updated 04:30 pm EDT, Wed March 23, 2011
Apple becoming 'differentiated services' company?
Based on a talk with Apple executives, Apple's North Carolina data center should finally come online this spring, says Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi. The facility was originally scheduled to come online by the end of 2010, but was delayed for unknown reasons. Apple executives later claimed a new spring target, but until now there had been no subsequent update on progress.
Speculating, Sacconaghi proposes that the unusually large data center could help transform Apple from a hardware company into one based on "differentiated services." Some predicted changes include much more intensive download services, potentially impacting video, e-books and online ads in the same way Apple affected music and mobile apps. The company could for instance offer video streaming, either by competing with Netflix or buying it outright, Sacconaghi argues.
Other suggestions include cheap music streaming, possibly at $5 a month, or rumored cloud sync and storage through an overhauled MobileMe. Using its takeovers of Siri and PlaceBase it's thought that Apple could finally offer an iOS equivalent to Android's Google Maps Navigation.
One factor that may have delayed the data center is the sudden death of the project's director, Olivier Sanche, in November. Sanche was particularly experienced, having done streamlining at companies such as AT&T and eBay.