Game Center, which is Apple's cloud-based service for comparing game play across multiple users via leaderboards and other tried-and-true community gaming techniques, may also find its way into iCloud as a component. It may even expand into true multiuser game-playing. Game Center debuted in iOS 5 last year and will be in OS X Mountain Lion this summer -- yet another cross-device, cloud-based service that would make sense as part of the greater iCloud platform.
The WWDC theme, I predict, will be just that: iCloud as a platform that spans the whole Apple universe and will become an integral part of the iOS and OS X experience, as well as extend them into the Web.
Casting a dark shadow: iCloud as Apple's AOL
For users, this integration will very likely continue in Apple's "it just works" tradition. For developers, it further enmeshes you in the Apple ecosystem, almost in the way that America Online did in its heyday. Case in point: OS X apps can use the iCloud Documents APIs only if they are sold through the Mac App Store.
The App Store tie-in is a further sign of Apple's intent to create a closed platform. OS X Mountain Lion by default will only let you install apps from the Mac App Store, although you can change that setting to include apps signed by Apple and any apps. There's a safety reason: Malware can't self-install under that new Gatekeeper function, just as there is a safety reason for requiring new Mac App Store apps to be sandboxed, so they can't infect other apps. But this Mac App Store tie-in to iCloud also shows that Apple is intent on uniting its iTunes/App Store distribution platform and its iCloud content distribution platform.
The AOL analogy is an uncomfortable one. AOL helped the world accept the notion of going online when the Internet was a collection of arcane technologies designed for scientists and engineers. But AOL became a prison and everyone busted out to the free Internet, which had evolved to being usable by mere mortals.
Maybe Apple can straddle the two worlds, but not in as greedy and constraining a manner as AOL. After all, iOS is very open to Web apps and websites, so the App Store is not the only venue for getting the stuff you want. iTunes in OS X and Windows also lets you bring in music and videos from outside Apple's iTunes Store, and iBooks on iOS is open to ePubs and PDFs bought elsewhere. And iCloud allows basic syncing of photos, bookmarks, contacts, and calendars with Windows users. Apple's platform has doors to the rest of the world, even if the best stuff is available only to those who join the club.
As the iCloud platform becomes more clearly defined, we may get a sense of whether Apple will continue that duality to avoid the AOL fall from grace.
This article, "WWDC sneak peek: Don't let iOS 6 blind you to the real action in iCloud," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.