What We Know About iCloud, and What We Don’t


Late Wednesday evening, the registration for the iCloud.com domain switched on to reveal that Apple is indeed in possession of the address as originally reported by GigaOM. Apple (s aapl) also began registering the iCloud trademark in Europe on Wednesday, signalling it’s all systems go ahead of the iCloud product unveiling at WWDC next week.

The prospective iCloud service has managed to steal a lot of the spotlight away from iOS 5 and Mac OS X Lion, the other two products being shown off by Apple at WWDC. That may be because we know less about iCloud than we do the other two, or because all things cloud seem to be capturing the tech media’s attention lately. Whatever the reason, the past few days have seen a bevy of reports describing what a shipping iCloud could potentially look like.

Everything That’s Fit to Stream

In addition to music streaming — a feature widely reported on as music licensing negotiations are said to have reached a successful conclusion — Cnet also reports Apple is also in talks with film studios to allow for cloud movie storage and streaming, too. Presumably, this service would be similar to the one being discussed for music, but there’s a barrier according to Cnet’s sources: the so-called HBO (s twx) blackout, which allows HBO exclusive broadcast rights of films from three of the top six movie studios when it’s actively airing their content.

Apple could still negotiate deals with the other three in time for launch, but even if the reports are accurate, don’t count on seeing movies and TV show streaming and storage announced this time around.

A Data Center That Means Business

Apple’s North Carolina Data Center is a serious beast. According to Envisioneering Group  Analyst Richard Doherty in an interview with USA Today (s gci), it “may be the most powerful data center ever, outside of government,” and “will be able to handle millions of streams per minute without any network hiccups.”

Apple clearly wants to make sure that when it unveils the future of consumer cloud technology, it’s more than able to meet demand and scale rapidly.

MobileMe Upgraded

Apple will most likely use the iCloud brand to take over the duties of its current cloud syncing and storage offering, MobileMe. That means it should provide email, notes, calendar and bookmarks syncing, along with the Find My iPhone and Find My iPad services. There have also been reports that a Find My Mac service could make its way into OS X Lion, but the service might fall under the iCloud suite of offerings, too. It would allow Mac owners to register their device, so that they can later be tracked easily via a web-based interface, and be locked or wiped remotely to prevent unauthorized use.

Free or Fee?

The MobileMe service iCloud will reportedly replace costs users $99 per year, but AppleInsider reports that some of iCloud’s services will be offered free to users who upgrade to OS X Lion, the next generation of Apple’s desktop operating system. But other features, such as music streaming, will cost extra based on the fees associated with Apple’s licensing agreements with content providers, reports say. One early report pegged Apple’s streaming music fees at around $20 per year, but little else has been forthcoming on the subject since.

People who want to use iCloud services without upgrading to Lion will reportedly have to pay the $99 annual fee currently associated with MobileMe.

We won’t have to wait long before we see what Apple has in store for iCloud, but in my opinion, it’s the unknown variables that make it the product to watch for during Monday’s keynote. Can Apple do for consumer streaming what it has done for PCs and mobile devices? Let us know what you think in the comments.



I don’t see iCloud functioning as a mere music/media streaming service. In spite of its deficiencies, cloud computing is becoming increasingly popular for businesses. It’s pure speculation of course but maybe Apple is getting ready to try and snag a piece of that pie?

I would think that a serious, business-ready cloud computing system that integrates with their various existing mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, etc.) would give Apple a huge opportunity for domination in a sector where right now they’re not much more than a blip on the radar.


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Jeremy Olson

For sure, media in the cloud is going to be big with iCloud but I think there is a bigger story here. iCloud is being announced alongside iOS 5 and Lion. I think that may be significant, it may mean deep integration. This is pure speculation but I think it makes sense for Apple to make iCloud an API for developers like myself to be able to seamlessly sync app data to the cloud without the need of any extra accounts – it’s all tied to our users’ itunes accounts. This means my apps on my iPad, iPhone, and Mac are all in sync. They may have something like Dropbox but I think they are more likely to take an app-centric approach to data storage, retrieval, backup, and sharing and it may very well be revolutionary. We shall see.

Andrew Macdonald

My thoughts entirely, Jeremy. I also look forward to what awesome developers such as yourself are able to come up with if Apple does release an API.


Reliability and security are the all-important issues for me as regards the Cloud. At this time, I do not have that level of confidence in Apple.


If your last mile is carrier (At&t maybe) then your iCloud content is iOutofReach. Total control right up to the device is required and that is not yet possible, and the “half a SYNC” hassle is assured.
The “trust” threshold is not something any Single Data Center has proven worthy of… it may well spawn fresh new excuses though…
“the check is in the iCloud”
“the iCloud Outage ate my homework”

Distributed Data Systems for high availability ( Level 3 for example ) are really the best option still. All it takes is a couple of bad routers to kill a single point of presence Data Stream. Been There. Its physics that no amount of hype can change.


What is the point of streaming music you already have on the handset?


Oh well. Provided the rumors are true, I Guess I’ll stick with Gmail and Google Calendar. They are already FREE “AS IS” and I am not forced to upgrade my OS just to get them for FREE. I’m am also not going to pay again to listen to music I already own. I don’t have to worry about 3G/4G/WiFi or whatever connection when MY MUSIC is already on my iphone/mac/ipod. So, really, what is so great about the iCloud?

pk de cville

The music streaming will include ALL the music (both legal and pirated) from ALL your devices to be streamed to ANY device you wish.

bill collier

Does this signal a stalling in new cutting edge technology? So the future for apple is to simply improve its present product line. I understand the migration to cloud streaming, but I don’t believe we have seen a quality devise with universal appeal, or maybe all the bases covered.


Is the return to a “cloud”-centric based computer system for real? Why would anyone other than an average consumer move into the cloud? Does anyone really believe that their information is secure? And for $99 I can buy at least a terrabyte of HD capacity. Who needs more storage than that?

Above Average Consumer

That’s a funny comment. “Other than the average consumer”? So Apple Corp should drop the “average consumer” and go after the “special and peculiar” consumer that you think you are?
Remember, Apple, and Google, and Amazon, are not after realizing your “geeky” dreams, they are after the average consumer “needs” (of course we know they are induced needs, but that’s another story).

Simon White

“Who needs more storage than that?”

I do for one. My iTunes media folder is currently sitting at 1.5TB


Really!? Enterprise and even government is moving into the Cloud in droves. Who needs more than a Terabyte? Well in 1985 we weren’t supposed to need more than the full 640K of RAM that we had. Today I chew through 300GB of HD space handily and I can pretty easily imagine needing petabytes tomorrow. Security depends on how you do it. If data in the cloud is encrypted then it is secure and the likelihood of losing data is almost certainly much lower. I mean somebody who thinks a Terabyte is all they will ever need probably isn’t doing much backing up…


ICloud is one service where I Won’t be an early adopter. I was badly burned twice by Mobile me and that will not happen again. After 6 months or a year of no disasters, i might think about it. In the meantime I’ll stick with cloud sync services I can trust.


Could you give me a tip as to what cloud services to use for music? Thanks!

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