At WWDC Monday, Apple's finally gave us a glimpse of its first true cloud storage service, iCloud Drive. iCloud was once just a place to backup your photos, address book, and website logins, but with the release of Mac OS X Yosemite this fall, it'll morph into a full-fledged cloud storage service; one where you can backup any type of file, including PDFs, plain text documents, and Excel spreadsheets, and then access it from your iOS and Mac OS devices, and Windows computer.
This iCloud Drive won't sound revolutionary to anyone who already uses Dropbox or Google Drive to backup their files, but it's a big step for Apple. Now, the company can start to edge out these third-party services because it's own cloud storage option will be built into its existing computers, tablets, and phones.
When it launches this fall, the service will be baked into Mac OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 as desktop and mobile apps, respectively. Just like competitors Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box, iCloud Drive's desktop apps will live in the file system, where you can easily drag and drop any file into the Drive folder to save it to the cloud. You can create sub-folders in your iCloud Drive main folder, and organize that space however you want.
On iOS 8, there will be a dedicated iCloud Drive app where you can view and download the files you've backed up from your desktop. You'll also be able to upload new files from the mobile app as well. Apple touts that everything syncs across all of your devices with iCloud Drive, so if you edit a PDF on one machine, that file will be current everywhere. Again, many other cloud storage services do this already.
The iOS iCloud Drive app is the first time Apple is giving us a desktop-like cloud storage experience with folders on the iPad and iPhone, and from the mock-ups I'm seeing, the experience looks clean and easy to navigate, on both mobile and desktop.
It's not the best cloud storage for everyone
For Apple users, iCloud Drive is a great first step into cloud storage, if you've never used that kind of service before. If you're largely devoted to Apple, and use a Mac at home, an iPad on the go, and carry around an iPhone, but use a Windows machine at work, it make sense to put your files in iCloud Drive.
However, if you've already put your files into another service, like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, or even Microsoft's OneDrive, don't bother with iCloud Drive. Maybe after I spend some time playing around with the service, I'll change my tune, but for now I don't see the point in making the switch to a service that's not available on at least Android, Windows, Mac, and iOS, like so many other cloud storage options are.
Free storage and pricing options for iCloud Drive are a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, iCloud Drive costs only 99 cents per month for 20GB, or 200GB for $3.99 per month (international pricing, and prices for storage tiers up to 1TB are yet to be determined). One the other, you only get 5GB of storage for free. To put those stats in perspective, Microsoft gives you 7GB of free storage in OneDrive, and charges just $25 per year for 50GB. Google Drive gets you 15GB for free and it's $2 per month for 100GB.
There's no denying that Apple is behind its competition in cloud storage. Dropbox, Google, and Microsoft have all come before it, offering affordable storage options across many platforms for the last few years.
While Apple has an advantage in that iCloud Drive will come with Mac OS X and iOS, which makes it readily available for anyone who wants to use it, I think it's going to have some trouble getting people to open their wallets for a service that's not truly cross-platform.