Apple Inc CEO Steve Jobs has unveiled a new service for people to store their photos, music and other data online. Termed iCloud, the service challenges Google’s cloud-based offerings, which already use services like Gmail, Calendar, Picasa, and Google Docs to let users see and edit the same document or photo across multiple devices.
iCloud storage & more
With iCloud, files will be stored by Apple in remote data centers — known as the “cloud” in technology parlance — and automatically synchronize. This means the same content is available from any Apple gadget, without it cluttering up users’ hard drives.
The feature will include 5GB of free storage for users’ files, plus unlimited room for purchased apps and books, and recent photos.
iCloud will be supported by new versions of applications like Calendar, Mail, and Contacts, and if information is changed for one contact, the new data goes to Apple’s servers and is then pushed to the other devices.
Apple iCloud replaces the company’s MobileMe service. Unlike MobileMe, iCloud will also allow users to sync their apps, documents, music and photos along with contacts, calendar and mails. This means that users will be able to use apps purchased using iPhone on iPad as well as restore them using the cloud service if something goes wrong.
MobileMe allowed users to sync their contacts, calendar, and mail with a virtual harddisk for anywhere, anytime access.
Unlike MobieMe with iCloud, Apple revamps its approach and is offering the content-syncing service for free. iCloud will be available as a free download when Apple releases iOS5 later this year. MobileMe costs users $99 per year.
Music biggies on board
Ever the showman, the Apple CEO announced that the company has struck licensing agreements with all the major recording labels on the new music synching system.
The company has signed deals with Warner Music Group Corp, Universal Music Group, EMI Group and Sony Music Entertainment.
All future iTunes purchases also will be automatically sent to all the devices. None of the transfers will require devices to be plugged into a single computer. It will automatically happen over wireless connections.
Apple has also introduced a new service called iTunes Match. The $25-per-year service is meant for music not bought through iTunes. Apple iTunes Match matches music ripped from CDs in a subscriber’s personal music collection and makes it available online.
The service will scan every song in users’ libraries and match it with a copy in the cloud. This way customers don’t require to upload all their music song by song — a requirement on services introduced by Google and Amazon.
The limit of “iTunes Match” is 25,000 songs, and the service will update lesser-quality song files to iTunes standards. Also, iTunes purchases do not count against this limit.
iCloud offers an app called Photo Stream which will keep users’ photos synchronized across devices. This means a photo taken on a yser’s iPhone will automatically be downloaded to his computer and iPad. The feature also means that users will not have to do anything new to sync their photos.