As predicted in this newsletter last week, Apple CEO Steve Jobs today announced the official release of a new digital storage and syncing service, called iCloud, at Apple's annual Worldwide Developer's Conference. The new service is not a general-purpose cloud to compete with Amazon's S3 or Rackspace's cloud services that allow customers to configure servers and run applications in the cloud. Instead, the iCloud service is restricted mostly to data storage and is customized to integrate with several products found on Apple's handheld computers as well as on desktop and laptop systems. A few of the new services will also work with iTunes on Windows.
Apple's iCloud appears to be a modern service designed to replace the aging and over-priced old cloud service, called MobileMe.
iCloud integrates with a number of apps, such as Contacts, Mail, and iCal, on both the various Apple handheld devices running the iOS operating system (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch) as well as with Mac desktop and laptop systems. It will sync content, including pictures, documents, calendars, address books, and music between devices, and will provide up to 5 gigabytes of storage free to all users. A sub-feature related to iTunes, called iTunes Match, will allow users to store and handle an unlimited number of songs via Apple's iCloud for $24.99 per year.
iCloud will also allow iOS handheld devices to complete automatic daily backups of your devices to the cloud.
iCloud also contains some heavy-duty security software to keep your private data just that: private. While it will easily share information with other devices you own, no one else can access your information without your authorization. However, you can optionally grant others the ability to view your calendar.
The beta release of iCloud is available now with limited features. The remaining features will come in the fall, to coincide with iOS 5′s release.
You can read more about Apple's new iCloud service in any of hundreds of articles posted today on various web sites so I won't go into all the other details. I might recommend the article by Casey Johnston published in Ars Technica at http://goo.gl/ZLDtB and the article by Darrell Etherington published in Giga Om at http://goo.gl/A2spO.
Comment: Apple is entering an arena that is already filled with cloud-based competitors. The concept of having five gigabytes of free storage space for backup copies of your documents, pictures, and movies is not unusual. Several competitors have offered similar services for some time.
However, the ability to store UNLIMITED music files for $24.99 a year is new. Many competitive services also allow for storing of music and later retrieving it on other systems but usually have a maximum storage capacity. I believe that Apple is the first to offer UNLIMITED storage of digital tunes. I have a rather large collection of MP3 files so I am especially interested in unlimited music storage for less than 50 cents a week. That's much cheaper than purchasing an external disk drive for local storage. In addition, being cloud-based, I can retrieve as many songs as I want to a second computer or to limited-storage handheld devices, such as the iPhone, wherever I am. I don't see this as a revolutionary improvement, but it certainly is a nice touch.
I'll be signing up for the new $24.99 a year service as soon as it becomes available, and will also be canceling the old, limited $100 a year MobileMe service. Apple has even promised a refund of the remaining charges to those of us who have already paid for MobileMe for up a year in advance.
If you enjoyed this article, Tweet it, share it on Facebook or on your preferred social network. Republishing of this article in newsletters, blogs, and elsewhere is allowed and encouraged. Details may be found at http://goo.gl/hoHH1.
Of course, if you haven’t done so already, you should join my email newsletter mailing list to stay current on my latest articles and announcements. You can also cancel at any time within seconds. I promise to never, ever send you any unrequested e-mail, other than newsletter updates.