After many months of speculation, Steve Jobs announced that iTunes would be finally utilizing cloud storage upon the release of iOS5 in the Fall of 2011. The new service, aptly called iCloud, stores music, video, books, apps and photos as well as syncs them over all your devices (non-Apple devices included and up to 10). For instance, if you purchased a new album on your iPhone, it would automatically be synced to your PC & iPad the next time they are connected to the Internet. The completely free iCloud service replaces MobileMe, a similar concept that Apple attempted to charge a yearly fee of $99.
Apple is also rolling out iTunes Match. Likely coming from their recent acquisition of LaLa, iTunes Match will take all the songs that you have downloaded from other sources over the years and match them up with the correct identifying information. It will automatically encode the songs at 256 kbps AAC within minutes and will be synced up to your devices via iCloud. The service will cost a yearly fee of $24.99 for an unlimited number of song matches and doesn’t use any DRM. Amazon charges for a similar service but tiers the pricing at $50 for 5000 songs and $200 for $20,000 songs.
Regarding photos, the iCloud will store photos for up to 30 days while mobile devices store the last 1000 photos and PC / Macs store all photos. Also, as soon as you take a photo, it can be viewed on any of the other devices in your iCloud; a possibly boon for camera makers if Apple allows them to incorporate the iCloud tech into digital cameras. iCloud will also serve as a hub for documents, similar to Dropbox, and works with the iPad / Mac applications Pages, Numbers and Keynote. The iCloud also offers up to 5GB of mail storage and is designed to sync the email inbox with all devices as you send / receive mail. You will also be able to sync calendars and contacts.
Other announcements today included new iOS5 features that will roll out to the iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone in the Fall. These include WiFi syncing, Airplay mirroring (seeing the screen of one Apple device on another, ala your iPad screen on your HDTV via an Apple TV), a revamped messaging system that connects the iPhone / iPad / iPhone Touch called iMessage, an improved version of GameCenter and cool features for the default Camera app. There will be a new photo button on the unlock screen for quick access to photos as well as using the volume buttons to take pictures when in landscape mode. Safari is also getting some speed improvements for the mobile devices as well as deeper Twitter integration. Finally, there’s a new notification center going into the OS that will allow you to see all your notifications in on place including phone calls, texts, mail, social updates, gaming updates; basically any app that uses the notification system.
While the music industry was probably expecting the eventual shift into Cloud service for Apple devices, you have to wonder if they are going to be happy with iTunes Match. Apple is streamlining the process of digital music conversion for an extremely low cost. While the current bitrate likely won’t please audiophiles, the mass market will probably go nuts and convert all their legal & illegal music in a nice Apple ready package complete with album artwork, correct song titles and all the fun information that will make it look great on your iPod.
How do you think the music industry will react to the iCloud and iTunes Match?