From mid morning until around 3 PM EST on Thursday, most of Apple’s iCloud services, including Mail, Calendar, and Find My iPhone were offline in some regions. Apple wasn’t the only company with cloud service outages this week, but yesterday’s major iCloud outage couldn’t have come at a worse time for the company.
First of all, after disappointing iPhone sales last quarter, Apple’s growing services business is seen their best hope to replace revenue growth from a leveled-off smartphone market. However, for that growth to continue, Apple has got to prove that they can compete with the likes of Google, Dropbox, Amazon and others. If they can’t, that current growth won’t last. Service outages will undercut consumer confidence more quickly than anything except possibly a data breach.
Second, Apple is likely less than two weeks away from rolling out two brand new service offerings. If all of the mounting rumors are true, they will be unveiling subscription services for video content and news. With Apple already finding a lot of growth and success in music streaming, these two new offerings represent their next best shot to turn their service business into the profit engine that the stock market is hoping for.
Again, the timing of this iCloud outage is really unfortunate for Apple. They still have a week and a half between now and their event, so the negative attention should die down a little. iCloud wasn’t completely offline worldwide and Apple did manage to get it back up and running normally within a few hours. Still, the last thing Tim Cook and company want to have hanging over them on March 25 is concerns about their ability to deliver the goods.
Yesterday’s outage isn’t the end of the world for Apple in a vacuum. If this remains an isolated event, then it won’t cause them too many problems. However, even if this was a one-off, it is still a reminder that Apple has plenty of work to do. Their competitors are well-entrenched in cloud services and most of them have a broader infrastructure already in place. If Apple is really serious about making a big play in services, things like this outage can’t happen anymore.