After months of speculation and rumors, Apple has finally unveiled iCloud to the world. Touted as a replacement for MobileMe, iCloud is designed to make life easy for users to keep all their devices in sync. Be it their iPhone, iPad or Mac computer – iCloud will make it easy to share files among all your devices. A change to one device will be reflected almost instantly on your other devices as well. Steve Jobs took to the stage and gave a detailed explanation of iCloud at the WWDC.
Contacts, Calendar and Mail: services from MobileMe have been re-architected and rewritten to work seamlessly with iCloud. Users can even share calendars with friends and family, with ad-free push Mail hosted at me.com. Your inbox and mailboxes are kept up-to-date across all your iOS devices and computers. Never worry about having an outdate contact list again.
App Store and iBookstore: any app or book you download from the stores will be accessible in any of your connected devices for no additional costs (up to 10 devices).
iCloud Backup: your devices will be backed up to the cloud on a daily basis whenever you’re connected to WiFi and you’re charging your devices. The backups include purchased music, apps, books, photos, videos, device settings and app data. So if you ever get a new device, just input your Apple ID data, and iCloud will restore your new device.
iCloud Storage: documents created on your iOS devices can be stored on the iCloud Storage service and is automatically pushed to your other iOS devices as well. Users will be given 5GB free, with options to purchase additional storage. 5GB is not a lot, but when you take into consideration that music, apps and books purchased from Apple doesn’t take up any storage (it’s already online for you to get), you have 5GB to store documents that can’t be purchased anywhere else.
Photo Stream: whenever you take photographs with your iOS devices, they will be automatically uploaded to the cloud and pushed to your other devices, or even the devices of your friends. Only the last 1,000 photos will be stored on your iOS devices (since they have limited space) but Macs and PCs will save all the photos from the Photo Stream since they will have more space for storage. The photos only stay in the cloud for 30 days though, but that should be enough time for you to get an internet connection to download them.
iTunes in the Cloud: previously purchased music can now be downloaded onto all your iOS devices at no additional cost, and so will newly purchased music. Also, if you have music that wasn’t purchased through iTunes, you can use Apple’s iTunes Match service to replace your music with a 256kbps AAC DRM-free version if they can find a match in the iTunes Store. This means backing up your entire music collection is going to take minutes or hours instead of weeks. This service will come with an annual fee of $24.99 though. The iTunes in the Cloud beta will be released today.
The complete iCloud service will be released later this year, and the best part is that it will be mostly free and ad-free at the same time. People disappointed with MobileMe should be rejoicing at this new offering from Apple. The iTunes in the Cloud music service is definitely a step up above current cloud music offerings right now and has the potential to do very well. Let’s see how Apple’s competitors respond to iTunes in the iCloud.