In what Apple enthusiasts called a highly anticipated keynote speech at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco this morning, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced Apple's future approach to cloud computing. iCloud, Apple's latest venture into internet data hosting, will allow users to effortlessly stretch media of all sorts – email, calendars, photos, music, documents – across multiple devices through cloud computing.
iCloud will compete directly with current cloud services, including Google's Music Beta and Amazon's Cloud Player. Both projects have been moderately successful, and it was widely-expected that Apple would be forced to answer their success through their iTunes in the near future. However, unlike the Amazon and Google services which support only music, Apple's iCloud will host a wide variety of media. In this way, the iCloud offers an alternative to Google's other cloud products such as Google Docs and Picasa.
As is the case with many of their projects, Jobs announced today that iCloud services will be offered free of charge to users. Each account will be given 5GB of complimentary online storage on which users can store documents, photos and a host of other media to be accessed from multiple computers. Music and books purchased through iTunes will not count against that limit.
The new iCloud service will replace Apple's current cloud platform, MobileMe, which allowed users to back up email and calendar items to the internet. The MobileMe project had never taken off in the way Apple expected it to, largely due to self-acknowledged poor management on the part of its developers.
Today's announcement coincides with Apple's release of iCloud information to developers, who will have only a few short months to build complimentary programs before commercial release this fall. Individuals with multiple devices that purchase music through iTunes, however, can get a glimpse of iCloud's potential right away. Users can now opt to have any purchases made available on each of their devices.
While Apple and cloud aficionados are excited about the announcement, Jobs did mention characteristics of the program that many users may find objectionable, namely that only music purchased through iTunes would be available for free upload to iCloud. Users will be able to listen to music purchased elsewhere through the cloud, but at a cost. Apple will offer a service called iTunes Match that will identify music on a user's hard drive for a fee of $24.99 each year. The songs will be made available online through iCloud, but music files will not be users' original music. Instead, they will be copies of the songs available through iTunes online store.
There had been questions surrounding the possibility of iCloud's debut in past months following the mysterious purchase of iCloud.com. Sources were reporting in April that Apple may have purchased the domain from cloud storage servicer Xcerion, who had recently changed the name of their service from iCloud to CloudMe. Still unconfirmed rumors speculated that Apple may have paid as much as $4.5 million for the address in anticipation of today's announcement.
The question is, is Apple prepared to manage this better than some of their more recent and more public problems might indicate? What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you think that Apple manages their software division better than their hardware division?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.