As a long time paying Dropbox customer, I'm quite accustomed to not having to to think much about saving my files in the cloud. It just happens. And so when I find myself in a situation where I have to use iCloud instead, I notice the differences.
It would seem that Apple has plans for iCloud to be the type of service customers depend on for their every day storage needs. From my experience, it's not yet at a place where I can make it a major part of my computing setup.
Application focused, not documents
iCloud is configured to fit Apple’s vision of simplified computer usage. So the file system is something not easily accessed by the user. Where as Dropbox is a complete sync of your file and folder structure, iCloud simply stores files by application and the user is not presented with the file system at all when saving or opening files.
I can admit that there are certain scenarios where this would work for me. And there are many people for whom this is adequate. But when I'm working on something that requires multiple files in different applications, I find myself wanting the “old way” to be available.
Two recent scenarios have been a trigger for me thinking about this subject again. I've been teaching adult Sunday school classes since January, so I've been using Keynote a lot. And this was about the same time that I started using Writer Pro on my iPad. The latter does not yet support Dropbox (it's coming). And while the former can make use of Dropbox and the file system on OS X, the iOS version does not.
This really hit home for me when I was at TypeCamp in January. I really wanted to go over my slides on the plane ride home using my iPad. Being able to do so was great, but the steps required to get it there were onerous.
You have to save the file to iCloud within the desktop version. Then, on your iPad, refresh the list of iCloud files. Once you see the one you're working on, open it on the iPad. Not, now only is the process less than ideal, but you lose any sort of special formatting with your slide deck. Typography being the big area where you lose out.
All of this could be overcome if the benefit of reviewing and editing my slides were beneficial enough to be done on the iPad. But because it would cause me more work in the long run, I've not made the step.
Of course, this is only one application. And as slide shows are very personalized (or, they should be), perhaps it's a poor example to use. But it's simply one of the tasks where I've actually had the desire to use the iPad as a content creation device. And the experience was lacking overall.
The example is also more on the subject of creating with an iPad rather than iCloud storage. But without the one, the other is not required at all. I've simply continued using Dropbox with my slide decks rather than iCloud. There are no benefits to do so, only drawbacks at this point.
I certainly appreciate iCloud and the amalgamation of OS X and iOS. It's made certain areas of my computing life much more lacking in friction. But the improvements have come at the same time as Dropbox (and other web services like Rdio), so it can be hard to differentiate between the improvements overall.
In the end, computing for a Mac user has been simplified. That's a good great thing.