Documents in Apple iCloud – Is SharePoint the only Enterprise Class Cloud?

June 19, 2014

Perhaps you, like me are often fascinated by the inane You Tube videos where somebody, who really believes we need to know his name, will start a clip with “Well, here’s the Premier Model 234/5 model II.  I’ve been waiting for this bad boy for some weeks.  Now I’m going to unbox it and show you the box and wrapping paper it came in”.

I mention this because it’s always difficult to know how much detail one should include in any report.  After all, I could just say, “Apple’s iCloud.  Works for documents with anything made by Apple and with Microsoft Windows”.  That about encompasses it.  However, the devil was in the detail and there are a couple of features and points I should cover.  Hopefully, without describing the cellophane and the box in which,  it actually never came.

My background comes as a Microsoft SharePoint and Office365 user. Although SharePoint was in the back of my mind, rather than a comparative review, I wanted to just use Apple’s iCloud to gauge for whom this might be best suited.  Is it an enterprise class tool, small company or home user?  Hands-on usage is far better than a feature comparison.  Other than a couple of ‘Hello World’ documents, I had never used the iCloud in anger and so I found it interesting when used in earnest.  For that reason I decided to actually write this blog on the various computer devices.  I have started on the Apple 11” Macbook Air.  It was easy.  Launch Apple Pages.  Choose a suitable template. Type a few words and when you just click Save to Cloud the jobs done!  Now lets see how consistent the formatting is across platforms and how easy is it to actually use.

What devices do I have to hand? (Do rhetorical questions end in a question marks?)  I have a Macbook Air for travelling and an iMac 27” on my desk.  Unsurprisingly, I also use an iPhone.  I also have, amongst other items, the following computing devices.

Apple iPad mini

Nokia 1020 Windows Phone running Windows Mobile

Samsung Android Ace 3 running Android 4.2.2

Samsung 7” and 10” tablets running Android 4.1

Lenovo 13” Yoga Windows laptop/tablet running Windows 8.1

Microsoft Surface RT

No cheating here.  I’ve just switched seamlessly to the iMac on my desk.  Frankly, that was pretty cool.  Certainly, we all knew it would work as such but never really needing to do this meant I never bothered to do this before.  Perhaps we all knew it would work seamlessly, Mac to Mac.  However, I never thought about how slick it would be.  You could almost type alternate characters if both keyboards were side by side.  Can you?  I made this statement based on just starting on a different computer but is that statement actually true.  I had better find out.

I’m glad I used the caveat ‘almost’  because it isn’t true.  You can type on one, close the document and open it on the other.  That’s fine.  If you keep both computers open at the same time the application does quickly establish that the two versions are not in sync.  The application then invites you to choose which version you want to keep.  I have a small niggle about that.  In my experience, the occasions when you are most likely to lose data are the times when you are invited to make a choice as to which version you want to keep.  Invariably, at that moment I’m not sure in which version the updates are contained.  Indeed, even if I elect to keep both versions, a merry dance will ensue as I try to locate the differences and paste them into my ‘Highlander’ version, because in the end, there can be only one.

Story so far.  If you want to just work on your own and use more than one computer this is proving very good indeed.  Let’s contemplate now using the iPhone.  Would I want to add a page or two?  Probably not but perhaps a thought just came to me and I wanted to add a couple of paragraph headings to jog my memory later.  Maybe, I just learned that what I typed yesterday needs a quick fix before I forget.  I can see where being able to get at the self same document could be useful.  I also believe that the words ‘self same’ are critical here.  It’s really not as good if my efforts create yet another version.

Well I just got going on the iPhone. There weren’t any deep set problems, only that I wasn’t connected to the Internet when I fired up Pages, so I couldn’t see the document. Having fired up the Pages application, once I established that I didn’t have a web connection it was plain sailing. So far so good. It does raise an interesting point on Smartphone document composition etiquette. Should I try and proof read as I go along or should I simply bash it out and fix it later. When I first had an iPhone, I regarded the “Sent from my iPhone” as a piece of self aggrandisement. Look at me, look at me. I have an iPhone. I deleted the footer immediately to avoid being branded as an iPhoney.  Later when everybody had an iPhone I reinstated the footer as a kind of apology.  Sorry about the poor grammar and typos but this was “Sent from my iPhone”.

I’ll skip my iPad. Let’s take it as a given that it will echo the experience of my iPhone which was good.  I’m off to find my Windows laptop.

Well I’m now on the Lenovo Windows 8 computer.  It’s a full Windows laptop so to access the same document in the cloud I have to get to www.icloud.com and then run the Cloud beta version of Apple’s Pages application.  Very clear, very easy.  This actually is quite interesting in one aspect.  As a straightforward word processing application this is quite a good experience.  It is responsive and very similar to the Apple native application.  On the Mac, the Pages application is a good page layout application but I’m not doing a review of the web based application, just the collaborative experience on the document in the cloud.  Although I skipped the iPad as a clone of the iPhone,  I think I’ll give the Windows RT a spin since there might be more capacity for variation.  Just before I move on though I shared a link to this document. That’s actually quite helpful since it’s a link and not another flaming copy.  I even considered emailing myself because it makes it crystal clear which document I’m working on. Finally, because I’m on a Windows machine I have decided to download a Microsoft Word version of the document so far.  On course, it will be a snapshot of the document at this point and so will have missed these last two sentences.  You’re probably getting the drift by now that I hate multiple, not quite the same, versions of the same thing.

Well the Surface RT works in a manner, pretty identical to the Windows 8.1 laptop.  However, the RT computer is quite a bit slower running the Pages Beta application.  I’m no typing speed demon but I’m a tad faster than the application can keep up with.  Not much, but it is a little clunky.  I also had to change the font size to cater for the smaller but similar resolution screen. No doubt, if I were living in a Windows only world I’d have chosen the Microsoft Office application. Nevertheless it works, and works well.  I certainly wouldn’t have any problem adding a page or two to a collaborative document.

That’s the Apple and Microsoft computing hardware covered.  Now to test are the non-iOS smartphones.  The Nokia Windows phone and the Android tablet and phone.

I’ll cut to the chase here.  As far as Windows mobile and Android are concerned, you might as well forget it.  On the Nokia I did manage to get into iCloud but apart from mistakenly lumping two documents in a folder and opening the wrong doc, I didn’t actually manage to achieve anything useful.  The Android fared even worse.  On trying to log on to my iCloud account, a sad cloud face logo informed me that my browser did not support iCloud.

Guess I should have read the small print.  Apple says….

iCloud requires iOS 5 or later on iPhone 3GS or later, iPod touch (3rd generation or later), iPad, or iPad mini; a Mac computer with OS X Lion v10.7.5 or later; or a PC with Windows 7 or Windows 8 (Outlook 2007 or later or an up-to-date browser is required for accessing email, contacts, and calendars). Some features require iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks. Some features require a Wi-Fi connection. Some features are not available in all countries. Access to some services is limited to 10 devices.

Summary.  It’s really simple.  If you are an Apple user with one or more Apple devices, iCloud is brilliant.  If you additionally use Windows as well as Apple, iCloud is a very sound choice.  If you want to add to the mix Windows Mobile and or Android, forget it.

And is it Enterprise Class?  Well yes and no.  An IT department in a large corporation is unlikely to deploy this as its sole collaborative tool. However, Apple’s iCloud’s classy seamless interface means it’s a super product for an individual or even small team to use as a personal tool especially since they can save a final document in Microsoft Word format and then save it to, say, Microsoft SharePoint.  I do want to consider collaboration versus archiving in a later blog.

So where next?  I’d say that as I’m a Mac user, iCloud has just cemented a place on my desktop but perhaps not an exclusive place.  I guess in my quest for ubiquity I’ll have to move along.  Blog number 2, using Microsoft Office and Microsoft’s Cloud solutions.

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