WWDC 2011: Steve Jobs Introduces iCloud
iCloud, launching this fall alongside iOS 5, replaces the $99 per year MobileMe as Apple’s new wireless syncing and storage platform. Jobs admits that MobileMe “wasn’t our finest hour” and that as of now, it will “cease to exist.” Ambitious in scale, the service employs the company’s $1 billion data center to host users’ iTunes music, podcasts, movies, television shows, and applications. Integrated deeply within iOS 5 and Mac OS Lion, iCloud is designed to be transparent; all Macs and portable devices connected with an iTunes Store ID automatically pull a customer’s media and information out of the cloud. “We're going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud,” Jobs said.
Like MobileMe, iCloud keeps calendars, address books and other information like bookmarks updated across all the users’ devices in real time. MobileMe customers switching to iCloud will find more under the hood than just a name change, however. The rebranded service offers robust data storage and syncing a la the veritable and free Dropbox. Apple claims that due to its system-level integration and optimization, iCloud syncing is a more streamlined experience.
“Some people think the cloud is just a big disk in the sky," Jobs said. "We think it's way more than that.”
The announcement of iCloud fills a noticeable hole in Apple’s iOS strategy: a stable file system. For example, a presentation could be saved locally on a MacBook Pro, iPad, or iPhone and automatically upload to iCloud. The presentation could then be edited on any device connected to the iCloud account. Another new service, Photo Stream, instantly pushes an unlimited amount of photos to iCloud-connected devices. Apple even allows developers to access iCloud APIs, ensuring that the file system will continue to gain usability in what Jobs calls the “post-PC era”.
When iCloud goes live this fall, it will compete directly against Google Music and Amazon Cloud Music. The result of years of aggressive negotiation with the music industry, iCloud can automatically sync purchased music from the iTunes store and user-imported content via a new service called iTunes Match. iCloud is free, but the unlimited scanning and matching service will cost $24.99 per year. Amazon charges $200 per year for 20,000 songs, and users must upload those tracks themselves, which takes weeks on standard Internet connections.
Apple’s strong connections with the music industry continue to pay off, as iCloud is the only online “digital locker” with the official support of record labels.
“This is the first time we’ve seen this in the music industry -- no charge for multiple downloads to different devices” Jobs said.
The services from Google and Amazon, contrastingly, rely on the customer to manually upload their existing media library, and music executives still debate the legality of these services.
Reach writer McKenzie Carlile here.