Apple announces iCloud, iTunes Match at WWDC 2011
Apple’s Steve Jobs unveiled their iCloud service today at the 2011 Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. The service—supported by Apple’s new datacenter in North Carolina—will be integrated into iOS 5 and feature cloud storage and automatic syncing across Apple devices.
Unlike the soon-to-be-defunct MobileMe service, Apple’s iCloud is fully integrated by default, free of charge. It will not be advertising supported. Device settings and individual app data can also be synced automatically in the cloud and accessed on any new devices with an AppleID.
The heavily anticipated iTunes cloud integration appears poised to surpass offerings from Google and Amazon. The first step was to make songs purchased on iTunes accessible and re-downloadable on any iOS device. But by making multi-million dollar cash payments to music labels, Apple is now also able to offer a matching service that allows for quick transfer of users’ iTunes libraries to the cloud. Called iTunes Match, the app scans iTunes libraries for songs found on the iTunes store, then links users’ AppleIDs to 256kbps AAC files on Apple’s servers. Songs that are not sold by iTunes can be uploaded directly by users. The songs can then be streamed from any iOS device or computer with iTunes. The service will cost $24.99/year and does not carry any restrictions on number of songs stored.
Cloud improvements on existing apps include Photostream, a new addition to the Photos app that lets you instantly (provided you’re on a Wi-Fi connection) sync all photos taken on iOS devices with all other iOS devices, as well as Macs & PCs. The Wi-Fi only feature stores photos in the cloud for 30 days, the most recent 1000 photos on all devices, and all photos on your Mac or PC. iOS documents created and/or edited in Pages and Keynote will automatically sync with other iOS devices and Macs. Safari Reader has migrated to iOS, and has an Instapaper-like feature that lets you save articles for offline reading (on a single page without ads).
The iCloud service has a 5GB storage cap for documents; Photostream data and music don’t count against the cap.
One of the more interesting new features is the new iMessage app. Taking aim at the popular BlackBerry Messenger app, it adds delivery and read receipts as well typing indicators to their messaging app; it also syncs conversations across iOS devices.
Unsurprisingly, most of Apple’s new iCloud features are married to their devices; there was no word on whether or not cloud documents could be accessed independently of Apple devices (the way Google Apps and documents can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection). Apple’s goal with these “free” software advances is still to get you to buy a device.