward cross-platform, it should be seen as a concession to Windows dominance in the enterprise, a market Apple has explicitly targeted.

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