With 250M users, Apple plans to invest much more in iCloud and other services

Amid all the talk of hardware sales and profits Wednesday, Apple’s “strategy for the next decade” was mostly overshadowed during the company’s earnings report. But Apple’s(s AAPL) iCloud is is growing rapidly and the company is continuing to pour a significant amount of money into its future.
On Wednesday, Apple revealed that it’s signed up 250 million users of its consumer cloud service in its first 15 months. That’s up from 190 million users announced during the previous quarter — Apple added more new users to iCloud (60 million) between October and December, than it sold iPhones (about 48 million). Whether everyone knows how to use iCloud and understands exactly what it does is mostly up in the air. But the iCloud is critical to Apple’s future: it handles more than a dozen core services for Apple devices, from email, Reminders, photo syncing, Documents in the Cloud, iTunes Match and much more.
Apple’s problems with its services are well-known. But CEO Tim Cook did his best to talk up their successes. He dropped a few numbers about the usage of these services across Apple’s iPad, iPhone, iPod and Mac lines:

  • More than 2 billion iMessages sent per day
  • 6 billion notifications sent per day
  • GameCenter has more than 200 million users
  • “Usage in maps is significantly higher than it was prior to iOS 6.” (Is he trying to say Apple Maps is more popular than Google Maps ever was? Seems hard to believe.)

Cook added that he “felt fantastic about how we’re doing” with these services.
That may come as a surprise to users affected by outages. But it’s a good sign that the company is also planning to build out capacity for these services. Apple said it would spend a rather astounding $10 billion in capital expenditures in 2013. Besides retail stores and manufacturing equipment, CFO Peter Oppenheimer said part of that spending would go toward “adding to our datacenter capabilities” to support the company’s online services: that means iCloud — which Apple built its $1 billion datacenter in North Carolina to handle — and also Apple’s current, and possibly future, software capabilities.