Apple unleashes the iCloud
Sure, Apple introduced some nice changes today in San Francisco to its new operating system for Macs, called "Lion", including more hand gesture interactions and updates to the Mac App Store. And iOS 5, Apple's next iteration of the popular mobile operating system for its iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices, brings 200 updates to users.
But the real meat of Steve Jobs presentation today is in what Apple's devices will be able to do in the cloud: that is, the new iCloud service. (For a blow-by-blow account of the announcement, read the Engadget live blog.)
The new iCloud pulls together the multiple iDevices (if you own more than one) into one virtual, cohesive unit online. It's really a new (for Apple) metaphor that will enable consumers with multiple mobile devices to keep their gadgets in sync, all at the same time. Take a picture on your iPhone? It's instantly available on your iPad. The tech world is ready for this.
MobileMe, Apple's $99 annual service for syncing Calendar, Contacts and Email across Apple's devices is gone. In its place comes iCloud (for Macs, iDevices and PCs), and it's free. "iCloud stores your content in the cloud and wirelessly pushes it to all your device. It automatically uploads it, stores it, and pushes it to all your devices."
Basically, iCloud will enable users to push across photos, videos, apps, email, calendars, contacts to multiple devices over the air. No more syncing your iDevice to a computer with a cable. The cord has been cut. Your data will get updated and stored automatically in the iCloud daily, over a Wi-Fi connection (not 3G).
Apple is putting its iWork software suite in the cloud -- Pages, Numbers and Keynote. The office productivity software is its version of Microsoft Office and Google Docs. Putting its software in the cloud is basically table stakes at this point. Every big player wants a cloud productivity suite offering.
Steve Jobs like to announce "one more thing" at these events. And the news that everyone was expecting: Apple is putting iTunes "in the cloud" by enabling people who buy iTunes music to automatically download to multiple devices (up to 10).
For people who have thousands of songs in iTunes, they don't have to manually upload all their songs to iTunes in the cloud. Instead, Apple is offering the ability to "scan and match" your iTunes library to the cloud. (Basically, Apple will scan your iTunes collection on your computer and create an online version of your collection for you to use.) This means if you have multiple iDevices, you'll have one online repository for your music, and your various devices will pull music from the cloud, in addition to having your own music stored on your local devices.
Cost: $24.99. A similar service offered by Google, which takes longer for users to upload their music, costs $50 a year.
Would you use such a service? I don't know.... I'm not a big buyer of new music so it's less crucial for me to have the latest songs updated across all my devices. I do think I'll use other iCloud features a ton, especially the new Photostream feature that makes pictures available to all your iDevices instantaneously.
This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech