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Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) chose to spend most of its time during its special event Tuesday recapping the company’s strengths and highlighting the new iPhone 4S. Almost as anticipated as the new iPhone were additional details about how its iCloud service will work when it launches next week, but Apple did little more during its presentation than review what it had already announced in June. Here’s what we still don’t know:
—New iTunes Features Outside the U.S.? Several sources, including our sister publication The Guardian, reported that Apple had reached the necessary deals with music labels and publishers to allow its iTunes in the Cloud and iTunes Match services to become available in Europe, but that’s not necessarily the case. iTunes Match allows iCloud users to store a copy of their music library on Apple’s servers for access by iOS devices, but it will only be available for U.S. users and not until the end of October, despite the fact that iCloud itself launches on October 12th.
“We’re working very hard to add additional countries before the end of the year,” said Eddy Cue, senior vice president of Internet software and services, during Apple’s event. There’s obviously some confusion regarding the state of Apple’s discussions with record labels for this service.
And iTunes in the Cloud availability “varies by country,” Apple said in its press release without elaborating. (An e-mail seeking clarification was not immediately returned, will update if more information is provided.) iTunes in the Cloud allows users who have purchased music or movies through iTunes to download that content to multiple iOS devices they own.
—Streaming? Cue actually used the word “stream” when referring to how iTunes Match users would be able to access their music libraries from an iOS device, weeks after Apple representatives told AllThingsD and others that no actual “streaming” would take place. And he followed it up by using the phrase “streams immediately” as a bullet point in his presentation summing up how iTunes Match works.
Meanwhile, Apple’s official iTunes Match page said that users will be able to “stream and store (music) on any of your devices.” So, what’s going on? Are there separate mechanisms for streaming a song as opposed to downloading it your device? This may become obvious once the service is released, but it’s a little surprising that Apple continue to be vague about how that feature will work.
—Login Details? One thorny problem that Apple simply may not be ready to discuss is the issue of multiple IDs from users who have been MobileMe customers as well as iTunes customers over the years, and which identity they’ll have to employ in order to log into iCloud. The company was said to be working on a solution to the issue ahead of Tuesday’s event, but had nothing to share.
It seems pretty clear that Apple made a conscious decision to demote iCloud during its presentation to focus on sharing corporate metrics designed to reinforce new CEO Tim Cook’s first official month on the job and to highlight the new features of the iPhone 4S, especially the Siri voice-recognition software. But iCloud is a huge step for a company that has sometimes struggled when it comes to deploying Internet services and it’s a little surprising it passed on the chance to promote before a ravenous audience.
Confidence in Apple’s Internet strategy didn’t get any stronger, either, when apple.com went down for several minutes following the end of the keynote address as people surged onto the site seeking more information on the new iPhone.