Thursday, October 06, 2016

Should Apple give iCloud Storage away, a la Google?

Google and Amazon have consistently moved the needle forward when it comes to Cloud-based services. Apple, on the other hand, is a laggard; its services are plagued by outages and poor performance. Microsoft is an after-thought.

There was a time when all providers charged for personal file storage -- some did it directly, others not so much. Here are starting options with pricing from the Big-4:

1. Amazon "bundles" unlimited photo storage with Amazon Prime ($99 a year, $10.99 a month)
2. Microsoft has a free 5-GB tier, $1.99 a month for 50-GB (plan details here)
3. Google had a free 15-GB tier for all document types
4. Apple has a free 5-GB tier; for $0.99 a month, you get 50-GB

Google has upended the market with its announcement on October 4. Vlad Savov writing for TheVerge:
Endless cloud storage. Google will allow free unlimited storage for full-resolution images and videos shot with the Pixel. That's much like the standard Google Photos backup ability, but takes off the size limit and compression, even on 4K video shot with the new phone.
You read that right: unlimited, free storage, no strings attached (photos will be scanned for metadata to serve you better ads, of course).

Thomas Ricker, wriring for TheVerge feels like he is getting a raw deal:
I’m feeling like a chump after yesterday’s Google event. I currently pay Apple $2.99 each month in return for 200GB of iCloud storage — space mostly allocated to my iCloud Photos library. But my free space recently dropped to zero after upgrading all my devices to iOS 10 and macOS Sierra.
He goes on (emphasis mine) ...
Dropbox comes close to Apple’s exorbitant pricing model but Dropbox is in the business of selling cloud storage. Even then, 1TB Dropbox Pro subscriptions cost $99.99 per year. Just think about that for a second; Apple charges more than Dropbox even though iCloud storage is a fundamental requirement for the features Apple promotes to help drive hardware sales.
This is such a US-centric view. China is Apple's biggest market, and iCloud Storage related revenue in that region isn't even broken out, it's that miniscule.

He proceeds to then make this bold assertion:
It’s bad enough that iCloud’s storage pricing hurts Apple’s most loyal customers — people who want to synchronize their data across multiple iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS devices and then share it with like-minded friends and family. But the pricing also inhibits new customers from experiencing Apple devices to their fullest potential because the owners are reluctant to pay for something they were told was free.
The fact that iCloud is charging its users and Google isn't (but only for Photos), is this an unfair, even deceptive, practice by Apple? Are Apple users in crisis because iCloud usage comes with a price tag, and if they choose not to pay up they have to live with hampered functionality?

Short answer: a resounding NO.

For the average user -- me included -- the $0.99/month, 50-GB storage tier suffices. I haven't turned on macOS Sierra's iCloud Drive Sync feature. But even if I did, Google's FREE UNLIMITED storage for PICTURES wouldn't have helped me. I have more than PICTURES on my computer! If I turned this on, the next tier, $2.99 for 200-GB would be plenty. Yes, plenty.

This story, my avid readers, underscores my point that "there is a growing chasm between the tech press and users".

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