by Will Robertson (@Willr123)
On the first of the month, Apple quietly released its long-awaited iCloud service into beta. While officially (the front-page claimed that) only developers could have access to the still-in-development features, a lucky few users on the internet reported that trying to login multiple times would, on occasion, result in a successful login. I was one of these lucky few, so I’ve decided to pass the experience on to you.
One of the big surprises of iCloud comes before you’ve even logged in. If you incorrectly enter your password or try to log in but aren’t a developer you get an error message. What’s curious about this error message is that it’s done in the same iconic blue rectangle that appears on notifications in iOS. I almost tapped my screen when that popped up. Furthermore, once you have logged in, you are presented with 5 iOS style icons: Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Find My iPhone, and iWork. It’s strange that Apple would choose to use to use these mobile alert and icons for a web platform. Perhaps this new development implies something about the direction Apple plans to head in for the future, which Lion also seems to be hinting at.
The Mail, Find My iPhone, and iWork functions were not currently available to me, however Calendar and Contacts worked fine. The interface for both Calendar and Contacts looked nearly identical to their Lion iCal and Address Book counterparts.
To actually use the services you have to have installed the iCloud beta extension, currently only available on the Apple’s developer portal, which I was able to access and download the extension. The changes the download makes are subtle. There’s no dedicated application, but rather an option to add an iCloud account under the Mail, Contacts & Calendars section of System Preferences. From there you have the option to sync Mail & Notes, Contacts, Calendars, Bookmarks, Photo Stream (if you have the updated version of iPhoto), something called Back to my Mac (which currently does not work for me), and Find My Mac (Which will uses wi-fi networks around the Mac to geolocate it if ever lost or stolen).
However, one of the most exciting features of iCloud, the ability to sync between your Mac and iOS devices, is only available to devices upgraded to iOS 5. Sadly, I have been unable to update my phone to the new OS, so I suppose I’ll have to wait until iCloud is ready for open membership.
The beta offers a sneak preview of the bold new direction Apple is taking with storage. But, while the iCloud service is exciting, as much of it’s content is currently unavailable, I think we’ll all have to wait until the full service is revealed to truly see all its possibilities.
P.S. The error icons for iCloud have some great personality! Check them out on MacRumors.