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iCloud, Q&A on Apple’s new cloud service

iCloud is the evolution of MobileMe. A new set of free, cloud-based services that allow us to keep our information and content on all of our devices up to date, automatically and wirelessly, seamlessly integrating with iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, or PC. iCloud stores information from your mobile devices and computers to keep them in sync , detecting when one device changes and updating all others almost instantly.

The service was presented in the opening keynote of the recent WWDC 2011 in San Francisco and although we have dedicated a good number of articles to it, we have decided to go even further and prepare this guide in which we try to clear up any doubts you may have about Apple’s new cloud service.

What services does iCloud offer?

iCloud, Q&A on Apple’s new cloud serviceiCloud, Q&A on Apple’s new cloud service

iCloud has the following free services:

  • iTunes in the Cloud lets you download music you’ve previously purchased on iTunes to all your devices at no extra cost. And if you choose, new songs you buy will automatically download to all your devices, too.
  • The same goes for App Store apps and iBookstore books, which will be automatically downloaded to all your devices, not just the one you bought them on (if they weren’t paid for, so much the better). In addition, the App Store and iBookstore now allow you to view your purchase history divided into categories so you can re-download any you’ve had in the past even if you deleted it from any of your devices (up to a maximum of 10 devices).
  • Photo Stream automatically uploads the photos you take or import with any of your devices, sending them to all the others. So if you take a photo with your iPhone, for example, when you get home you’ll find it on your iPad’s film as well as in your Mac’s iPhoto library and saved in your Windows Photos folder. To save space, Photo Stream follows three different policies when it comes to storing your photos: Macs and PCs will store all the photos you take; iOS-enabled devices, usually with less space than a computer, only store the last 1,000 photos, so you can move any photos you want to keep permanently to an album; and finally, iCloud saves the photos you take over the last 30 days – enough time to connect your devices so they automatically download via Wi-Fi.
  • The old MobileMe services – Contacts, Calendar, and Mail – have been completely redesigned and rewritten to work seamlessly with iCloud. They’ll continue to have a web interface as before, as well as serve as a synchronizer across all our iOS devices and computers. The same is true for contacts in the calendar and address book, which we can share with other iCloud users to set up an appointment with a customer or to sneak in the match calendar with all our team members. When someone edits or adds an event, iCloud will update it in everyone else’s calendars.
  • Many of the new features in iOS 5 such as reminders or the Reading List feature in Safari will offer the same degree of synchronization between devices as calendars or contacts. Reading Lists in particular will make even more sense, because if bookmarking web pages and news stories for later reading is interesting, being able to bookmark them on the iPhone and then read them on the iPad or Mac will be a delight.
  • Automatic backup of your iOS devices every day via Wi-Fi connection when you put them in charge. This includes your purchased music, apps, and books, photos and videos from your camera film, device settings, app data, home screen and folder organization, text and MMS messages, and ringtones. If we have a problem or replace our iOS device with another one, all we have to do is enter our Apple ID and security key during setup and iCloud will restore it, ready to go. In my opinion, this is the real star of iCloud.
  • Documents in the Cloud stores all documents from applications that support the service, automatically synchronizing them between all devices when we make any changes. So far we know that Pages, Numbers and Keynote will take advantage of this feature and that developers will be able to easily adapt their applications to do so as well. In the case of iWork, accessing it from the web means that all of our documents in iOS are up to date and can be downloaded into iWork ’09, Microsoft Office, or PDF to continue working on the computer. And the best part is that it works the other way around, too: You drag a compatible document from your computer to iCloud.com and it’s automatically copied to all of our iOS devices.

How much storage space does iCloud offer?

iCloud includes 5 GB of free space in the cloud and although it will be possible to expand it, a priori it will meet the needs of most users since it only stores emails, iCloud Storage documents and backups. Music, apps, books and photos from Photo Stream do not consume space from this total of 5 GB.

What is iTunes Match and when will it be available in Spain?

The iTunes cloud service from iCloud automatically syncs songs you purchase from the Apple Store. But to enjoy the same benefits with the rest of your music, you’ll need to use iTunes Match. This additional paid service scans your library for available songs among the 18 million songs in the iTunes store and replaces it with a DRM-free, 256-Kbps AAC-encoded version (presumably in case yours is of lesser quality while retaining at least the iTunes library on your computer). Thanks to this, iTunes in the cloud goes to sync ALL your songs and since you don’t need to upload the ones you’ve identified because you already have them, it will upload only the small percentage of songs that you’re not able to identify and match with the music in the iTunes Store saving us a considerable amount of time.

As for availability in our country, although the launch in the U.S. will occur along with the rest of iCloud services, in other territories we will have to wait for Apple to sit down with the record companies and close a deal for each country. The first news is that the first European country where iTunes Match will be launched will be the United Kingdom, but negotiations are still at a very early stage and this launch is not expected to take place until at least the first quarter of next year so do the math.

Looking back, the iTunes Music Store was first launched in the U.S. and it took eight months to reach the U.K., France and Germany. In Spain, as in the rest of the European Union countries, the Apple music store was launched a year after its original launch.

iCloud is NOT…

iCloud is not a place to copy your files like Dropbox, is not a Time Machine in the cloud , a comprehensive backup system for your entire Mac or PC like Dolly Drive, nor will it sync any documents from an application that is not updated to support it.

Although it would be an obvious move for future improvements, everything seems to indicate that iCloud won’t allow to consult your

Mail, contacts, calendars, or photos via a web service – just like MobileMe did – on a friend’s computer or at an Internet café, for example, when you’re away from home and your iPhone runs out of battery power. Nor will it allow you to listen to your music via streaming like Spotify or watch movies like Netflix, although the success of these offerings and the purchase of the music streaming company Lala leave little room for imagination.

How much does it cost?

Unlike MobileMe, which was priced at ?79 per year, iCloud services are completely free . The only exception is the iTunes Match brand, an optional service offered for an annual subscription price of $24.99 (in the U.S.). It is also possible to extend the 5 GB of free storage mentioned above through the following options: 10 GB extra for $16 per year, 20 GB extra for $32 per year, or 50 GB extra for $80 per year.

When will iCloud be available and what will be its requirements?

Although it is now possible to use the iTunes cloud beta to automatically download music purchased from iTunes, applications and books in iOS 4.3.3 and iTunes 10.3 (version 10 compatible). 5 or higher of Mac OS X), the rest of iCloud services will not be available until this fall to coincide with the launch of iOS 5 ; a prerequisite to be able to register for free with our Apple ID and start using it on the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad, iPad 2 or 3rd and 4th generation iPod touch.

iCloud, Apple por fin se toma en serio la nube We imagine that integration will presumably be greater on the Mac, but considering that both Windows Vista and Windows 7 users (with Outlook 2010 or 2007 to access contacts and calendars) will be able to use iCloud, it wouldn’t have hurt to support Leopard and Snow Leopard users as well. iCloud

Will there be enough for everyone?

Apple has built three data centers exclusively for the iCloud deployment, the last one recently completed in Maiden (North Carolina) with an investment of more than 500 million dollars to support the demand the company expects from customers for its new cloud services, so yes, there will definitely be for everyone.

In Apple iTunes in the cloud and iTunes Match

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