Last night, I updated my iPod touch to iOS 5. Lots of people had reported problems, but my update went smoothly, and soon I was going through the setup for some of the new features, such as iMessage, the iPod mapper, and iCloud. As with most Mac updates I've performed over the years, it was relatively painless and actually kind of fun learning about some of the neat new things my iPod was now able to do.
This morning, however, fun got a kick in the nuts. In my email inbox was an iCloud message, which said:
Welcome to iCloud. The Apple ID for your iCloud account is [redacted] and it’s what you’ll use to get your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, and PC set up. Just follow these instructions and you’ll be up and running in no time.
Once iCloud is set up, it stores your content and wirelessly pushes it to all your devices. For example, buy a song with iTunes on your computer, and it will appear on your iPod touch and iPad. When you snap a photo on your iPhone it will automatically be sent to your iPad. You can start creating a Pages document on your iPhone, and put the finishing touches on it from your iPad. There’s no need to dock or sync to your computer. With iCloud, it just works.
We hope you enjoy using iCloud.
Sounds innocent enough, right? But then I clicked through to the iCloud setup page on Apple.com, and was presented with this:
Hold on. Lion is required, just to use the free 5GB version of iCloud? That's not a trivial upgrade, and it’s not something I wanted to do anyway, until iCloud came around. Even worse, the Lion upgrade costs $30
But wait, there's more. Windows users also have access to iCloud. How much does it cost them to start using it?
That’s right, $0 -- at least if you have bought a new Windows PC in the last three years or so. The iCloud setup page for Windows users says, "To enable iCloud on your Windows PC, install the iCloud Control Panel for Windows (Windows Vista Service Pack 2 or Windows 7 required)". That's a bummer if you are still using an old PC with XP or earlier versions of Windows, but for the approximately half of Windows machines that have Vista SP2 or Win 7 installed, iCloud is free to try.
A much smaller percentage of Macs have Lion installed -- around 10%, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook earlier this month, meaning the owners of the other 90% will have to pay up if they want to start using iCloud on their Macs. The pain will be exacerbated by the fact that Lion is ugly and apparently unnecessary (Gizmodo: “I don’t need Lion, and you probably don’t need it either”).
As a startup cofounder, I've been thinking a lot about serving the needs of customers, and one thing that seems painfully obvious is you never abuse the trust of your core. I understand that there are technical and strategic reasons for Apple forcing Mac users to upgrade to Lion if they want to use iCloud, but it creates a negative perception when a core group of customers -- people who own Macs -- has to pay extra to use a feature that another group -- Windows users -- get for free.
Weigh in below. I'd love to hear your thoughts about this.