Steve Jobs recent iTunes 10 announcement provided a number of clear signposts as to the future of Apple’s music and video services. As with many other multi-media content providers, this future is marked with one word: cloud. Since this announcement, I’ve been considering what the implications of this migration are and the impact it will have both from a professional and personal standpoint. In fact, I went a step further than considering and actually tried to live within the cloud for a weekend. I have to confess, living in this bubble proved harder than I thought.

From a work standpoint, the cloud is well established. There already exist a number of strong online tools that enable effective productivity. These include:

As long as you have a reliable broadband connection, the cloud presents a brave new world of online productivity and sharing, enabling you to work with colleagues across the globe. However, it’s the question of connectivity that underpins the foundation and ultimately success of the cloud, particularly for personal use.

I noted in an early blog post the current explosion in bandwidth demand for online multi-media services, whether it be sharing videos on YouTube or listening to music on Spotify. These services live entirely within the cloud and there success depends on the users’ ability to connect. As I found over the course of the weekend, this connectivity is anything but consistent.

As iTunes prepares for a move to the cloud, I began to wonder if I was ready to move from an ownership and local storage model to a rental, streaming concept where I have nothing to store and backup, or indeed own. Although it sounds liberating, I couldn’t help but look at my CD collection and wonder if I was ready to say goodbye? I decided to put it to the test and subscribed to Spotify’s monthly package. For a small charge, Spotify provides me with streaming music to any device, including my iPhone.

Although music-on-demand sounds good, I was immediately met with two limitations: music choice and mobile connectivity. The first point can be overlooked, as Spotify’s library is growing daily and once iTunes is available in the cloud, the music variety will be significant. However, the question of mobile access is enormous. Like many people, I mostly listen to music on the go. However, I was unable to do so with Spotify. On a train journey from York to London, 3G connectivity is fleeting at best and the WiFi provided onboard is certainly not consistent enough to stream any form of media. As such, I had to travel with no music.

One of the most exciting promises of the cloud is video-on-demand. The BBCi Player has achieved significant success here, at least in the UK and is soon to be joined by Google, who is in the final stages of launching its first set-top box that will enable access to Google TV straight to your TV.

As I’ve recently bought a new television with a built-in Ethernet connection, I thought I’d spend Saturday night seeing what the cloud could offer. I was impressed that I could access BBCi Player and catch-up with some of the latest programmes. I was also keen to note that I could access YouTube and other video sharing sites. However, I found less success when I tried to stream a movie. The experience resulted in a number of errors, delays and ultimately threats from my wife.

Overall, the weekend showed mixed results. From a professional standpoint, it looks promising, but on a personal level, there is clearly a lot of work to be done. Some believe that the infrastructure required to effectively capitalise on the cloud’s potential is over 10-years away. Would you agree? What obstacles do you foresee? What’s more, are you ready to move to a cloud-based future and wave goodbye to local storage? I’d appreciate your views.

I will be discussing some of these issues at 360IT and will post an update later in the week.