After ceding much of Apple’s WWDC 2011 keynote presentation to his vice presidents, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs came back on stage to introduce iCloud, the company’s new web services hub. Macs and PCs were excellent digital hubs for 10 years, Jobs said, but the experience has started to “break” as people buy other mobile devices. That reality led to the planning for iCloud.
Jobs also announced, to no one’s surprise, iTunes In The Cloud. Songs purchased through iTunes can be synced to all devices connected to iCloud with no additional fees. New songs will also be synced to multiple devices.
— Synced on all devices: “Keeping these devices in sync is driving us crazy,” Jobs said. “We think this solution is our next big insight.” Apple will put the Mac and PC in a secondary role under the new iCloud service, connecting all of your devices (assuming they come from Apple, anyway) for file transfers and syncing. Files will be automatically uploaded to iCloud through a series of redesigned applications that have hooks into the online service, and Jobs promised it would work better than MobileMe, which he admitted was “not our finest hour.”
People can share calendars among family members or friends, and changes on one device are automatically routed through iCloud to update other devices. The same will work for Mail, and Jobs promised that his version of cloud-based e-mail would have “no ads,” in a not-so-subtle dig at Google’s Gmail.
— It’s free: MobileMe and its much-maligned $99 a year fee are going away: iCloud will be free. Nine applications, including iTunes in the Cloud, will be available as part of iCloud, and 5GBs of storage will be provided for free. That may not sound like a lot, but Apple won’t count music, books, movies, or photos against that total. iTunes in the Cloud is going live today while developers are getting a preview of iCloud today. Consumers will see iCloud arrive with iOS 5 this fall.
The App Store is now iCloud-friendly: new application purchases can be downloaded to all devices, and iBooks will work the same way. “It all just works,” Jobs promised.
— Wireless backup: New iOS 5 devices can now be wirelessly backed up to one’s PC or Mac, but iCloud will allow wireless backups to your iCloud folder as well, on a daily basis. Just like Android, new iPhone users will be able to log into an Apple account and have their entire contacts, applications, and data files stored on the old iPhone be automatically sent to the new iPhone.
— Like *Google* Docs: Apple also showed off a Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Docs-like service that works with its Pages word-processing application, backing up a new document created on one Apple device and sending it to another. This will also work for Numbers and Keynote, Apple’s spreadsheet and presentation-creation software.
“A lot of us have been working for ten years to get rid of the file system,” Jobs said, explaining the new applications as ways to get around the complicated experience of managing one’s own files. Developers will have APIs (application programming interfaces) at their disposal for using the system within their own applications, he said.
— Photo Stream: Jobs said his favorite new iCloud-related announcement was something called Photo Stream, which is designed to move photos from the device on which they were taken and move them through the web to other devices. Photos imported into an iPhoto library on a Mac will also get synced to iOS devices. Apple TV will also get to play with Photo Stream.
In order to deal with storage concerns, Apple will store the last 1,000 photos on the iPhone or iPad, and it will store all your photos within the iCloud servers for 30 days. Since Macs and PCs have way more storage space than a phone or tablet, all photos synced through the Photo Stream service will stay there as long as you want.