Yesterday iMessage and FaceTime were down for a while. Today it was iTunes Match (ironic, since I just wrote about it). I think it’s safe to say that Apple’s track record with cloud-based services is mixed at best, so what’s the deal? Why can’t Apple seem to make their Internet-based services as great as their devices?
MacRumors reported the iTunes Match outage this morning (it’s back) and as they pointed out, this is a paid service (I gladly pay for it). When you pay for a service, you expect it to be reliable. Sure, when iMessage goes down you can still send SMS messages. FaceTime is a little more inconvenient, but there’s always Skype. The App Store? Again, inconvenient, but not a huge deal (unless you’re an app developer of course). In the end it comes down to a core point, why? Rene Ritchie said it succinctly last week:
The elephant in Apple’s room, the wrench in their reliability, is their server-side infrastructure and its glass jaw.
Ever notice how people talk about Gmail or Facebook or Dropbox or even Twitter now going down? It’s so unexpected that people ask “Is it me or…”. When something reliable goes down, you wonder if it’s you first. What’s your reaction when the App Store or some other Apple service is down? If you’re like a lot of people I see online it isn’t “hey is the App store down for anyone else?” it’s “well the App Store looks like it’s down again”. A statement. There is no thought of “gee I wonder if it’s me” in that. Twitter was like that for years (as we all know). Now when Twitter goes down, now, it’s a surprise. In just a few years Twitter fixed that problem. Twitter saw that if it didn’t fix reliability, then they would, over time, be toast. Why bother with a service—why rely on a service—that goes up and down like a yo-yo?
Apple is in the same boat.
MobileMe? I steered clear of it, but I know lots of people who used it—and cursed it. Lost contacts, lost calendars, it was up, it was down. Apple is facing the same issues with iMessage, FaceTime, and more worrisome, iTunes Match. If you want us to pay to store our music in the cloud with you, if you want us to back up our iOS devices to you (and often pay for that too), you’ve got to be rock solid.
So, why can’t Apple pull it off—ever?
They’ve certainly got the money to buy the best facilities, connections, and talent to make all their services first class. There is the whole new data center in North Carolina (with solar power too!), so investments have been made.
I don’t understand why a service like Dropbox, which I rely heavily on has rarely let me down, but is a company that is a mere fraction of the size (people and money) of Apple, can be so solid and Apple can’t.
Hey, I don’t have the answers. Heck, I don’t think anyone has the answers. What are your thoughts? What’s keeping Apple from being as world class in cloud services as it is in devices?
Cloud picture by akakumo from Flickr.