Friday, July 29, 2011

What Apple's iCloud Means For You

If you own any Apple device, it's likely you own multiple computing devices – one or more Apple portable gadgets such as an iPhone, an iPad or an iPod Touch, and a desktop or laptop PC.
And it's also likely you have some content on one of these portable devices – photos, music, documents, email, et al – that'd you'd like to access on all your Apple portable devices and PCs.
Apple's iCloud service, announced this morning (June 6), not only solves this one-to-one content/device relationship problem, but establishes a new way of thinking about where your content is stored and how you access it.
The idea is your content and personal data need not be trapped on whatever device it was created or purchased on. If you snap a photo on your iPhone, the photo is automatically propagated to all your computing devices. If you create a document on an iPad, it is automatically propagated to all your computing devices. If you update your Apple calendar or address book on your PC or Mac, that change is automatically propagated to the calendar or your address book on all your Apple portable devices. If you buy a song on iTunes, that song is automatically propagated on all your iPod-compatible devices.
In other words, all your content acts as your email does now – it's the same email regardless of which device you access or answer it, and it's always up to date. iCloud brings this universal email access to all your content. Whatever content you have, create or buy on one Apple device, you have access to on all your devices, even a Windows PC.
How? Like your email, all your content is stored in a remote warehouse – primarily Apple's new massive North Carolina data center facility – and you having a Wi-Fi or cell phone connection to both send your content there or to retrieve it, securely, wirelessly and automatically.
Apple's aim is to make accessing your content from "the cloud" as seamless as accessing it from the memory in your device or computer. In fact, that's the aim of a growing number of companies such as Amazon and Google. But Apple's ecosystem and reach makes its cloud concept easier to engineer and use.
Apple apps such as its iWork word processing, spreadsheet and presentation programswere used to demonstrate how documents created are automatically propagated to other devices. However, Apple is making its iCloud code to its App Store app developers, so expect to soon see a host of "iCloud-enabled" apps.

Music in the cloud
iCloud was just one of three major software upgrades Apple announced this morning. iCloud will be available along with a new operating system for your iPxxx device – iOS 5 – along with a new Macintosh operating system, Lion (officially OS x 10.7), sometime this fall.
iCloud will largely be free; the only fee is a $25/year subscription for accessing the music you've copied, or "ripped," from your own music collection into iTunes for storage in iCloud, a service called iTunes Match.
In other words, all the music you've bought on iTunes will be available on all your iPod/iTunes devices automatically (or once you tell your copy of iTunes to make it available). But Apple had to make deals with the record labels (reportedly spending around $150 million to do so) to let us store and access music we bought on CDs that we then copied into iTunes via iCloud.
With the iTunes Match subscription, Apple will scan your iTunes folder and find those tracks not purchased through iTunes and match them with tracks in Apple's 18 million-song iTunes catalog and make those available for you to access remotely as well. (How you get tracks you own, that iTunes doesn't sell, to iCloud isn't clear.)
Amazon and Google recently announced similar "cloud" music storage/access services, but didn't make deals with the record labels. This means you'd have to upload all your music to their "cloud," a process that could take hours or even days.

New iPhone without a new iPhone
iOS 5 will offer so many new (for Apple) features compared to the current iOS 4 that it will seem as if you've gotten a new iPhone.
Here are a few iOS 5 highlights, many of which already have been available on Android devices:
  • Camera: Instead of searching through all your apps for the Camera icon, just double-tap the Home button to activate it. Instead of the on-screen shutter release icon, you can push the "volume up" button to snap a photo. You'll be able to pinch the screen to zoom in, touch a specific part of the screen to lock the auto-exposure and auto-focus lock, then crop, rotate, automatically reduce red-eye reduction.
  • Notification Center: Things happen on your iPxxx when you're not looking at them – new email comes in, voicemails are recorded, app updates become available, text messages are received, etc. You'll be notified of all of this new stuff in one place –just swipe down on the home screen to see them all (like Android), then swipe across on the notification to take you to that specific app.
  • Reminders: Do you suffer "senior moments"? You'll now be able to set reminders for things you're afraid you'll forget. These reminders can even be location based – your reminder can be set to alert you when you reach a specific destination, for instance.
  • Wireless Updates: No longer will you have to plug your iPxxx into a PC to update the operating system or other software. What's unclear is whether you'll be able to wirelessly sync your personal data.
  • Twitter Integration: If you snap a photo on your iPhone, you can now Tweet it immediately from iPhone's camera app. There'll also be a Twitter Settings menu where you can store your user name and password, which can be accessed by whatever Twitter app you use.
  • Safari Reader/Tabbed Browsing: When surfing the Web, you'll be able to view articles on a single scrollable screen in a more reading-friendly environment, and save stories to read later, share it with your other devices via the cloud, or Tweet it. You'll also get "tabbed" browsing – instead of each Web page on its own screen that you have to toggle between, you'll get folder tab for each open page in a single browser window.
According to Apple, there'll be more than 200 improvements to iOS 5. But we'll have to wait a few months until it's available before we can explore them all.

[via lifegoesstrong]


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