Apple and Google now dominate the world's smartphone and mobile device markets and both are now pushing quickly into the cloud. While Apple finally acknowledged this week the cloud as the future of computing -- and will finally allow iPads and iPhones to be set up and backed up without being tethered to a computer running iTunes -- many Google fans accurately note that Apple's iCloud doesn't bring a lot of new features to the table.
The truth is that Apple seems a little late in endorsing the cloud as the new center of our digital world. After all, cloud computing has played a growing role in the tech industry for years.
[ Get the no-nonsense explanations and advice you need to take real advantage of cloud computing in InfoWorld editors' 21-page Cloud Computing Deep Dive PDF special report. | Stay up on the cloud with InfoWorld's Cloud Computing Report newsletter. ]
Apple, however, has characteristically taken a common concept, pared it back to the core functionality the company sees as important to its users, and taken pains to deliver those features in as effortless and seamless way as possible. The result is a service that offers a striking contrast to Google's approach to cloud computing and mobile devices.
Google's Web-based approach
Google's concept of cloud computing is largely Web-based, as are most of the company's initiatives. This has some distinct advantages. Chief among them is that any device with a Web browser and an Internet connection can access the vast majority of Google services: Gmail and the related contact manager; Google Calendar; and Google Docs, where you can view, edit, and collaborate on Office-style documents. Google's system also allows you to purchase and read ebooks, for instance, or listen to your DRM-free music (once its been uploaded).
The sheer number of services that Google offers is staggering.
Although many applications can directly interact with your Google hosted data, the services are always designed for simple Web-based access. Google made this abundantly clear when it created Chrome -- a browser that prevents other companies from walling off access to Google's array of services. Essentially, Google took the Web-based cloud concept even further with Chrome OS and the upcoming "Chromebooks" that run no local applications save an OS that's really nothing but a browser.
Among the advtanages: Access to your data isn't device dependent in any real way. Yes, you can run the Docs app on your Android phone or Galaxy Tab, but you can also access documents stored in your Google Docs account using QuickOffice on your iPad or Firefox running on a PC in your local library.