Apple iCloud: Remotely store (not stream) apps, music, books, photos, the lot

Finally, after much speculation, Apple has pulled the lid off its iCloud streaming service and revealed that it's not just for music, as previously thought. And there's no mention of streaming.

Speaking at the company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Steve Jobs said that the company is going to "demote the PC and Mac to just be devices", with iCloud storing all of your content and pushing it around like an ethereal bully.

He also admitted that MobileMe, in its current form, has "not been out finest hour". Instead, the company has rewritten the software from the ground up. The contacts, calendar and mail cloud-sharing apps will now be integrated into iCloud, and rather than cost $99 per year as before, they'll be completely free.

iCloud alterations to the App Store and iBooks allow you to store your paid for content in the cloud, ready to download to whatever iOS devices you own. If you own an app, for example, on an iPhone, your iCloud holding page on your iPad will show a cloud next to that specific item, ready for you to access it on that device instead. You won't need to plug the device into iTunes, or access the App Store to get the app again.

The new service is integrated within the new versions of iWorks too. Whenever you work on a document, it automatically stores it in the cloud (as long as you're in an Internet-served area). Then it will be immediately available on any of your other iOS devices, or Mac, without you having to physically transfer it. Think Google Chrome OS, without the "Google" or "Chrome" bit.

Photos will also be stored in the cloud. As soon as you take a photo, it zips over to Apple's servers, and is then accessible on any other iDevice, Mac or PC. The device that took the pics will only store the last 1,000 photos and Apple will only keep an image for 30 days, however, so you will be advised to open them on a computer via iCloud - then they'll be stored permanently.

And, although the entire industry expected iCloud to be a music streaming service, it isn't. Instead, iTunes in the iCloud is exactly that, a download service that, like with books and apps, allows you buy a track once and then pull it from the cloud to other devices. Each track is a 256kbps AAC and will be completely free to download onto up to nine further devices (once you've initially paid) - 10 in total.

In addition, for $24.99 a year and in the US only, Apple is offering iTunes Match, which will scan your music library (the only thing the rumours got right it seems), and offer the 256kbps AAC versions for download to devices instead. It only takes minutes to scan (as it's not uploading tracks) and it costs the same regardless of how many songs you own. If there are no equivalents on the iTunes Store, it will upload your version for you.

The developers beta of iCloud is available today, and it will be shipped with iOS 5 for free in the fall. And with that, each user will get 5GB of mail storage. Obviously, iTunes Match costs more, but is not compulsory, and as it's only in the US, means very little to UK owners.

What you expected? Let us know in the comments below...

Pic: Flickr / BENM.AT Live