Apple Confirms Major Cloud Deal With Its Fiercest Rival, Google

Apple has confirmed it stores iCloud data from desktop and mobile devices on Google-operated servers, the first time it’s publicly acknowledged a formal cloud arrangement with the search giant.

In publicly available iOS security documentation updated in January, Apple said it uses “third-party storage services, such as S3 and Google Cloud Platform” to store the data.

The document, last updated in March 2017, formerly also mentioned Microsoft’s Azure, but the change in language doesn’t necessarily indicate Apple has stopped using Azure.

The update was first reported by CNBC, and confirms earlier reports dating back to 2016 that Apple was using the Google Cloud as a way of reducing its reliance on Amazon’s S3.


At the time the deal was said to be worth between $400 million and $600m (£286m to £429m).

S3 is part of Amazon Web Services (AWS), the leading cloud infrastructure provider.

The fact that Apple has disclosed its cloud deal with Google only in an obscure reference document is unsurprising, since Apple is one of Google’s fiercest competitors in smartphones and other areas.

In 2015 Apple chief executive Tim Cook criticised Google for a business model that relies on mining users’ cloud data for “god-knows-what advertising purpose… We think, some day, customers will see this for what it is.”

At the time he said Apple believes “the customer should be in control of their own information”.

As far back as 2009 analysts pointed out that Apple and Google were competing head-on for revenues related to mobile data.

But the new document suggests Apple isn’t above making deals with rivals who employ such apparently questionable tactics when it suits its own ends.

Apple’s data centre in Viborg, Denmark, announced in 2015. Credit: Apple

Data centre buildout

In the passage that mentions Google Apple also goes into some detail on the AES-128-based encryption methods used to protect the user data stored with the likes of Amazon and Google. Apple says the data held with third parties doesn’t include personally identifiable information.

Apple also operates its own data centres, notably including a £1bn facility planned for Waukee, Iowa and another near Denmark’s border with Germany, its second in the Scandinavian country.

Apple uses the data centres for iCloud data as well as that from iTunes, the App Store and its Siri digital assistant.

How well do you know the cloud? Try our quiz!

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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