Is Apple's iCloud worth the wait?

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Of the 3 big announcements at today’s Apple WWDC - OSX Lion, iOS 5 and iCloud - the final introduction was the most eagerly awaited. Many were expecting a music streaming Spotify competitor on the iTunes front - Spotify can now breathe a sigh of relief, as Apple delivers something closer to Dropbox.

The most amazing thing about the iCloud service - which stores your music, photos, apps, calendars and documents - is that it’s free! (As long as you don’t exceed 5GB). The iCloud stores all your content and media, and automatically and wirelessly syncs / pushes them to all your Apple devices.

There are some obvious benefits of this within the incredibly easy to use Apple ecosystem - automatic backup and syncing through the cloud is a great service for Apple users. Instead of introducing Spotify-style music streaming, Apple instead introduces ’iTunes Match’ for $25 p.a.- this service automatically matches all your CD-ripped music with existing tracks from the iTunes library and delivers them as high quality DRM-free 256kbps AAC files. Obviously if your collection is all iTunes-based anyway, you don’t need the ’Match’ service, but the system works in the same way. The way Apple can steal a march on Google and Amazon’s equivalent Cloud Music Services is that most of what Apple is streaming comes from it’s core collection which it simply ID’s from your own iTunes collection - and then has the corresponding Apple Library track streamed out - making for a much more light-weight system, really quite clever in its conceptualisation - we have yet to experience the full final implementation of course.

Music is supposedly limited to 25,000 tracks, and photos are only stored in the cloud for 30 days - those are the downsides. The upside is obviously that all of this is built into the latest versions of the Apple operating systems; OSX Lion is out in July and iOS 5 arrives in September.

For me I’m not sure it makes much difference. I will still keep my Spotify subscription, and I like the fact that I can shop around for tracks - on Amazon, Beatport and Juno as well as on iTunes - both in solid and digital formats. I also quite like that Dropbox is fully universal - and you can share content with friends and colleagues on any system / platform.

The genius of Apple is always in its simplicity and ease of use, which is fine as long as you don’t mind being ring-fenced. I’m not so sure I want to be totally boxed in! Great for all-out Apple users though I suppose.

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