Apple finally debuted its long-awaited iCloud platform alongside iOS 5 at WWDC 2011. The service works seamlessly across multiple devices, including the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac and Windows PC.
"Today it is a real hassle and very frustrating to keep all your information and content up-to-date across all your devices," Steve Jobs explained during a hotly anticipated keynote address.
"iCloud keeps your important information and content up to date across all your devices. All of this happens automatically and wirelessly, and because it's integrated into our apps you don't even need to think about it - it all just works. When anything changes on one of your devices, all of your devices are wirelessly updated almost instantly."
To be sure, iCloud effective replaces MobileMe, as Contacts, Calendar and Mail have all been completely re-architected and rewritten to work automatically with the new platform.
For example, users can share calendars and maintain an ad-free push Mail account hosted at me.com, with inbox and mailboxes kept up-to-date across devices.
Of course, there is much more to Apple's newly unveiled service, such as iTunes in the Cloud which offers users the ability to access new music purchases from multiple iOS devices and systems, while allowing the download of previously purchased music at no additional cost. Fortunately, Apple will extend the same option for music purchased from other sources with Match, a $25 (annual) service that replaces tracks and albums with a 256 kbps AAC DRM-free version.
iCloud also feature a service that automatically backs up iOS devices to the cloud via Wi-Fi when an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch is charging. Backed up content includes purchased music, apps and books, Camera Roll (photos and videos), device settings and app data.
Additional iCloud services include:
- App Store and iBookstore - Download purchased iOS apps and books to all your devices, not just to the device they were purchased on. You can also view your purchase history. Simply tapping the iCloud icon will download any apps and books to any iOS device (up to 10 devices) at no additional cost.
- Photo Stream - Automatically uploads the photos you take or import on any of your devices and wirelessly pushes them to all devices and computers. To save space, the last 1,000 photos are stored on each device so they can be viewed or moved to an album. Macs and PCs will store all photos from the Photo Stream, since they have more storage. iCloud will store each photo in the cloud for 30 days.
- iCloud Storage - Seamlessly stores all documents created/edited using iCloud Storage APIs and automatically pushes them to all your devices. Users get up to 5GB of free storage for their mail, documents and backup.
Luckily, storage for music, apps and books purchased from Apple, and the storage required by Photo Stream doesn't count towards this 5GB total. Users will be able to buy even more storage, with details announced when iCloud ships this fall.
Pricing and availability:
The iCloud beta and Cloud Storage APIs are available immediately for iOS and Mac Developer Program members here. The platform is slated to be pushed out to the masses this fall, concurrent with iOS 5. Users can sign up for iCloud for free on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch running iOS 5 or a Mac running Mac OS X Lion with a valid Apple ID.
Note: iTunes in the Cloud is available today (US only, requires iTunes 10.3 and iOS 4.3.3), along with automatic downloads of apps and books.