Apple has been building a 500,000 square-foot data centre is North Carolina, US for some time now. This is the largest data centre that Apple will own once it is ready and will act as a back bone to Apple services.
Here are few options that I think the data centre will likely be used for. considering the size of the data centre is obvious that it will be used for more than one of the options mentioned below
1) iTunes music streaming
After the purchase of Lala it was highly speculated that Apple will build on their service and design a bigger and better model of online music streaming. Eventually, Apple shut down Lala’s online services in May of this year and has not given any indication that suggest that they are going to start a similar service of their own with iTunes. Considering the size of iTunes and the market share that it commands it was never going to be easy for Apple to start a similar service as it would first have to sort out agreements with record labels and get them to buy in. Though we have not seen any movement in this area and any clear indications about the service, it is one of the items that is definitely on the cards and will see light very soon.
2) Media Streaming
(Movies and TV shows)
This is one service which is definitely in-flight. How apple is playing different with Apple TV compared to Google and other services is that the other players are relying on content that is already available on the internet through either the channel or through the producer, Apple here is more likely to host all the media content on their servers and provide the facility to all partners (channels, production house). The assurance that they would have in return is that all media would be streamed from Apple’s data centre and that it would be secure and locked so that it is not possible to download and copy the rented media that is streamed through Apple, unless purchased. This would be a big selling point for Apple who would slowly be able to get a grip on the Media streaming business and eventually be a proper threat to the current Cable/dish networks. Any sort of inroads in this space would only be possible if there is enough content available with Apple. The data centre would be a big selling point for not only converting and securely storing media but also securely streaming subscribers from their own facilities where they have greater control. Currently, there are two production houses Fox and ABC that have signed up with Apple to make their content available on rent through iTunes. I would not be surprised if we come to know against the popular belief that Apple actually had chosen to go only with the two as they wanted to test the data centre thoroughly before other channels/production houses were brought on board or while the content on other channels is being processed and converted.
3) E-mail Service
As I write this article, it is very likely that facebook would have beaten Apple in the race of providing email service. Apple has never shown any interest in this space and have kept away from it all this while. But with the social media growing very strongly at global level and where facebook and twitter have a strong grip the only other space that will get more users on board with Apple would be the email space. Currently Gmail has a strong grip on the market share with its innovative and robust emailing solution but with every passing day Google is finding ways to show to the world of the different ways they are trying to get more and more information about the internet user and Gmail is just one of them. I do not trust Google with my emails as much as I did a year ago. facebook is in a similar zone. With all the security issues on facebook over the last couple of years it has become a highly unreliable company to trust with your personal data. When facebook launches its email service it is more than likely that they’ll hit a 10 million users in one week but most of them out of pressure than to actually take advantage of the features that facebook may provide on their email service. Apple is one company and I would rate Amazon to be as close that people would not have as many issues with having an email id with which they trust would be secure and would want to use as their primary account. Moreover, with iTunes accounts Apple already has a large user base that can be easily converted to email users if Apple wishes to do so. Apart from social networks, email service is the only place on the internet that can help you showcase your potential to shape user’s experience at such a large scale. It would also be possible for Apple to seamlessly integrate their email services with iOS and OS X to ensure a great user experience on both the platforms and their devices that support those platforms.
4) MobileMe (Cloud computing)
Cloud computing is a concept which is still in its infant stages. There are a few companies that have tried to shape it in different ways and have come up with their own unique understanding of the concept. Dropbox, Evernote, MobileMe, Google docs etc are a few that come to mind immediately when you think about cloud computing. Apple has already been in this space for sometime with MobileMe. The only issue with that is that they have not got it right. Right in a way that it becomes globally acceptable and becomes the norm of the industry. Apple and people related to the project may want to differ with my opinion but the fact remains that considering the time that MobileMe has been around, it should have gained atleast 100 times its current acceptance to be called relevant in this segment. MobileMe is definitely a good service if not better but has a huge scope of improvement right from design to implementation. It goes back to the same old issue of whether Apple has an understanding of virtual services on internet. They are good when it comes to hardware and experience on the hardware device but do they understand the internet well? They have shown their in-expertise again with a service like Ping which is struggling to make its way even in the iTunes using community. They need someone who is of a non engineer mindset and can look at things from a internet usage perspective who can help them shape MobileMe service in a way that it becomes the norm of industry and takes the shape of how cloud computing of the future would look like.
It is clear from Apple’s product portfolio announced in the last six months that it is the cloud they are planning to move towards with slow but assured steps. Apple TV with no storage, MacBook Air with only 64 GB storage, iPhone, iPad are all hinting towards the inevitable move to cloud storage.