Apple will release later today iOS 5, iCloud and OS X Lion 10.7.2 with iCloud support. Without a doubt, iCloud is the core feature of these releases. So what is iCloud? You might have read many things about it. This is a concise layman’s guide to what is iCloud.
“Cloud computing” is a buzz term used by tech geeks to describe computing services provided over the Internet. iCloud is Apple’s service to provide you ways to store and sync your data on the Internet. Once your data is in iCloud, you can access them via Internet on Mac or any iOS devices.
iCloud can be loosely view as an upgrade of MobileMe. However iCloud is so much more than just MobileMe. Apple integrates iCloud tightly with iOS 5 and OS X Lion, to give users seamless data sync across Apple devices. For developers, iCloud is also a data store and sync platform with API to allow development of apps and services.
Apple off course is leading the pack with a number of native apps riding on iCloud. You can store your mail, calendar, contacts, notes, reminders, Safari bookmarks on iCloud and access them from multiple Mac or iOS devices. “Find My iPhone” is one of the earlier MobileMe app ported to iCloud. You can find out your device’s location with this app, remotely lock or even wipe the data of the device. Apple is also launching a new “Find My Friends” app that allows you to check out your friends location.
PhotoStream is another new service in iOS 5 from Apple riding on top of iCloud. PhotoStream will sync your photos in iOS devices’ camera roll to the iCloud, so that you can view them from multiple iOS devices and also from AppleTV. iWork is the first major productivity apps that can store your documents in iCloud. So you can compose your Keynote file on the Mac, and pop over to show the presentation using your iPhone.
iCloud is also an internet website at iCloud.com. This website as shown above allows you to access your iCloud data over a browser. Essential when you do not have an iDevice with you.
Apple is also storing the music, apps, books that you purchased on iTunes App Store on iCloud. If your music and books are all from iTunes App Store, you can essentially bypass iTunes app on the desktop and access those content from iCloud. You can now choose not to use iTunes desktop app. iOS 5 is the first iOS that can be operated without first plugging into your Mac/PC and iTunes.
For many years, iTunes app on your Mac/PC is considered the hub where you store your iTunes data, and sync the data over to your iOS devices. iCloud is poised to take over this place to be the central hub for these data.
Apple will be launching iTunes Match end October for US. This subscription based iCloud service will match your iTunes library, allowing you to convert your private music collection over to iCloud, and download them as and when needed over iCloud for listening.
With an API opens to third party developers, we expect more and more apps and services will be build on top of iCloud.