2/13/13

The Ghost in the iCloud


Apple gets a lot of flack for creating a closed platform that economically locks its users into their products.  After all, if you've already spent $200K on iOS apps, why would you switch to Android or Windows phones or tablets and have to repurchase all of that software?  It's a reasonable argument, but it totally misses the point.

I told this story at ILTA last year, so if you are one of the ten people who attended, feel free to skip ahead.  It was March 2012 and I was at the first round of the NCAA tournament.  I attended 4 basketball games over the course of about 10 hours and it was the day my new iPad was supposed to arrive. During every time-out I would check the delivery status on my iPhone.  Somewhere in the second half of the second game, I got an email saying the iPad had arrived.  I was excited, but at the same time I had hours of basketball to sit through (good problem to have), knowing my brand new iPad was sitting on the kitchen counter, neatly packaged and waiting to be turned on.  The anticipation was excruciating.

I got home well after midnight and ripped open the packaging.  I entered my iCloud credentials and chose to restore the device from an iCloud backup. The process was going to take a few hours, so I plugged it in and went to bed. In the morning I awoke excited to try out my brand new device.  I unlocked the screen, flipped through the pages, clicked on the camera app to check out the new camera and... nothing.  I didn't feel anything.  I was kind of already bored with the new device. I went down to breakfast thinking something must be wrong with me. After all, I love new gadgets and this was the greatest gadget of all.

I have plenty of old gadgets that don't work anymore and I can't bring myself to get rid of them, they are piled up in closets and drawers, but my old iPad I handed to my wife without a second thought. Maybe I was growing up?  Maybe the allure of the gadget culture had finally passed me by. But during breakfast I picked up my new iPad and launched a couple of news apps, just as I always do.  Everything was just as I left it the day before on the old iPad.  That's when I realized, this new device was still MY iPad.  It was the exact same iPad in a new shell, with an upgraded processor and a newer camera.  I wasn't bored with a new device, I was simply using the same device in the same way I had been using it for years.  It was a tool, a friend, a constant companion.  Apple hadn't locked me in economically, they had locked me in emotionally.  They had given me the gadget that would never go to the gadget graveyard, because it would never die.  It will probably outlive me.

I thought about my ILTA talk again on Monday evening, when I got home from a trip and realized I had left my iPad on the plane.  I logged into iCloud and put my iPad in lost mode.  If it happens to be turned on and walks past a Starbucks it will phone home and tell me where it is. My phone number will pop up on the screen and it will beg it's current holder to send it home to me. I filled out the airline forms, and went back to the lost and found at LaGuardia.  I even called Atlanta and Pensacola, the airports that my plane was heading to next.  As of this writing, no one has seen my beloved iPad and it's likely that we will never be reunited.

I stopped by the Apple store on my way into the office yesterday and bought a newer iPad with a little more storage.  I plugged it in, entered my iCloud credentials, and chose to restore from an iCloud backup. By mid-afternoon my friend was back.  All of the quirks and idiosyncrasies that I have accumulated over 3 years of use were back exactly as they had been on Monday. As if I had never left it on the plane.

In similar situations in the past, with say a phone or blackberry, I may have considered the economic ramifications of purchasing another product.  Not this time.  I wasn't purchasing another product, just a new portable vessel for the product I already have sitting out there in iCloud.

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