Off of my cloud?

The new iCloud certainly seems like a work in progress, especially the way it works (or does not work) together with the iTunes store.

Being able to use an ios device without having to hook it up to a computer all the time, forced to use the horrible iTunes app, seemed like a dream come true. At last untethered backup and shared files among iPads and iPhones. The reality has left a lot to be desired, even aside from all the original problems just getting the thing going (like where does it say that after you download and configure ios 5 to your devices you then have to open up your computer and create an iCloud account?).

It does seem to work, but even the parts that work act weirdly. It made a mess of my contacts, replacing the useful ones on my iPhone with more or less useless ones from my Yahoo Mail account. The Photostream is brilliant, but the promise of photos I take with my iPhone being saved instantly to the Cloud (something which my favorite Twit podcasts claimed did work) has not been fulfilled. I think it was Macbreak Weekly where someone said that even if the police and military of evil dictators erased photos on iPhones, it didn’t matter because they would already be in the Cloud. I certainly hope the ongoing Arab Revolt is not counting on iCloud as a quick distribution tool. My experience is that it takes a long time, easily an hour or more, before photos from my iPhone show up in the Photostream on my iPad or in my computer.

But what bothers me the most is the role of video in all of this. The pre-existing videos I had in my iPad are still there, but they certainly don’t seem to have appeared in any Cloud. Worst of all, TV programs and movies I buy in one place are not appearing in other places. I buy them in iTunes on my computer, in my iPad, and in our Apple TV, and there they seem to remain. Sometimes the Apple TV will know about something I bought, sometimes not. Generally this seems to work best with TV programs. I have one movie that I bought and downloaded to my computer that is appearing nowhere else in my Cloud of Devices. Two others are in my iPad, but not in iTunes on the computer. And none of appear anywhere in the Apple TV (unless I use Airplay from the iPad or find the computer library in the Apple TV menu and stream that way).

The Apple TV seems to know all about purchased TV programs, but not purchased movies.

Finally, the system completely fails to comprehend that users may have multiple accounts. These can be necessary for many reasons, such as family members sharing the devices and Apple TV. Lots of stuff in the American iTunes store is not in other stores. Until the launch of ios 5, there didn’t seem to be any video outside the American store. Now, the Swedish iTunes store has some TV programs, but no movies, while the French iTunes store has some movies, but no TV programs. There needs to be a global system.

On the other hand, something is better than nothing. I just found a a book I need to read in Google Books. I can put the Safari page as an icon in my iPad screen. But despite downloading the Google Books iPad app, and following the extremely hard to work out instructions to link my existing Google account to Google Books (why should I even need to do that?) the book is not appearing in the app, and the app totally lacks any way to access new books. It just wants me to download any of three free default books. Other than that, it is closed to the universe.

The help function is totally useless. So what I have previously said about iTunes seems to be true with iCloud as well. It is a terrible program, but still way better than ts rivals. (The exception might be Amazon. Anything I buy in the Kindle Store instantly appears in my iPad Kindle app, as well as our family Kindle reader. But since all the other touted Amazon Cloud functions, like video and music downloads, seem closed to those outside the US, there’s no way to evaluate how Amazon really stacks up against Apple.)

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