iOS 8: Apple works to further push iCloud as the future of the file system

iCloud Image

When Apple introduced both iOS and iCloud, its goal was to eliminate the classic file system found in Mac OS X and make synchronization so seamless between devices that it “just works.” Nearly three years after iCloud’s introduction, Apple is still moving closer to this goal. The company is working on a pair of new iCloud applications for iOS as well as improved tools for developers to build iCloud-infused applications, according to sources with knowledge of these initiatives…

PreviewTextEditMockup of TextEdit and Preview iOS icons (created by Michael Steeber)

Apple is developing versions of the Mac operating system’s Preview and TextEdit applications that are optimized for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The applications are said to not be designed to actually edit PDFs, images, or text documents. Instead, the apps are built to serve as tools to view Preview and TextEdit files stored in iCloud by OS X. Apple added iCloud synchronization for Preview and TextEdit with OS X Mountain Lion, but has not yet released iOS counterparts to actually view the synchronized content.

The applications are said to still be early in development, but they are being considered for release later in the year. It is currently uncertain, but still possible, if the new pieces of software will be ready to ship with the upcoming iOS 8.

Instead of using fully functional Preview and TextEdit applications on iOS, users will be encouraged to use the PDF management and editing functionality in the free iBooks application from the App Store and manage other documents via the iWork suite’s word processing application Pages. The apps will also bring improved feature parity between the two Apple operating systems.

The development of the new applications comes as a benefit of Apple Senior VP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi’s restructuring of Apple’s OS X and iOS development teams over the course of the past year, according to sources. These people say that Federighi has opened the previous iOS and OS X feature development silos and that all iOS and OS X software engineers work in tandem on both operating systems. Prior to these changes, for example, an OS X team would develop the TextEdit and Preview apps completely separately from the larger iOS group, who could, independently, develop versions of Preview and TextEdit for iOS. Now each application is managed by single groups that develop both iOS and OS X versions.

In addition to working on new iCloud applications, Apple is said to be researching new iCloud storage tools to make the development of server-integrated App Store applications for iOS simpler. Developers have long complained that building App Store apps that rely on iCloud is a complex and unreliable process. This potential future initiative would be designed to resolve those issues. The future developer tools, which have been tabled by Apple engineers in the past, may never ship. However, Apple’s research in that Parse/Facebook and Amazon-dominated space is nonetheless intriguing. If launched, Apple’s new iCloud development tools would allow developers to further take advantage of Apple’s vision of the future of software file systems.

In addition to new iCloud functionality, Apple is actively developing a standalone iTunes Radio app, new Maps app, and Healthbook activity tracking software for the next version of iOS.

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  1. David Levi (@dvdlevi) - 9 years ago

    How about upping the ante and making 10 GB the new free storage option? :-o

    • fjpoblam - 9 years ago

      Precisely! All this iCloud strategy is well and good, but until Apple bumps the freebie space a bit, it’s impractical.

    • yuniverse7 - 9 years ago

      I feel the same way, but even 10GB is low. With current competitions and looking ahead, it should at least be 25GB, IMHO.

    • Jonathan Henry Muller - 9 years ago

      I think Google has established that 15GB is the new free minimum and they just dropped their prices so that an additional 100GB is just another $24/ year. The $20/yr I’m paying for my additional 10GB of iCloud storage seems way off base. I love how well iCloud just works, but I have a 64GB iPhone, how am I supposed to keep my backups under 5 GB? And I have an iPad that I have to share that 5 GB with? At the very least, it should be an allotment of space per device, not per person.

      • gustavopolitano - 9 years ago

        It makes a lot more sense that the allotment should be per device. If someone has just an iPhone and I have 3 or 4 Apple Devices, it seems unfair that me and the person have the same free space considering that I’ve spent so much more on Apple products.

  2. I think that Preview and TextEdit should be integrated in Notes and Photos apps in iOS

    • Mike Knopp (@mknopp) - 9 years ago

      Oh please, no! Having PDFs stuck into the Photos App would be worse then sticking them into the iBooks App. As if Photos aren’t cluttered enough with any graphics image on iOS that has nothing to do with actual photos.

      If Apple is going to do away with the traditional file system then they need more specialized apps to deal with files not more generalized.

      Now, Notes and TextEdit are so similar that I wouldn’t have a problem with that. They are pretty much the same apps.

      • Agreed. The Photos app should remain focused on photography. Notes and TextEdit should just be merged. Preview should be renamed to Loupe and have similar functionality across both platforms.

        One can hope the overlap in functionality forces Apple to put some serious effort into solving document sharing between apps.

      • ilma630 - 8 years ago

        Do away with the file system? iPhone & iPad have never had them. Call me a luddite, but I want my local file system. Its fundamental to inter-app communication. This is why I now use Android and will not go back to Apple.

  3. Kenny Yin (@iOSight) - 9 years ago

    Feels weird to see these apps coming to iOS but it’s good to have more choices.
    Now, what about making AirDrop work between iOS and OS X?

    • Douglas Brace - 9 years ago

      I won’t use iCloud until it is compatible and feature-identical with Windows. Not everyone works in only OS X and iOS. That’s why I use Dropbox. It’s an independent company that offers a service for all the major platforms.

      • Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

        You know this will never happen though, so why even bother to say it? It’s really just a backhanded, insulting way of saying ‘I ain’t changing and you can’t make me.’

      • robertsammons - 9 years ago

        You could argue that brings a lot of features to Windows, even iWork now

      • gallowaycreations - 9 years ago

        For me it’s not even a cross-platform problem: in my workflow I continually open the same document in multiple applications — images in different graphics editors, spreadsheets in Excel/Numbers, word processing docs in Word/LibreOffice… even for just the Numbers documents I need to share with co-workers, iCloud falls short. I can’t see it serving more than a fraction of my needs any time soon.

    • It’s been rumored. Makes sense they do it now that they have the same software team working on both.

    • acslater017 - 9 years ago

      That would be sweet for quickly transferring files without having to plug in and sync.

  4. mikhailt - 9 years ago

    How about Finder, so I can select the file to open in other apps instead of depending on their limited apps.

    I don’t frankly care for TextEdit/Preview, GoodReader is so much better than Preview and Apple will never make it as good. There are plenty of good text editors.

    Apple should just stick to improving their iOS and iLife/iWork apps before expanding to create more apps. They’re clearly incapable of doing everything at once with the disaster of iOS 7.0, limited ’13 iWork update, bloated iTunes and slowly outdated Safari.

    • Mike Knopp (@mknopp) - 9 years ago

      You really don’t get it do you?

      They are trying to come up with the system that replaces the Finder, not simply graft the decades old paradigm on top of iOS.

      Personally, I find it admirable. And with some improvements and additions I think that it could be a great thing.

      First, they need to expand and better implement tags. Think about email programs, how outdated and limited does Outlook’s folder structure seemed compared to Gmail’s tags? Extremely backwards feeling to me. A lot of emails fit into more than one structuring category, so why should I be limited to picking only one?

      Next, they need to find a way to implement a better hand off between silos. This is probably the biggest weakness of the whole system. When I work on a graphics image I might pass it between a few different apps. I don’t want nor need multiple copies of the same image stuck in each silo. There needs to be a check-out/check-in system implemented. Therefore, the silo for each app could be linked with restrictions to a central silo for file sharing.

      Finally, at some point they need to implement some sort of file/tag protection. I can lock a folder and everything in it on my Mac. I need to have that capability on this new Finder-less filesystem.

      Implement these things and I think that Apple will have a winner of a new file management system that will make the older “folders” paradigm seem outdated and limiting.

      • Michael Perry - 9 years ago

        What you’re suggesting seems frustrating from a day to day usage perspective. I want to see my files, I want to know where they are located, I want to be able to organize them so it makes sense. Hiding them behind apps just doesn’t make logical or organizational sense. You mention image editing as an example but what happens when your project isn’t just a simple image that you’re keeping track of on the go? For example for any given projects, I have several images, so PDF’s, several drafts of different blurbs and informational word docs all pertaining to the same thing. It get’s hard to track ‘on the go’ when I can organize all of the files that pertain to a particular project or topic. As ‘older folder’ paradigms go, it is the best way to handle multiple file situations the span file types/formats. Tagging isn’t going to fix it UNLESS you still have a ‘Finder’ type of solution so you can see all files and ‘tags’ rather than only being able to browse within a specific app files or ‘tags’ with the file type that the particular app you’re using can read. Hopefully that last sentence makes sense? The fundamental premise is there though… people group things together that are logically connected to each other especially when consider that so much hoopla and effort goes in to making an iPad more than a consumption device but an actual tool to work on the go. It will never be more than a glorified consumption device until it allows you to group work items together (like in a scenario listed above) in a way that you can see everything pertaining to a particular project all together. There has to be a way of knowing that if for every project I know I need 3 Images for the cover page, 2 word documents with different content, a PDF mockup of everything all together, and maybe an embedded video for the online version of the content etc… I can group those things together so when I’m running out the door I’m not going into and out of 8 different apps to see if the documents are there… I can instead just open a folder (however outdated that might be) and see that, yup I have all 7 files I need.

      • mikhailt - 9 years ago

        Mike, none of what you suggest is going to happen with Apple focusing on creating more apps to silo your data in. There are apps already to handle your PDFs and text files, just let them handle it, and Apple can focus on providing the metadata tagging system that we both want.

        They do not have the resources to do everything at once in the rapid pace of development we need them to do. They barely can finish iOS and iWork properly.

        Apple have to focus on your improvements first before they release the rest of the apps to show off what the tags system can do.

        Finder is an app to look at your data and your organization structure, that’s all. You can change the overall file system underneath it but the app has to remain to let you access your data. The idea is that YOU own the data, not the apps in what Apple is doing lately.

        I absolutely get the concept of a virtual metadata+tag system, where tags along with metadata determines how you manage and organize your data.

        I love the idea of using tags to organize your data where the OS no longer have to do any silly movements of file but rather returns results based on the tags or metadata you selected such as “show me images created last week which has my cat ‘steve’ in it”.

        Tags + metadata replacing the concept of physical drives, folders, and so on. I do get it.

        However, the problem with what Apple is doing, isn’t doing anything to benefit this concept.

        Apple is siloing all the data within the apps itself. Each app is sandboxed from each other, you cannot open an app and type in an tag to find the file to open. Only the app itself have control over your data, not you.

        Creating Preview and TextEdit only strengthen the app’s control of your data. I can’t open Preview and type in to find all PDFs on my devices, ones I’ve already stored in GoodReader or iBooks. The only way to make this possible is switch to the app that owns the files and then see if you can get it to open in Preview. Just to be clear, the app ITSELF must be coded to lets you open the file in other apps. You do not have control over this.

        Oh by the way, Google’s tags ‘hack’ is the worst implementation I’ve ever dealt with using their service. It forced me to switch to Fastmail to remain with the proper IMAP standard and sticking with the regular folders. This let me actually have a consistent experience across all platforms.

        The idiotic BS duplicate emails with the tag, “all mails”, craptastic experience across all boards is not the proper way to dealing with tags. This is definitely not the implementation I want Apple to base their own implementation on.

        Google tags are a hack on top of outdated standards that was never meant to work with tags. We need a modern 21th century email standard to be able to handle tags better, a JSON-based API might do the work.
        The web server has all of the emails, your email app will connect via API to download the JSON files. This would allow APIs to evolute over times quickly, so apps can switch over to API v2, v3 and so on.

        For now, Apple needs to focus on establishing a proper foundation before they put on apps on top of it and the foundation must allow us to have total ownership of files first, not the other way around where apps have ownership of your data.

        Heck, I don’t even care about Finder, Spotlight itself can serve as the organization system. Imagine, I open an app but drop down from the top to ask Spotlight to find all PDFs and I select it to open in the current open files.

    • johnmfoley (@johnmfoley) - 9 years ago

      I think there’s a chance that these two apps, Text Edit and Preview, could serve as a finder app more or less. Imagine that text edit syncs with iCloud but also gives you the ability to view any text file of any app on your device. Same with Preview for any image or pdf file. Then you can select these to sync with iCloud and have them on any device. Or you can select the file to open with any compatible app–not just the one used to create it.

      Alternatively, maybe apps would have to have a ‘Share to…’ feature for Preview and TextEdit. That way if the app does not have a Mac app to sync over iCloud with, it could still sync via these native apps. This is a little clunkier implementation but probably more likely.

  5. themis333 - 9 years ago

    Reblogged this on Taste of Apple and commented:
    This would be an interesting feature…

  6. Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

    I just flat out don’t believe this.

    It makes no sense at all for Apple to be making two new apps for iOS that are essential, yet exist as merely passive ‘viewers’ of content. This is the worst kind of functional duplication considering that ‘Notes’ on iOS already does 9/10ths of what ‘TextEdit’ on he Mac does.

    It makes somewhat more sense for ‘Preview’ to exist on iOS but again, not as merely a viewer. This is because Apple has not yet seen to provide a decent PDF reader or editor on iOS and the fact that you have to put your PDFs in iBooks is just insane from the get-go. Thus PDF readers are one of the most popular categories of third party iOS software.

    If you said that Notes will be deleted, that a version of TextEdit for iOS will take its place, and that PDF support will be taken out of iBooks as an iOS version of Preview is released instead … THAT makes some kind of sense.

    • irelandjnr - 9 years ago

      You’re making a lot of sense, but I don’t see Notes getting removed from iOS. Taking PDFs out of iBooks and having a fully useable Preview app as your iOS PDF viewer and editor makes sense. And then having the iOS version of Text Edit with 100% the same functionality as the Mac app with a document viewer inside it also makes sense.

      • rahhbriley - 9 years ago

        I think considering recent companies acquired and some other rumors going around, Apple will potentially be trying to do some “Evernote-y” type things and better integrate Notes, Reminders, and possibly Calender. Who knows what an App melded together of these things would be called, but I could see Notes in its current (and rather outdated) form being removed/changed. I take this in consideration when I read Mr. Grey’s comments, and think he has a good perspective.

  7. iCloud will never successfully replace a traditional filesystem as long as they don’t release a Finder for iOS.

    People are used to organising their files in folder structures. It’s simple and it works efficiently. While Apple’s alternative to use tags in each file is innovative, I don’t regard it a real solution. Creating a sufficient number of tags (or even creating sub-groups of tags) in the end ends up no different than a folder structure. It’s just different semantics.

    Finder has the advantage that you see your files (say, the contents of a specific folder) in one location and you don’t have to run each app to see if there’s any files in there under that tag.

    Apple seems pretty hard-headed in their perspective on the matter and they don’t seem to realise that real people work otherwise. Or maybe there’s security constraints they need to set straight before they release something like that. Either way I have very low hopes in seeing this happen.

    I love my Google Drive and I think it’s a marvellous tool. It’s a realistic solution for keeping my files in sync between OSX and my iOS devices. Am I using iCloud? Hardly at all. Only for testing purposes and for very limited stuff. I’m only happy with it syncing my iOS-only stuff.

    • oomu (@oomu) - 9 years ago

      Tags allows to see the same files in different categories with others logical related files. It’s very convenient.

      Still I agree with you iOS needs some kind of central repository allowing to manage documents by projects/tags.

  8. Isn’t it preferable to use the iCloud web interface, where you have easy access to all of your iCloud synced apps in one place, rather than having to jump around using separate iOS apps on your iPhone/iPad?

  9. taoprophet420 - 9 years ago

    If they add stand alone apps for preview, text edit, iTunes Radio ,and healthbook there will be to many standalone apple apps. You download iPages, Numbers, and Keynote , find iPhone then you will have 2 pages of apple apps. The new apps would have to come in utility and productivity folders to make sense and not take over the phone with seldom used apps.

    I already hate iTunes Store, Videos, Music being separate apps now an iTunes Radio app to go with Podcasts. 5 apps for something that should be one app or 2. Radio being the only one that makers sense being a desperate app. Podcasts being part of the radio app would make sense.

    Apple’s file system for iOS seems to be 2 dozen Apple apps. Why can’t preview be part of the photos app or iPhoto or iBooks or Pages. Again why is even iPhoto a separate app, why can’t iPhoto be the photos app.

    Clusterf_ck is all I can think of all these apps with that can be combined I to one app. Notes and Reminders should be one app. No wonder the software teams don’t have time to do finish osx and iOS on time anymore.

  10. fjpoblam - 9 years ago

    For the apps that are compatible (many and growing) Dropbox does just as well.

  11. Winston Philip - 9 years ago

    oddly helpful paragraph about management and silos.

  12. herb02135go - 9 years ago

    The egg mcmuffin photo has me drooling.
    Or should it be MacMuffin? With Java, natch.

  13. Remy Konings - 9 years ago

    How about the patents they bought from Maya Systems. They fit nicely when i comes to the system of tagging and creating not only a file system based on maps but on much more then only a name.

  14. Remy Konings - 9 years ago

    The Iamorganized patents*

  15. Robert Quintanilla - 9 years ago

    I think if preview becomes dropbox-like, i could see a huge benefit…there are many media and documents that just dont fit well with the standard apps, i love how apple has structure the docs to be organized with the app that uses it but what if I want and uneditted word doc, pdf or mp3 or home video backed up on iCloud. They currently could be fit but i think the potential of preview could better solve of those questions. idk

  16. Vic (@vbroido) - 9 years ago

    Those iOS icons are a joke right?
    Or the guy who designed has missed the upgrade to iOS 7.

  17. Rob Lewis (@GRobLewis) - 9 years ago

    IMO, this is the real impact of moving to 64-bit CPUs in iDevices: the available virtual memory space is massive. Apps can be built to work the same whether their data is stored locally on the device or on iCloud: it “just works”. In effect, the iDevice’s local memory becomes a cache for iCloud. And with all those addresses available, why not dedicate some to commonly shared and widely used data, such as maps, weather, etc.?

  18. aaronkrahn - 9 years ago

    Reblogged this on Aaron Krahn and commented:
    I’m looking forward to this happening when it does.

  19. Dylan (@DylJur) - 9 years ago

    iCloud is not a feasible files system replacement without the free amount of storage larger. I don’t expect to be able to place my videos on it, but alongside my iPhone backups, Keynotes and pages documents can get up there in size. The current 5gb is not good enough when i have tons of other free options such as google drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, box, and many others to use instead of paying Apple’s crazy iCloud prices.

  20. iCloud doesn’t make sense for documents on the Mac today. Google Drive and Dropbox make sense. They are essentially the same as iDisk except reliable, fast, and don’t crash the Finder.

    Here’s a use-case scenario that outlines why iCloud for documents today doesn’t make sense on a Mac. If I use iCloud to store my documents on a Mac and my Mac breaks down and I borrow someone else’s computer while mine is being repaired, it means that the computer I borrow has to be a Mac for me to access my files (unless they happen to be iWork files, in which case I can go to—these, as far as I know, are the only iCloud documents that can be accessed outside of a native Mac application). But not only do I have to borrow a Mac—I would have to set up my own user account on the Mac, set up iCloud documents, and then open the app I created the document in. What if I didn’t remember which application I created the document in? What if this particular computer didn’t have that application installed?

    This scenario happened to me recently, but thankfully I wasn’t using iCloud documents on my Mac, so that when I borrowed a Chromebook, I could go onto GoogleDrive and see my documents, whether I made them in Pages, TextEdit, Preview, Word, etc.

    I can see what Apple is trying to do. It’s just either not ready yet, or it’s not open enough. Although, I know not making it open (as in, seeing a repository of your files) is their whole point. They want the Mac to be like iOS, but even more, they want this invisible file system to be shared between the Mac and iOS. It works for specific use case scenarios when things work out right. And it’s bandaged a bit by having iWork access online. But that’s just for three applications.

    Adding every single application available on OS X to iOS just to add interoperability seems like a very inelegant way to make something intended to be elegant work.

  21. Anthony Dodd - 9 years ago

    As a lifelong Mac user I’m getting a little weary of iPrices. For instance, my wife loves her MacBook Air but all she really needs is an iOSish Chromebook made by Apple. The real ones go for $300ish, but Apple could get away with charging $500. And $500 would be over $600 less than the MacBook Air.

    I mention this because I think this will be the ‘big’ product that takes everyone by surprise. Call it an iOS Book. You know that Retina Display fanless MacBook Air rumors speak of? I think it’s an iOS Book.

    Similarly, have you seen this HP Slate 21 thing? It’s basically an iMac-ish Android desktop ‘device’ with a 21 inch screen — for $399 or less. Remember that rumor of a much larger iPad? It could be an iOS Desktop. A lot of customers would be happy with an iOS Mac for the same $500 clams.

    I could be wrong but I think this is where everything is going. Which is why iCloud must get up and running REALLY REALLY well ASAP.

  22. Ed Smith - 8 years ago

    Every time you buy an iDevice and connect to your account your storage should bump by the size of that device, not least because many of use iCloud to back up.

    I have 5 iOS devices and all have their own Apple ID ICloud account for back up and the same one for Apps and ITunes. I use Dropbox for shared files and syncing where I can…..

    Yeah 5GB is pathetic.