First came Amazon, then came Google, and now, finally, Apple has joined the musical cloud. In an announcement last week, Steve Jobs publicized Apple’s work to put iTunes in the cloud with its new, free service iCloud. While iTunes in the Cloud is among other features available as part of iCloud, including bookstore, device backup, document storage and photo stream services, it is certainly one of the most talked about and highly anticipated. However, while Amazon and Google’s cloud music services are available now, the iCloud will not be fully usable until the fall.
iTunes in the Cloud allows users to download all previously purchased iTunes music to their Apple devices for free and will automatically sync new purchases, which is pretty cool, but what about music not purchased on iTunes?
In this case, there is a fee. For around $25 a year, iTunes Match (available in the fall) will try to find the song in the iTunes Store, and, if successful, it will replicate that song for you in your music cloud, making it available instantly. With more than 18 million songs in the iTunes Store, Apple should pretty much have you covered! This leaves just a small percentage of unmatched music, which will still be uploaded, saving users significant time. Without purchasing iTunes Match, however, the rest of your music will be left grounded.
With people no longer being tied down to one location or desktop, having a service that automatically syncs for you is a key component to leading a truly mobile lifestyle. With iCloud, users can sync their iOS devices seamlessly, including their iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac. But, with heavy competition from Amazon, Google, and other lesser-known companies like Dropbox, Box.net and SugarSync, it will be interesting to see how Apple fares in this increasingly competitive market.