In part 1 of John Gruber's Epic, Only Apple he adroitly illustrates the point I was trying to land with my observations about iCloud Drive.
Gruber exploring the question 'Is Apple really the only company that can make operating systems, devices, and services, all work together in harmony?':
Here’s a tweet I wrote during the keynote, 20 minutes before Cook’s wrap-up:
Microsoft: one OS for all devices.
Apple: one continuous experience across all devices.
That tweet was massively popular, but I missed a word: across all Apple devices. Microsoft and Google are the ones who are more similarly focused. Microsoft wants you to run Windows on all your devices, from phones to tablets to PCs. Google wants you signed into Google services on all your devices, from phones to tablets to PCs.
Apple wants you to buy iPhones, iPads, and Macs. And if you don’t, you’re out in the cold.
In a nutshell, Apple is the only company with the approach of - 'We exercise judgement to ensure that our playground is better than the others you can use but, if you want to play in our playground - you'll be playing with our stuff.'
I agree with John when he says (of operating systems, devices, and services, all working together in harmony):
I think it’s inarguable that they’re the only company that is doing it
It's also inarguable that Apple is the only company that making decent choices to curate the user experience, choices that sometimes defy popular commercial logic on revenue generation.
For example, when I worked in CE, I was always dismayed by the correlation between the amount of crapware that could be put on a machine and the revenue generated. You'd expect customers to know better and reject the shabby experience but they didn't. Indeed one well known retailer took revenue from manufactures to put crapware on laptops sold in their stores and then charged customers a service fee to remove it at point of purchase. The underlying justification being that this was the only way to make a return on product otherwise sold at zero or negative margin.
So, thank God that Jobs was famous for a single minded prejudice that when it came to what customers should experience - he knew best. And there continues to be an arrogance about Apple that it makes choices to curate and shape our experience. Choices that wouldn't always make it through a focus group or the test of popular opinion or short term commercial PnL tests.
Indeed, one of the outputs from WWDC that has fired people up is a renewed confirmation that the necessary confidence and arrogance to continue this approach still exists, after a few doubts had surfaced following the leadership change.
One attribute of this multifaceted curation is Apple's prejudice toward keeping everyone inside their eco system. If you are not of Apple's pure blood linage then you can't come into the playground or, if you do, you need to stay in your closely guarded sandbox. Sometimes this is for very good reason (I trust the contacts security on my iOS devices) but sometimes, it feels like dogma or worse - monopolistic behaviour.
For my part, I don't subscribe to the cynical conspiracy theory that Apple is step by step, executing a grand plan that makes them the Buy n Large of the tech world. Instead, I think that they can be occasionally guilty of believing their own propaganda and by chucking rocks at them from time to time when they get a bit too heavy on the 'pure blood' stuff - I think it helps keep them honest.