I have a Macintosh Color Classic sitting on a shelf in a spare bedroom. I power it up once every year or so, sometimes to recover old data for a customer, and sometimes just to play a classic game. Each time, I find everything exactly as I left it. ClarisWorks is just as capable as it was when I first used it in 1993. Likewise, all my old shareware apps are just as functional as the day they /m, were new. The only app that no longer functions is AOL.
I sometimes wonder what it will be like to use my current MacBook Pro, when it’s 19 years old. This summer’s cancellations of cloud services from Apple and Google give me some idea. Hopefully, I won’t have to reinstall anything, because all the programs that require activation via the internet aren’t going to work. Looking at the icons in my dock, I see a word processor, email client, web browser, terminal, news reader, text editor, accounting software, a very bloated music player, calendar, address book, and more. As I maintain backups scrupulously, I’m confident my data will be retrievable for years to come.
I’d be a lot less confident if my applications and files were “in the cloud.” Several of Apple and Google’s cloud offerings have been discontinued this summer. Google is closing Google Video, iGoogle, most of Meebo’s services, and a handful of others. Apple has closed MobileMe and iWork.com, in favor of their new iCloud service. Both Apple and Google have given users time to retrieve their documents from the cloud and to migrate to other services or applications. Users who miss that time-frame will lose their data. Meebo chat logs will all be deleted and it’s mobile apps will no longer function. MobileMe users can migrate their calendars and address books to Apple’s new iCloud service, but all the data on their iDisks will be deleted, along with their web sites and photo galleries.
The curious thing about MobileMe, and especially iDisk, is that it’s integrated into the operating system. If you’re not running the latest OS version, your computer is going to have menus and system preference panes that don’t function anymore. When you click on the iDisk icon in the Finder, instead of opening a window with your documents, it’s going to give you an error.
Most MobileMe services have an iCloud equivalent, but iCloud requires Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion), released on July 20, 2011. If your operating system is more than a year old, you need to upgrade or you’ll lose the ability to sync your calendar and address book, as well as lose access to every other MobileMe service. Considering Lion is only a year old, and that it drops support for many of Apple’s earlier Intel Macs, this seems extreme.
I recognize the need to discontinue support for older hardware and software, but with the cloud, the user’s situation is much more precarious than it has been in the past. When you transition to cloud services, you’re committing to an upgrade cycle determined by your service providers. When the cloud changes, you upgrade your software and hardware as the provider requires, or lose the ability to access your data and applications.
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