Much has been said about Apple’s new iCloud, especially how it relates to Google’s server-based applications. John Gruber, in his post titled Demoted, puts it this way:
Google’s vision is about software you run in a web browser. Apple’s is about native apps you run on devices.
Lessien, in Thoughts on a Keynote (via Gruber), puts it like this:
Apple’s vision of the cloud makes native apps better. Others see the cloud as a substitute for native apps.
True. This rabbit hole goes deeper that that, however.
Yes, Google is the mainframe. Their applications live on the server along with the data and they use the browser as the modern equivalent of the 3270 terminal. As impressive as Google’s implementation of the mainframe vision is, it’s also very much in Google’s financial interest as a purveyor of advertising to treat the end-user device as a simplistic display. When it comes to making bank, native applications simply aren’t on their radar. Nor should they be, really.
Apple’s iCloud, on the other hand, is pure client-server. The server manages and pushes that data about, but the interesting stuff happens in native applications running on shiny iOS devices and Macs. You see where I’m going with this, of course. The better those native applications are and the more seamless it is to use multiple devices, the better off Apple’s business does.
The mainframe versus client-server debate is decades old and neither vision is really better than the other across the board. Both have advantages and disadvantages that geeks are happy to argue about ad nauseam. It’s about as useful an argument as Emacs versus vi. What’s really going on here is that both Google and Apple have incredible visionaries and loads of smart people who are implementing the vision and strategy that matches up with their business model.
In this case, it all about selling ads versus selling do-dads. Everything else falls out from there.