Apple is finally getting into the cloud computing game, but many critical details still have to be sorted out.
At a packed event in San Francisco last week, chief executive Steve Jobs unwrapped iCloud.
The new service will let users of various Apple devices sync their email, photos, documents and music to Apple's servers.
In addition, the service will let users wirelessly resend those files to all their computers and iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches.
So any bit of media you create or buy on one Apple device instantly is downloaded to every other Apple device that you own.
For all the hoopla, there are questions about how the service will work when it launches this fall.
Here's what we have to say about iCloud:
Godinez: I'll be honest. I thought this was a bit of a letdown. My gripe is that Apple talked about iCloud as a method for downloading all your content onto all your devices. So if you have 10 songs on your computer, iCloud will wirelessly download those 10 songs to, say, your iPad and iPod Touch.
But downloading that content means the data is actually stored on the hard drive or flash memory of each PC or portable device. What I wanted was a streaming service, where you log into an Apple server and the music (or whatever) is accessed over the Internet. That way, you never use up the storage space on your PC or device. What did you think?
Rossman: I really don't need more copies of my music. I'd be a buyer if the songs were streaming so I can free up space on my iPhone for more apps.
I do love the concept of iCloud and will certainly use the free aspects of the service, including Photo Stream and the wireless backup.
I think Photo Stream is going to be big. I take pictures with my iPhone all the time, and my wife never gets to see them unless I connect my phone to her Mac, which almost never happens.
Now I'll be able to stream photos I take to iCloud, and they'll move onto her Mac automatically.
I also like the ability of the Apple TV to subscribe to a Photo Stream. Imagine setting up an Apple TV for Mom and Dad and automatically uploading pictures of your kids that are instantly viewable on their television. No more having to email photos.
Victor, were there any features of iCloud or iOS 5 that you're looking forward to using?
Godinez: I think iOS 5 has several cool new features, including tabbed browsing in mobile Safari, instant access to the camera from the lock screen, and Twitter integration for tweeting directly from, say, the camera app. But I think the most gratifying upgrade might be no longer needing to plug an iOS device into an iTunes-equipped computer for initial startup or sync.
Everything happens wirelessly, which means you don't need a computer to set up an iPad or iPhone. Long overdue.
But I keep coming back to this "download vs. stream" issue with iCloud. I think it's pretty clearly going to start as a download service. One reason might be that wireless carriers such as AT&T and Verizon simply don't have nearly enough network capacity to handle millions of users constantly streaming songs (and eventually video, because you know that's coming).
On the other hand, Amazon's and Google's apps are definitely streaming services.
I suspect these business models are going to change a lot over the next few years.
I am intrigued by the "scan and match" feature in iCloud, though. For $25 a year, Apple will scan all the songs you own (even songs ripped from a CD or, presumably, downloaded from a pirate site) and give you access to those songs on all your devices. In other words, for $25 a year, the music studios will basically give you amnesty for all your pirated songs?
OK, last word to you, Jim. What did you think? Disappointed that Jobs didn't even hint at the iPhone 5?
Rossman: I've attended too many Steve Jobs keynotes to be disappointed in him not announcing some rumored piece of hardware or other.
We got exactly what Apple promised: demos of OS 10.7, iOS 5 and iCloud. No more.
Remember, this is the keynote of the developer conference. The announcements were aimed at the future of Apple software and OS development.
There are plenty of other opportunities for Apple to assemble the media to introduce new iPhones or iPads.
Perhaps we'll see an iPhone 4S or iPhone 5 or even an iPad 3 in time for iOS 5's launch this fall.
I know I've already started saving my money, because whatever is announced, I'm sure I'll need one.
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