For months we speculated about Apple’s cloud service. On Sunday it was widely tipped that you would be able to run iCloud on Time Capsule. Ultimately this turned out to be bogus.
So what exactly is iCloud?
iCloud is Apple’s seamless integration between all your devices. It lets you synchronize your content through the air. It cuts out cables. It cuts out duplicating files. It cuts out file management. It cuts out the crap and adds in all kinds of awesome.
An enthusiastic Steve Jobs dropped a few too many “it just works” throughout today’s keynote. I think he likes iCloud.
And what’s more it’s free!
According to Jobs, iCloud fixes something that has “broken down in the last few years”. Jobs says that the way we use devices has changed. We are no longer dependent on a single device for our video, music, photos, and files. Instead we shuffle from one device to another. This introduces problems when we want to have finger tip access to the same files that we have on our phones, on our Macs, and visa-versa. But it’s not easy to do so. As Jobs pointed out, “keeping these devices in sync, is driving us crazy”.
The answer is to demote the PC and the Mac to be a device just like the iPhone, iPad, & iPod touch. Rather than synchronizing your devices to your Mac to get the necessary files, you will instead connect to the cloud and sync with it. The cloud will become the center of your digital hub, not your Mac or PC.
When you take a photo on your iPhone, it will push the image up to the cloud. Later that evening when you turn on your Mac, your image will appear among your other photos without you having to transfer the photo.
So let’s take a look at what makes up iCloud.
Contacts / Calendar / Mail
Contacts will be synchronized across all of your devices. Calendar events will also be stored in the cloud and pushed to all of your other devices and you can choose to sync shared calendar events to your friends.
All iCloud users will get a @me.com email account that pushes your mail to the cloud and syncs it across your devices.
App Store / iBooks / Backups
The iCloud App Store will allow you to synchronize all of your purchase history across all of your devices. A “download from the cloud” button will appear next to all apps that will download and install the app on your device.
iBooks will work in a similar way. All of your iBook purchases will be synchronized to all of your devices. What more is that iCloud will sync your bookmark, meaning you can pick up on your iPad where you left off on your iPhone.
Once daily you will be able to wirelessly backup your important contents to the cloud. Content, music, apps, books, photos, videos, device settings, and app data is all backed up and stored on the cloud.
iTunes In The Cloud
Any music you have previously bought, you can download to 10 devices for no additional charge.
An automatic download setting within your device will automatically synchronize your newly purchased songs across multiple devices. If you purchase the brand new Lady Gaga song to your iPhone and 2 minutes later pick up your iPad and load up the music player, the same song you bought only a few moments ago appears in your collection.
iTunes Match lets you match your non-iTunes music (ripped from CDs) with the 18 million tracks stored on Apple’s servers. This means you don’t have to upload music files that already exist on your computer. iTunes Match will upgrade your songs to 256 KBPS AAC and will cost $24.99 per year.
iCloud provides you with 5GB of free storage for mail, documents, and backup. This storage is outside of your quota for iTunes, photos, videos, iWorks documents, apps, photo stream, and books.
Documents In the Cloud (iWorks)
Documents in the Cloud will let you access documents between devices while on the move. Pages, Keynote, and Numbers documents at the tip of your fingers.
Photos & Photo Stream
Photo Stream will let you take photos on any device and place those photos in the camera roll, store the photos on the cloud, and deliver those photos to your Mac and other devices.
Photo Stream will let you store your last 1,000 photos on your devices but you can store them forever on your Mac because you have more storage space. You are restricted to storing your Photo Stream photos on iCloud for 30 days.
Developers of third party apps will be able to hook into Apple’s cloud storage and make their apps compatible to interact with iCloud.
iCloud will be available in the Fall and will be launched to the public alongside iOS 5.