Apple reveals iCloud – sync across Macs, PCs and iOS devices

6 Jun 2011

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Apple’s cloud offering has finally been unveiled. iCloud will enable users to take pictures, buy music and work on presentations and have their media backed up instantly on up to 10 devices via the cloud.

“All of our devices can talk to the cloud at any time,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs told the WWDC. “iCloud stores your content and wirelessly pushes it to all your devices. It is integrated with your apps so everything happens automatically.”

Jobs explained that all MobileMe apps have been rewritten from the ground up to work on the iCloud platform.

“Contacts added in any device are pushed to the cloud and then sync’d down to other devices.

He said the platform will embrace all existing apps, such as Calendar and Contacts, and that the platform will be free of ads.

“Just press the iCloud button and all apps are propagated across devices.”

Jobs said the synching and backups will take place seamlessly over Wi-Fi and 3G and will embrace changes including device settings, app data, purchased music and especially the users’ camera roll, including photos and videos.

He demonstrated working on a Pages document on an iPhone and continuing working on the same document on an iPad or Mac.

He added that iCloud storage will work across all iOS devices, as well as Macs and PCs.

iTunes in the iCloud

Users who buy music no longer have to deal with the frustration of trying to download their songs on different devices. By hitting the iCloud button alongside purchased items, the songs will synch across the user’s collection.

Jobs confirmed there will be no charge for multiple downloads of purchased music and that users can push their music to up to 10 different devices.

“As default on new iOS 5 devices, and you’ll get 5GB of storage for mail,” he added.

Jobs also unveiled a new iTunes Match clouds locker service that will scan users’ iTunes libraries and match those up with music not purchased in iTunes. The iTunes Match service will cost US$25 a year.

“Today it is a real hassle and very frustrating to keep all your information and content up-to-date across all your devices,” said Jobs.

“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.”

Apple today is releasing a free beta version of iTunes in the cloud, without iTunes Match, for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users running iOS 4.3. iTunes in the cloud will support all iPhones that iOS 5 supports this fall.

The new iCloud services:

·         The former MobileMe services – Contacts, Calendar and Mail – all completely re-architected and rewritten to work seamlessly with iCloud. Users can share calendars with friends and family, and the ad-free push Mail account is hosted at me.com. Your inbox and mailboxes are kept up-to-date across all your iOS devices and computers.

·         The App Store and iBookstore now download purchased iOS apps and books to all your devices, not just the device they were purchased on. In addition, the App Store and iBookstore now let you see your purchase history, and simply tapping the iCloud icon will download any apps and books to any iOS device (up to 10 devices) at no additional cost.

·         iCloud Backup automatically and securely backs up your iOS devices to iCloud daily over Wi-Fi when you charge your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Backed-up content includes purchased music, apps and books, Camera Roll (photos and videos), device settings and app data. If you replace your iOS device, just enter your Apple ID and password during setup and iCloud restores your new device.

·         iCloud Storage seamlessly stores all documents created using iCloud Storage APIs, and automatically pushes them to all your devices. When you change a document on any device, iCloud automatically pushes the changes to all your devices. Apple’s Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps already take advantage of iCloud Storage. Users get up to 5GB of free storage for their mail, documents and backup. Users will be able to buy even more storage, with details announced when iCloud ships this autumn.

·         iCloud’s Photo Stream service automatically uploads the photos you take or import on any of your devices and wirelessly pushes them to all your 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 to save forever. 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, which is plenty of time to connect your devices to iCloud and automatically download the latest photos from Photo Stream via Wi-Fi.

·         iTunes in the cloud lets you download your previously purchased iTunes music to all your iOS devices at no additional cost, and new music purchases can be downloaded automatically to all your devices.

·         In addition, music not purchased from iTunes can gain the same benefits by using iTunes Match, a service that replaces your music with a 256 kbps AAC DRM-free version if Apple can match it to the more than 18m songs in the iTunes Store, it makes the matched music available in minutes (instead of weeks to upload your entire music library), and uploads only the small percentage of unmatched music. iTunes Match will be available this autumn for a US$24.99 annual fee.

Photo: Apple CEO Steve Jobs

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com