iCloud: An Information Revolution

So the 2011 WWDC keynote finished a mere hour or two ago, and there’s a great deal to talk about! Not least the launch of the wonderfully exciting, dare I say revolutionary, iCloud.

Do you spend precious time keeping all your devices in check? Synchronising calendars, contacts, apps, and documents, or simply backing up your invaluable photos, videos, and music?

Not anymore.

Read on as we delve into the vital information about iCloud, discover the potential it has to transform the way you use your computers!

A Revolution

With the announcement and implementation of iCloud, Apple is transforming the way we will interact with, and store, all the content that we value. iCloud is, simply, the new way to store and access your content.

With iCloud, your Mac surrenders its role as the centre of synchronisation and content, and is simply made another ‘device’ – on a par with your iPhone or iPad. iCloud then takes centre-stage as the hub for all the important information that you value.

Before I launch into the specific features of iCloud, it’s definitely worth mentioning that everything discussed below (except iTunes Match) comes for a very reasonable price…

Free.

Beautiful Synchronisation

iCloud is the culmination of years of work and development, including learning from the successes, and failures, of MobileMe. This is where Apple started with iCloud, effortless synchronisation of Mail, Contacts, and Calendars.

iTunes Music in the cloud - Keep reading!

They now work just as you would want them to, automatically pushing information to all of your devices. A brilliant start.

One particularly interesting feature of using your Calendar with iCloud is the ability to push shared calendars across iCloud accounts. Everyone sharing a calendar will be immediately updated with fresh events!

Here is another fantastic piece of information, when you sign up for iCloud, you get a free me.com account.

Mail

Apple then began to rebuild and transform the way its other services work, below I’m going to look at a few of the most interesting changes and features. Starting with…

Apps

iCloud will give you easy access to all the apps you have downloaded in the past, and what’s more, it will synchronise them wirelessly across all your devices!

iBooks

130 million books have now been downloaded from the iBookstore, a phenomenal number. iCloud allows you access to all your previous downloads, letting you pull them onto whichever devices you like, while also causing new books to be pushed to all your devices.

Even better, iCloud will store your place in a book and push that information across all your devices – never lose you position again!

Documents

Apple is in the process of drastically changing the way we see saving. iCloud allows all the apps from the iWork suite to save your documents, automatically, in the cloud. You can quit whenever you like, and resume anywhere on any connected device!

What’s even better is that iCloud’s integration with documents is being opened up to developers, you will now be able to seamlessly have your paintings, games, or stocks synchronised across all your devices.

Backup

Backup with iCloud works exactly how you would dream it would work. Like Time Machine, Backup saves time, and space, by only backing up information that’s changed.

Never lose anything, ever.

One of the greatest benefits here is the painless restoration of any device to its former glory. Connect your device to WiFi, enter your Apple ID and password, and watch everything come flooding back.

Photo Stream

Transferring photos from device to device, and backing them all up, is annoying. Full stop.

Photo Stream is based on the idea that having your photos always with you can just happen.

Photo Stream

Photo Stream synchronises any new photos across all of your devices, automatically – no messing about, no worries. You want to view a photo from your iPhone on your Mac, it’s there.

The interesting thing here is that, while all of the other services above allow unlimited storage in iCloud, Photo Stream does not. My first reaction was of disappointment, we’re almost there, but not quite yet.

While ultimately it would be fantastic to have every photo stored permanently in the cloud, I do understand Apple’s struggle in this area. There is only so much land left, they don’t make it anymore, we probably shouldn’t use it all for giant data centres…

Their solution is a careful, but pleasing one. iCloud will store a rolling collection of your last 1000 photos, and all new photos for 30 days (giving you plenty of time to get some wifi). Every one of your photos will be collected and stored, automatically, on your Mac, but only the last 1000 will be available in the cloud.

You can always drag photos from Photo Stream into albums and store specific photos on any given device permanently.

It Just Works

Apple themselves describe iCloud as:

The cloud the way it should be: automatic and effortless. iCloud is seamlessly integrated into your apps, so you can access your content on all your devices.

While it will be a little while before users can know for sure just how easy and effortless iCloud is, it certainly looks good in that department. On that point it’s worth noting that iCloud won’t be fully functional until the autumn and the release of iOS 5, although certain aspects will begin to work now!

Knowing the emphasis that Apple puts on user experience, it would certainly be surprising if iCloud was anything other than fluent.

iTunes in the Cloud

In addition to all of the above, iCloud completely overhauls the way iTunes works. You will now automatically have every song you purchase on all of you devices, and have the ability to download your entire history of iTunes purchases.

This is good. But not revolutionary, it simply streamlines the way you synchronise your new iTunes music. But, then came the final announcement, the One More Thing…

iTunes Match.

iTunes Match

iTunes Match brings you all the benefits of iTunes in the Cloud, but for music that you haven’t purchased through iTunes!

You can pay a minute fee, of $24.99 a year, to have iTunes match all of your collection against the database of 18 million songs, and allow you to stream them all from the cloud.

Not only that, but it will upgrade the quality of all of the songs it can match to 256-Kbps AAC. And, as if that weren’t enough, iCloud will upload and store all of the songs that it can’t match – for $24.99!

iCloud

This is an incredible, and somewhat unmatchable offer from Apple – a tidal shift in the way people access, and store, their music.

Final Thoughts

Even without any hardware announcements, WWDC was ridiculously packed with new features and interesting software developments. I’m really looking forward to getting my iOS devices onto iOS 5!

The biggest move of the night by Apple was, however, undoubtedly iCloud. It is a huge step towards transforming the way we use our computers, interact with and store our content, and share our lives.

Your Comments

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts – simply post a comment below! Were you following along, what did you make of the iCloud announcement?

As a final note, if you’re concerned, or interested, in what is happening to the MobileMe service then simple check out the information from Apple here.


  • http://www.intellamac.com Intellamac

    This is a great step forward, as stated, to a ‘Post PC’ world. The only place it lacks is some options for the advanced user. We’ll see how easily it rolls out, and hope they learn from their MobileMe migration. (even though I didn’t have any problems with it) But I do see how they can add features down the road.

  • xevix

    Let me preface this statement by stating that I love Apple and am a very proud Mac user.

    Yeah, any other company can do this. All it takes is a copious amount of money in the bank, essentially infinite back-up and support from industries around you and a leader like Steve Jobs. Were MS to try ANYTHING remotely similar to what Apple is doing in regards to tying everything together SYSTEM-WIDE fragmentation would have blue screens of death throughout the cosmos.

  • http://jwbdenmark.tumblr.com Jake

    Am I understanding this correctly, that iTunes in the cloud is about downloading, not streaming? From the presentations and descriptions it sounds like you can re-download songs to any of your devices, but not actually stream them.

    To me, this is really limiting, especially for mobile devices with limited space. Sure I can open up the iTunes store app, go to purchases, find the song, download it, then go back to my music player and play it. But I was expecting something more like the late LaLa service, where you could actually stream any song that you owned. The model of streaming with optional download for offline listening is a great for mobile devices and requires must less effort on the part of the user.

    Still, it’s a great deal at $25/year and a step in the right direction. And I’m very excited about the other iCloud syncing options, especially apps.

  • http://davidsprinkle.wordpress.com David

    Does anyone know how things will work if a family shares an iTunes account? My wife and I share a single iTunes account, and have since the days of, well, just the iPod. Now I’m concerned that we will suddenly find our calendars, contacts, mail, etc. merged together and synced with every device we own. This wasn’t a problem with MobileMe since it had its own login, but I can’t tell if the same is true with iCloud. Does anyone have any info on this?

    • Vanessa

      if you only have one apple account your stuff will be exact the same on both phones, for example, your contacts will appear on hers and hers on yours… it is better to create a separate apple account to keep that kind of stuff separated

  • Ken Hughes

    I’ll be interested to see how iCloud functions with Home Sharing. $25/year is a pittance for 20,000 songs accessible from any device. Count me in!

    And just to clarify the first sentence in the article, the WWDC didn’t end a few hours ago, just the keynote did. WWDC runs all week. :)

  • Harry

    I think it is all awesome! Love the new bits in Lion. IOS5 new features. Wow and the iCloud, just awesome. Keeping in mind that this is version 1 in a way.

    But having said all that, again not word about iWork? And I am getting more and more nervous about iWeb. Me, and so many other have been hanging out for news about this…..a glimmer of hope. All in vain?

  • BernieBentablo

    All great and exciting features but the frustrating thing is, while Apple / Amazon / Google move forward , broadband and mobile services are quickly capping data. I have unlimited data plans now, but it looks pretty likely that this won’t be the case in the future. Considering I have thousands of mp3s, take lots of photos which average around 2mb a piece, update apps regularly, watch movies on netflix, stream podcasts on my iphone, etc. I’m wondering if I’ll even be able to use iCloud when the caps start coming my way. Sad how monopolies are haltering innovation.

  • http://luke.thunk.it Luke

    I’d also be interested to see how it works with shared accounts, but also with multiple accounts, and from multiple stores. I know there are many people who have content from both the US and UK iTunes stores, and I worry that this may be the time where that set-up finally falls down. Though, even without purchases from multiple store, my wife and I have grown used to using home-sharing to share music and apps bought on each other’s accounts.

    I also know there is an existing issue where you can’t link your mobile.me email address to an existing Apple ID, and see this as potentialy causing a lot of issues if the same is still the case when iCloud launches.

    Finally I can also see no mention of video anywhere on the iCloud pages, and whilst I understand Aple not wanting to store vast amounts of video (as an EyeTV user for several years, I’ve amassed around 3TB of TV recordings), I do hope video purchases works as seamlessly between devices as music ones, and non-purchased video can still easily be synched to mobile devices.

    Over all, though, I am very excited. I just hope this doesn’t scuper my setup.

  • Marc

    I don’t get it…
    Do I have to pay $25/year for music I already have?

    Guess I’ll stick with spotify, and pay a bit more for music I don’t have!

    btw
    Spotify streams, what iTunes does not…

    • Ken Hughes

      Don’t look at it as paying for music you already have. Look at it as paying to have access your music anywhere from your iDevice. Ideally there’s a place for iCloud *and* services like Spotify.

      • Marc

        Hmm… I always have an iPhone with me, spotify installed. And a nice Sennheiser headphone within reach ;-) Access to millions of songs, anytime, anywhere. No limits.

  • anotherusername

    The one question I have is the 20,000 song limit to iCloud with iTunes music match. Is that a 20,000 song limit total, as in my entire library is bigger then 20,000 so I am S.O.L…….or…..is the 20,000 limit for songs that are not matches that need to be uploaded…..it seems silly that with 18,000,000 songs already there, if any of mine matched those, it would be counted toward my total. Any one know this answer????

  • Pingback: Weekly Poll: Will You Use Apple’s New iCloud?

  • http://www.notionsleftoffarright.com Daniel Cox

    As a Mac user for both business and personal use, the keynote announcements both excited and intrigued me. As Jobs talked about iCloud, I began to figure out what I could keep, what I could get rid of and other possibilities, especially for business.

    One thought struck me though — what about the pictures that you don’t necessarily want Grandma to view downstairs on AppleTV? I’ll let you fill in your worst case scenario. Not every picture is meant to be shared, is it?

    I am CONFIDENT that Apple has considered this in their workflow.

  • Michael

    Call me old, I AM old, but I’m not convinced I want to store everything online with any one company. Every week, another huge corporation gets it’s servers hacked and people have personal information stolen, and I’m not intereted in the potential for ALL my documents, pictures, and music getting screwed up and/or lost by being on some big central server, whether Apple’s or not. I suspect most people don’t even think about this, considering most don’t seem to think about how much info they give away on Facebook every day. And, being old, I don’t need to have everything synched on my laptop, iPhone, and iPod to begin with. Have fun with iCloud, but I’m not very interested.

    • Marc

      So, no internet banking for you?

  • http://fairheadcreative.com Adam Fairhead

    My question is this: Where did the web UI go?

  • Pingback: AppStorm’s Coverage of WWDC 2011 | De l'information électronique

  • Pingback: Weekly Poll: Will You Use Apple’s New iCloud? - Programming Blog

  • http://successfulloserclub.com/blog/view/30864/chiropractics-the-choice-remedy-for-neuromusculoskeletal-method-ailments Chiropractor

    Merely wanna comment on few general things, The website style and design is perfect, the content is very good. “Earn but don’t burn.” by B. J. Gupta.

  • http://www.blogpassopasso.net Darin Duceman

    Recently I visited your web blog. It was my first visit and I have to say it’sfantastic. It seems to me is well done by pictures and you have some very interesting text.

  • http://www.femeiperfecte.ro/femei/pantaloni-evazati-revin-din-nou-in-moda/ moda operandi

    I was looking through some of your blog posts on this internet site and I believe this website is rattling informative ! Keep putting up.

theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow