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Apple working to boost cloud services with new, consolidated platform - report

Apple's North Carolina datacenter

Apple has reportedly embarked upon a long-term internal project to unify the infrastructure that powers cloud offerings like Siri and Apple Maps, a sign that the company has begun to view services as a strategic lynchpin moving forward.

Each of Apple's cloud services will eventually run atop a core platform based on the one designed by the Siri team, according to Amir Efrati of The Information. That effort —  which is likely to take years to pay off —  will be headed by engineering manager Patrick Gates, who came to Apple with the acquisition of NeXT in 1997.

Right now, services such as iCloud and Apple Music run mostly on discrete, purpose-built platforms that are largely incompatible with each other. This is an artifact of Apple's longstanding policy of building silos around individual groups and teams, but that model has not worn well in the cloud era.

In particular, it has caused problems with cross-service integrations and made adding features to complex offerings like iCloud difficult, Efrati notes.

Migrating to a single, common platform is the latest sign that Apple has begun to shift away from that pattern under the leadership of Tim Cook and new engineering heads Craig Federighi and Dan Riccio.

Cook first nodded in this direction when he gave then-OS X head Federighi control of iOS —  promoting him to senior vice president of software engineering in the process — in the wake of Scott Forstall's departure. Cook then expanded longtime industrial design czar Jony Ive's brief to include user interface, and eventually appointed Ive chief design officer with broad purview over everything from font selection to Apple Store architecture.

Consolidation continued with the hiring of Angela Ahrendts to run retail operations. Ahrendts gained control of both online and brick-and-mortar retail sales, which had previously operated as independent groups with different reports.