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?
Read on as we delve into the vital information about iCloud, discover the potential it has to transform the way you use your computers!
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…
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.
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.
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…
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!
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!
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 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.
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 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 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!
This is an incredible, and somewhat unmatchable offer from Apple – a tidal shift in the way people access, and store, their music.
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.
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.