I like the idea of cloud based systems and I try hard making them work for me. But the truth to be told, I have not found a single one that is in 100% working order. I tried Apple’s iCloud Service, Microsofts Skydrive and Google Docs. I have issues with any of them.
Apples iCloud is basically useless for Documents unless your remaining platform is entirely on OS X. The calendar and contact information synch well, but iCloud adds new calendars to your beloved Outlook. The problem within outlook is, that any automatically created calendar entry, whether that is an ical attachment or is triggered from an external application such as gotomeeting, go to the default calendar (which is not being synched with iCloud). So unless I manually re-enter my appointments they are not synching.
Talking about synching: Microsoft offers 5 GB free synched skydrive space for documents. That is actually enough for all my personal word and excel documents that I possess. Even better, Microsoft recently introduced a Skydrive App for apple users with 50 GB additional space. One would think that I can now synch my documents to the cloud and access them on my iPad, iPod or iPhone. Wrong! The Skydrive App on iOS does not display any synched folders, it just shows manually created folders. So unless you maintain all your documents manually, you don’t get all your data in synch. That makes synched drives basically useless unless you are just working with PC’s in the post PC era.
Even as accessible document storage the Skydrive has limited use. I published recently our personal annual review of the year and provided links on facebook to friends and acquaintances. You were not able to open the link to a PDF documents from any iOS (iPhone, iPad, etc.) device, neither in Safari, nor in the designated facebook app. The only way to access them on iOS is via SkyDrive (of course only as long as they are not in a synched folder).
Now, even if you get now all the documents into the cloud, try working with them. I got a pretty sophisticated Powerpoint presentation, that is interactive with Sub presentations and things like that. You can actually open the Powerpoint presentation on Skydrive, but you cannot run it. You cannot even show it, since most of the slides in the presentation are hidden and only accessed by clicking the navigational buttons I created in the Powerpoint presentation. Neither editing nor presenting is something that you can do well.
My 10 year old 5th grader is not participating in a pilot program in elementary. On their 10 year old iMacs, they are now being exposed to Google Docs. I took the opportunity this summer to document a school project he had been tasked with using google docs. We created a project description on how you can weave a bread basket from a horse feed bag. We edited the document and it looked nice, but unfortunately printed completely different than what it looked like on the screen. Terrible! Don’t get me even started on how they display word documents, or what they look like when being converted to google docs format, it makes matters just worse.
So, outside of basic storage, and sometimes even not that, Cloud based office solutions are not reliable, they don’t work and you still need all your bulky desktop applications to do anything with the data. I am equally disappointed with all the major technology providers, nobody has done it right yet, not even the Apple folks.
Here are my wishes for next year:
Dear Technology providers, Leave us all alone with half-baked software solutions that promise everything, but turn out to be useless!
Merry Christmas and a happy new year!