iCloud Unveiled: Users Can Upload Music, Photos on 10 Devices
Steve Jobs comes off health leave to announce highly anticipated new Apple service and new operating systems
At long last, the newest addition to the i-family made its big debut — the iCloud.
To make the pitch to the Mac-faithful, Apple hauled Steve Jobs back from his medical leave.
Clad in his trademark black turtleneck and jeans, a skinny Jobs took the stage Monday at the annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco to present Apple's answer to cloud-based technology.
The Apple maestro told the sold-out crowd that PCs were no longer sufficient to work as a hub for users' digital libraries and that synching various devices was becoming too cumbersome. Enter the iCloud.
"We're going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud," Jobs said to the more than 5,000 people in attendance.
Apple also premiered its newest operating system Lion and a new operating system for its mobile devices, which streamline navigation and better integrate customers' apps. Yet it was the iCloud that inspired the most excitement among Apple fans.
The new cloud-based service allows users to upload and store up to 5 GB of music and photos on up to 10 devices at no extra charge. By selecting the "cloud" button, Apple customers will now be able to purchase music via iTunes, and access it across their PCs, iPads and iPod Touches.
For $24.99 a year, users can subscribe to iMatch. The service allows customers to store music they've uploaded to their computer, but haven't purchased via iTunes, to the cloud by scanning and matching the songs to the popular music service.
That fee is not based on usage. It remains fixed whether customers upload 10 songs or 1,000.
Just as it was with mobile phones, Apple is late to the cloud party, premiering its version on the heels of other music clouds by Amazon and Google.
In addition to music and photos, the iCloud will also allow users to synch their calendars and email services. Pages, Numbers and Keynote are among the Apple programs that will now offer the ability for users to store documents in the cloud.
Though the iCloud was the big-ticket item of Monday's presentation, the event kicked off with a look at the company's latest version of its Mac OS, called Lion. Jobs told the crowd that the new system boasts more than 250 features, joking that he would go over every one of them in detail.
Installing the system will no longer require buying a disc. Instead, Lion will only be available for download via the Mac App Store. It hits in July and the price is currently $29.99.
Among the sexier items are multitouch gestures, which improves scrolling and zooming on the company's devices.
Controlling the mouse-less Lion relies on a Mission Control system that sports a nifty birds-eye way for users to better keep track of apps and autosave documents.
Streamlined control of apps is one of the Lion's big selling-points, and its design and layout was clearly inspired by the company's tablet devices. Take "Launchpad," in which with a pinching motion all of a users applications can appear simultaneously on the screen.
On the "cool," but not terribly practical front, Photo Booth has face tracking technology, which will apparently follow a users face around the screen.
Apple is also trying to overhaul its word processing services (an area of strength for MicroSoft), by installing autosave technology and AirDrop, which allows users to share documents with other users through peer-to-peer WiFi networks.
After unveiling Lion, Jobs and company launched into a look at the latest operating system for its mobile devices, iOS5.
Come next Fall, Iphone users will now be able to keep track of the latest Facebook and Twitter updates on one single location through the Notification Center.
In a direct challenge to BlackBerry devices, Apple unveiled its new iMessage, which allows users to message with one or multiple friends and push that stream to multiple Mac devices.
Newspaper subscriptions will also be centralized through iOS5's new operating system.
Twitter will now be integrated into iPhones, and mobile devices apps such as YouTube. Once users sign into their phone, they will automatically be logged onto the micro-blogging site.
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