Apple Introduces iCloud

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Steve Jobs

The new service allows product owners to store documents and music on the Internet instead of on their own computer hard drives or mobile phones.

Apple launched its wildly anticipated iCloud cloud service on Monday, giving Apple users access to their stored documents, photos, music and contacts—anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

At its annual Worldwide Developers Conference,  Apple also launched Lion, the eighth major release of Mac OS X; and iOS 5, the next version of Apple’s mobile operating system for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

Essentially, iCloud offers a central hub in the cloud to store information—and also handle the syncing of that information—and makes it accessible on the user’s iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac or PC. When setting up an iPhone or iPad, users no longer have to launch it from a Mac or PC.

Through iCloud, Apple will provide users with up to 5GB of free storage for their personal information including email, calendar and documents. Storage for music, apps and books purchased from Apple is separate from this allocation of server space.

Among the services for iCloud, "iTunes in the Cloud" will allow users to download previously purchased iTunes music to all iOS devices at no additional cost, and new music purchases can be downloaded automatically to all supported devices.

Apple reported that music not purchased from iTunes can by used in this environment by using iTunes Match, a service that aims to replaces that music with a version from the iTunes store. Match has a $24.99 annual fee.

Apple has released a free beta version of iTunes in the Cloud, for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users running iOS 4.3.

To support expected customer demand, Apple announced three data centers, including a recently completed site in Maiden, N.C., representing an investment of more than $500 million.

Apple said iCloud would be available this fall, free with iOS 5.

The preview of iOS 5 showed off the upcoming version, which will include more than 200 new features, including iMessage messaging service; Newsstand for newspaper and magazine subscriptions; and built-in Twitter integration.

Apple also announced AirPlay Mirroring “to wirelessly display everything you do on your iPad 2 right on your HDTV through Apple TV.”