As expected, Steve Jobs took the stage at the 2011 Worldwide Developers Conference to show off the long-awaited iCloud service. Originally thought to handle the streaming of music to iOS devices, iCloud will also store various types of content and wirelessly push it to user's devices for free.
No more MobileMe
The new service will effectively replace Apple's poorly received MobileMe service when it arrives this fall. Similar to MobileMe, iCloud will allow users to sync contacts, calendars, and mail. However, unlike MobileMe, iCloud will be free to all iOS users and will run without advertisements. There's no word on what happens to exisiting MobileMe customers who paid the $99/year fee.
Users will get 5 GB of storage for their iCloud account. This will handle mail, documents, and phone back-ups (purchased music, apps, books, photos, device settings, text messages, app data) which can be performed everyday via wi-fi. When you get a new device or need to restore a current one, just type in your password and all will be restored. The service will also allow subscribers to see what apps they have purchased even if they are installed on a different iOS device.
All your (legal) songs, where ever you are
Similarly, users will be able to re-download songs to any iOS device at no additional cost. When a user logs into iTunes, songs they have already purchased will be represented with Apple's iCloud icon. Same goes for books downloaded from the iBooks Store
To play music from iCloud it must be purchased from iTunes. But, if you want to get your entire music collection in the cloud, or at least a major part of it, you can pay $25 a year to sign up for iTunes Match which will look through your library for songs you downloaded elsewhere and find a match for it in iTunes then put that in your iCloud library. There's a slim chance it will work for your mixtapes, but should do well with all your other songs.
Oh, and for those of you worried about how to pare down your music service to fit into the 5 GB of allocated cloud storage, relax. Music, apps, books, as well as your Photo Stream don't count against your storage.
Deeper than music
More than a wireless music service, iCloud will come with a feature called Documents which will automatically backup documents created in Pages, Keynote, or Numbers. The backed-up documents can then be downloaded to any iOS device running Pages, Keynote, or Numbers.
The same will be done for photos with Photo Stream. Users will be able to back up, sync, and access photos on all their iOS devices. To save space, only the last 1,000 photos will be stored locally on the device. If saved to the cloud, photos will be stored for 30 days.