iCloud announced, available later this fall with iOS 5


Credit: Engadget

During the World Wide Developers Conference keynote speech today, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled Cupertino’s new “Cloud” based service, intended to replace MobileMe while augmenting iTunes and the iOS device family.

Essentially, iCloud is your new digital “hub”, allowing you to keep all of your digital “things” like music, movies, contacts, calendar events, photos, videos, apps, iBooks, and so on, in sync. No matter where your devices are, or what they are doing, new “things” can be pushed to them.

During the keynote, Jobs referred to MobileMe as being “not our finest hour”. With iCloud they aim to do better in every respect, and to make that clear they have also dropped the price to 100% free. There is no charge for any of iCloud, and there are no ads either.

One of the most useful features of iCloud is iOS device backup, a function previously assigned to iTunes. However with the new “PC-Free” attitude of iOS 5, that sort of solution for backup is unusable, especially for people who literally have no PC.

These backups happen daily, and include all of your app data, your personal information, as well as any of the content stored on the device.

Apple also included 3rd party developer support with iCloud, so Apps can use it as a sync and storage system for App data.

As part of the new iCloud system, iTunes now has a button that will let you review past iTunes purchases, regardless of which device they were purchased with, and download them again. This also means if you ever lose your purchased music you can simply download it again. New purchases can also be pushed to all your devices as well.

Unfortunately, the new iCloud/iTunes system does not work like Google Music or Amazon’s Cloud Player. In short, you cannot upload ripped (or pirated) music to iCloud, but you can let iTunes scan and “match” songs in your iTunes library, to titles found in the iTunes store. For a fee of $24.99 per year, Apple will “match” your local songs with better quality versions found in the store and upgrade them for you.

Apple is also including 5GB of free storage with iCloud, which replaces the backup and iDisk functionality of MobileMe.

Developers can get started with the new SDKs immediately, and users can start using the iTunes part of iCloud immediately if you are running iOS 4.3, but for everything else we’ll have to wait till this fall.

We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.

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