Like many of you, I unboxed an iPad this Christmas. After using the iPad for a few hours I picked up the box, fascinated by how tightly everything in the box fit together. As I set the box down, it noticed that on the bottom edge of the box was an iCloud logo, just opposite of the side on which the Apple logo rested. Everyone knows how sparsely Apple decorates their products, so why would they put an iCloud logo on the box? Only if it was extremely important. More important than iOS 5, the A5 processor, FaceTime, iMessage, iTunes, or the App Store. Apple didn’t put logos for any of those things on the box of the iPad, no, it put the iCloud logo and nothing else.
So, why is iCloud so important to Apple? Is it because it syncs everything? No. iCloud is so important because it not only syncs your content, but it provides the stepping stone to the continuous client experience that has become the pinnacle of usability. Continuous client, if you don’t know, is simply the ability to stop reading a book or watching a movie or playing a game or doing anything, and picking up where you left off on another device. This is something Apple has the unique ability to do better than anyone else because its devices are so popular and Apple’s famous “closed” ecosystem allow it to spread iCloud’s adoption faster than anyone else.
iCloud can help Apple make the transition to PC-free iOS devices. This is important because Apple is moving the world beyond PCs and iCloud is now the forerunner of this transition. This is only the first of many transitions that will be made in the future and iCloud can help people make these transitions easily and painlessly.
iCloud will gain more features in the future, and it also provides a stairway right up to cloud-based apps and even devices when the time is right. iCloud could make transitions to, say, HTML 5 based apps and devices seamless because rather than having to plug-in to iTunes and backup, then plugin your new device and sync for an hour, you can have not even left the Apple Store with you new phone and your apps can be downloading in your pocket from a cloud-based backup. This gives Apple the ability to drastically alter the architecture of iOS in the future and keep the transition experience for customers a good one.
This is why iCloud is so important to Apple, it is the new iTunes, the tool that they will use to make transitions buttery-smooth, and it provides the foundation for continuous-client experiences.