Apple Unveils iCloud at WWDC 2011

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Jun 6, 2011

Apple held their much-anticipated Worldwide Developers Conference this morning in San Francisco. Steve Jobs’ keynote address discussed the new features of Lion, iOS 5, and the release of their cloud offering called iCloud.

After much deliberation over what the iCloud will offer, Jobs finally gave answers. First, Apple iCloud will be free and (surprise) simple. iCloud replaces Apple’s $99-a-year MobileMe service, and similar to MobileMe, all of the content stored (like email, contacts, and calendars) in the iCloud is automatically synced to all of a user’s devices. Most importantly, however, data within iCloud is backed up through a Wi-Fi connection once a day.

As expected, iCloud will be heavily integrated with iTunes. Along with automatic wireless syncing across devices, anything users have previously purchased from iTunes on one device can be re-downloaded to other devices at no extra cost. Music that…ahem…perhaps wasn’t purchased through iTunes, can still be streamed via iCloud through iTunes Match for $24.99 per year. Jobs states that the scanning process of finding and uploading the music would only take “minutes” compared to weeks of uploading from Amazon and Google.

Apple also announced iCloud’s PhotoStream app that allows users to import or take photos on any iOS device which will automatically send a copy of the photo across a user’s devices, including Apple TV. iCloud, however, only stores new photos for 30 days and limits PhotoStream to the last 1,000 photos on iOS devices.

Although iTunes and PhotoStream were perhaps the most anticipated announcements from Jobs’ keynote, Apple’s Documents in the Cloud function caught my attention and interest the most. Don’t let the iCloud’s music and photo syncing excitement overshadow this new feature, which gives online document and collaboration services, like Google Docs, another competitor in how users manage their documents. With Documents in the Cloud, files created with the iWork apps (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) can be stored in iCloud and automatically updated across devices. Users can edit a document on their PC, and then pick up where they left off on their iPad.

Apple’s new cloud offering adds another alternative to an already competitive cloud marketplace within our industry. And because iCloud is fully integrated with iOS 5, it makes the iCloud that much more user-friendly and appealing. Why should users switch to Google or Amazon when their cloud service is available right at their fingertips, literally? A user’s files are all available in one place – iCloud – and automatically synced over the air to all devices.

Apple’s iCloud offers users 5GB of free storage for mail, documents, and backup (but purchased music, apps, books, and PhotoStream photos don’t count towards that total) and will launch this fall for end-users. iCloud supports up to 10 synced devices. Developers get a preview that will be available today along with iOS 5. But if you can’t wait and want to get a little taste of iCloud for iTunes, users can download the beta version here.

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