Apple Moves to the Cloud

November 9, 2008

Understanding what is driving Apple to succeed and the direction that the CE world is moving, is all about integrating devices with the cloud/back-end.

Most people don’t understand that Apple is the leading integrator of cloud computer interface.  They have been working on this long before anyone understood the significance of the cloud.  Actually before the term “cloud” was even a glint in most Internet / computer / IT industry pundits eyes.  It dates back to before Steve Jobs re-joined Apple, back to the days of NeXT (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NeXT) where the concept of building an infrastructure / framework for using the web as a back-end for client computer was created.

WebObjects (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WebObjects) was the fundamental building blocks for the original Dell ecommerce site back in 1996 (NeXT Software’s WebObjects Adds “Muscle” to Dell Computer’s New Internet Computer Store; WebObjects Provides World’s Largest Direct Marketer of Computers with Seamless Integration of Legacy Data and Improved Site Management).  After Steve Job’s triumphant return to Apple, WebObjects matured and it became the back bone of the Apple site, from there it grew into the back bone of the Apple store and the iTunes music store and then mac.com.  Today, this technology is the basis of Mobile Me and the iPhone app store. (WebObjects was originally released by NeXT Computer in March 1996, but was acquired by Apple Inc. with their acquisition of NeXT in December of that year. –

Webobjects goes back to NeXt

Webobjects goes back to NeXt

NeXT also developed WebObjects, one of the first enterprise web application frameworks. WebObjects never became very popular because of its initial high price of $50,000 but remains a prominent early example of a web server based on dynamic page generation rather than static content. Apple purchased NeXT on December 20, 1996 for $429 million,[2] and much of the current Mac OS X system is built on the OPENSTEP foundation.[3] WebObjects is now bundled with Mac OS X Server and Xcode.)

 

Apple using webobjects based technology is what makes Apple the “cloud” leader (even more sophisticated and better positioned than Google the perceived leader of the cloud). Apple gets that the “cloud” is more than stuff stored in data centers on the web. Cloud computing is about the integration with vast amounts of data stored for you remotely and accessed by a client.

Apple gets this on a level that others, even the vaulted Google, don’t understand or have failed to master. There is more to cloud computing than having stuff accessed through a browser. It is about the seamless integration between the clients and the cloud – And people work with the clients not the cloud. Rim is further along this path than Microsoft or Google, and Apple is light years ahead.

The success of the iPod is based on an advanced “cloud” model, where the computer application and “music player” (iPod) are connected to the cloud. This is done in a way where the user doesn’t know or care that it lives in the cloud.  They know that it (iTunes / IPod) is easy to use and works – webobjects and the cloud are not even perceived as part of the iPod experience. This is the best example I know of Arthur C. Clarke’s third “law” of prediction: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

 

Apple iTunes Cloud Architecture

Apple iTunes Cloud Architecture

Arguably this the most used “Cloud” application environment on the web.  (The iTunes Store is a software-based online digital media store operated by Apple Inc. Opening as the iTunes Music Store on April 282003, it proved the viability of online music sales and is now the number-one music vendor in the United States.[1] As of June 2008, the store has sold 5 billion songs,[2] accounting for more than 70% of worldwide online digital music sales and making the service the largest legal music retailer.[3] Most downloaded files come with restrictions on their use, enforced by FairPlay, Apple’s version of digital rights management. However, iTunes has begun a retroactive shift into selling DRM-free music.)

More to come in follow up articles. 

Some links to look at:

Apple WebObjects product page

WODev – a WikiWikiWeb site for the WebObjects developers

Full acquisition/merger contract between Apple and NeXT

 

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Programming:WebObjects/Overview/History

Web application framework

Thanks for reading let me know what you think.
Ken