When Apple made the claim that that they were pushing users to enter a "PC-Free" computing experience, it was time again to break out the salt shaker. Sure, being able to set up a new iPhone without connecting it to iTunes on a Mac or PC was a welcome change, but it was also a feature that we [rightfully] felt more entitled to than grateful for. And iCloud's ability to automatically back up iOS devices over Wi-Fi is convenient, but it's also not something that impacts our day-to-day computing. Photo Stream, however, has really been a game-changer. Its ability to back up my 1000 most recent photos is peanuts compared to its ability to push all my newest photos to every iOS device I own, my MacBook, and my Windows desktop PC.
Before Photo Stream, my photos existed on islands of their own--on my phone, my cameras, and occasionally mingling in messy folders labelled "new photos" and "new photos1" on my Desktop. Now, I take a photo with my iPhone and that 8MP photo pushes automatically to every computer I own, so that when I need to edit it for a Tested post, it's already on a computer with Photoshop. Conversely, when I upload my NEX-C3 photos to iPhoto on my Mac, they're pushed to my iPad so I can show them off with ease. No fumbling of cables or sorting of memory cards required. My workflow has reached enlightenment, or at least some degree of nirvana.
Of course, products like Eye-Fi have done this for years with their Wi-Fi enabled SD cards. But like many tech innovators that eventually get overtaken by Apple, they screwed up the experience with shoddy software and never thought big enough. Photo Stream is so useful that I fantasize about it being a part of every device with a Wi-Fi connection and either a camera lens or a screen. And while it's extremely unlikely for Apple to license it out to camera makers, it's a feature that makes me wish Apple would enter the camera business themselves. Think about that. Camera makers like Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Olympus should be scared--the next killer feature in digital photography is already here, and it's an Apple product.