First Click: Tim Cook brings a knife to a cloud fight

June 3rd, 2015

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Tim Cook is trying to carve a division in the industry by once again taking shots at Google, this time singling out its new Google Photos service. Casey Newton already dissected the speech but one quote is worth repeating here (emphasis mine):

“You might like these so-called free services, but we don’t think they’re worth having your email or your search history or now even your family photos data-mined and sold off for God knows what advertising purpose.”

This statement, in my admittedly cynical opinion, is FUD — an effort to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Cook and co. might truly believe it, but this is a thinly veiled lobbying effort to make us question the very business model of its competitors. It’s not as in your face as Microsoft’s Scroogled campaign, but it’s undoubtedly a calculated message — Apple executives don’t shoot from the hip when speaking in public on the company’s behalf.

Cook’s words are meant to sow suspicion because trust is vital in the fight for the cloud. On one hand, you have businesses like Facebook and Google that profit from an advertising-based business model (the "you are the product" camp), and companies like Apple that profit largely off of hardware sales (the "you are the customer" camp). In other words, you can trust Apple with all your data but not Google or Facebook.

Fact is, Apple is behind on web services. Its highly successful strategy of using iTunes software to create a digital hub in the home sold a lot of Apple hardware. But it also left the company woefully ill prepared to provide cloud computing in the post PC era. iCloud continues to stumble forward like a neglected toddler. Birthed as .Mac in 2002, it awkwardly transitioned into MobileMe (remember iTunes Ping in 2010?) before completely embarrassing itself with the "celebgate" scandal of 2014.

People who want privacy — that truly want it — should fight for it. Nobody’s questioning that. But many will sacrifice a sense of privacy for a better or more convenient experience.

Let me share an anecdote that illustrates values vs. convenience. A college friend of mine was what you’d call a "rabid environmentalist." She also liked to refinish old furniture because it supported her green values. However, when she struggled for hours to strip paint from a chair using citrus juice, she turned to highly toxic dissolvers that worked in minutes, not days. Convenience won. For her, the chemical solution was better even with the risks.

Arguably, Google Maps is better than Apple Maps, Gmail is better than Apple Mail, Google Drive is better than iCloud, Google Docs is better than iWork, and Google Photos can "surprise and delight" better than Apple Photos. Even with the risks.

If Apple truly cares about our privacy then it should stop talking about how important it is and start building superior cloud-based services we want to use — then it can protect us. That's how Dad did it, that's how America does it, and it's worked out pretty well so far.

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