There have been a number of rumors in recent months pointing to a significant revamp of Apple's MobileMe service
, potentially including a cloud file syncing service that would let you store your documents, videos, pictures and music in a secure "locker." A newly-discovered Apple patent
gives renewed support to those reports, with a description of a cloud-based "Safe Deposit Box" that could allow you to store all your files online in an encrypted dropbox that would be accessible to all your computers, and - though it's not mentioned in the patent - iOS devices. The patent was applied for in 2009, so this could be a feature that is being readied for the upcoming 10.7 "Lion" version of Mac OS X.
File backup is one of the most important aspects of computer maintenance, and one that's a problem for a lot of users. Apple arguably has one of the best solutions out there with Time Machine, which is about as close to "set it and forget it" as any backup system. However, it still doesn't solve the problem of off-site backup, which is increasingly important to non-business users. Now that people store everything from family pictures to legal and financial documents on their computers, they run the risk that a fire, theft or other disaster at home could wipe out their irreplaceable valuables.
Apple's patent describes a "File Management Safe Deposit Box
" as a feature in Mac OS X which would let users drag and drop important files onto a "bank vault" icon. What happens to files dropped on the Safe Deposit Box can be configured by the user, but the basic idea is that they are encrypted, with the original file securely deleted and the encrypted file stored both on the local drive and on a cloud server. Optionally, you could allow access to files for a period of time before they are fully archived, so that you can view and/or make a few last changes to the files before they go into deep storage. After that point, even if someone gains access to your Safe Deposit Box they'd be unable to read the contents. Obviously, this feature would require massive online data storage, and could potentially finally give us some idea why Apple built that mysterious giant data center in the North Carolina woods.
With people being more and more dependent on multiple devices - desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets - this feature will potentially give Apple a way to brag that you can have unified secure storage for all your devices... so long as you use Apple products, of course. Reports of a "Dropbox-killer
" have been around since last year, but with desktop integration of file encryption as well as cloud sync, this feature could eclipse online solutions like Carbonite as well.
Source: Patently Apple