Although it had been rumoured for years that Apple would somehow finally fully embrace the cloud, it was only recently that it felt as though Cupertino was moving in the right direction.
Steve Jobs took to the stage for theWWDC 2011 keynote on 6 June 2011 and announced the Apple iCloud service.
iCloud will indeed store your content and wirelessly push it to all your devices. Apple says it's serious about the cloud and even showed pictures of the company's third data centre during the keynote.
You can check out T3's Apple iCloud video here:
"Today it is a real hassle and very frustrating to keep all your information and content up-to-date across all your devices," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO.
"iCloud keeps your important information and content up to date across all your devices. All of this happens automatically and wirelessly, and because it's integrated into our apps you don't even need to think about it - it all just works."
Check out our full guide to iCloud features:
Apple says that iCloud will be completely free for 5GB of storage - it will be set up by default on new iOS 5 devices.
Users get up to 5GB of free storage for mail, documents and backup. Music, apps and books purchased from Apple, and the storage required by Photo Stream doesn't count towards this 5GB total.
You will be able to buy extra storage too.
iCloud release date
iCloud will shop at the same time as iOS 5 in the Autumn, but it's available as a developer beta now, as is iOS 4.3.
iCloud replaces MobileMe
During the keynote Jobs also noted that as of today, MobileMe - which cost $99 - is no more. MobileMe apps have been rewritten to work with iCloud.
The former MobileMe services - Contacts, Calendar and Mail - have all been completely re-architected and rewritten to work seamlessly with iCloud. Users can share calendars with friends and family, and the ad-free push Mail account is hosted at me.com. Your inbox and mailboxes are kept up-to-date across all your iOS devices and computers.
iCloud Documents in the Cloud
there's a number of features with iCloud, including Documents in the Cloud. This is a Google Docs rival, where you can access all your documents uploaded to iCloud. If you edit them, then you edits will automatically sync.
iCloud iTunes in the Cloud
iTunes is also being made available on iCloud, so you can share purchased songs on all your devices."You know, it's the same old story," said Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple. "I buy something on my iPhone, and it's not on my other devices. I grab my iPod and it ain't there.
"For the songs you've already bought, we've added a purchased button. It shows the history of all the songs you've bought on any device. I can download any song to any device by pushing that little cloud button.
"It shows the history of all the songs you've bought on any device. I can download any song to any device by pushing that little cloud button. At no additional charge.
"This is the first time you've seen this in the music industry: multiple downloads to different devices for no charge. So in the future, it will push it to all of my devices."
The files are high quality 256 kbps AAC, and it only works with music purchased from iTunes, so if you buy elsewhere for the cheaper prices, you won't be able to make use of the iTunes iCloud service.
iCloud iTunes Match
Music not purchased from iTunes can gain the same benefits by usingiTunes Match, a service that replaces your music with a 256 kbps AAC DRM-free version if Apple can match it to the over 18 million songs in the iTunes Store - so that means any rubbish
It makes the matched music available in minutes, and uploads only the small percentage of unmatched music. iTunes Match will be available this fall for a $24.99 annual fee - we've no word on UK pricing as yet.
Reports are saying this is US only for now, but no doubt it will come to the UK at some point.
As you might expect, iCloud will allow the syncing of photos to the cloud. This is just displayed as aseparate album in Photos, so it's not actually a different app - which is handy. Photos are stored on iCloud for 30 days, forever on your Mac or PC (of course) while the last 1,000 pictures can be stored on each of your iOS devices or Apple TV so they can then be moved elsewhere. Photostream doesn't count within your 5GB of storage.
Photostream automatically uploads the photos you take or import on any of your devices and wirelessly pushes them to all your devices and computers.
Photo Stream is built into the photo apps on all iOS devices, iPhoto on Macs, and saved to the Pictures folder on a PC.
Contacts are stored in the cloud and pushed to all devices. Changes are automatically replicated on your other devices. This sounds so much better than Google Sync.
There's also full calendaring support in iCloud - calendars can also be shared between users, too.
iCloud Backup automatically and securely backs up iOS devices to iCloud daily over Wi-Fi when you charge your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
Backed up content includes purchased music, apps and books, Camera Roll (photos and videos), device settings and app data. If you replace your iOS device, just enter your Apple ID and password during setup and iCloud restores your new device.
The service seamlessly stores all documents created using iCloud Storage APIs, and automatically pushes them to all your devices.
When you change a document on any device, iCloud automatically pushes the changes to all your devices. Apple's Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps already take advantage of iCloud Storage.
iCloud apps and books
The App Store and iBookstore now download purchased iOS apps and books to all your devices, not just the device they were purchased on
Want to look back? Check out the iCloud rumours we looked at before the event:
Apple's rumoured to have splashed out $4.5 million on the Cloud.com. The company is also said to be striking deals with a number of record labels (in stark contrast to the gung-ho approach taken by Google and Amazon for their respective cloud-based music services) and has even posted a job advert for a 'Media Streaming Engineering Manager'.
Latest rumours also suggest that iCloud could be free to Mac OS X Lion users.
Here are the 10 things we want to see from Apple when it unleashes iCloud:
1. Cross-device support
Apple's often championed for its integrated approach. Apple kit isn't perfect, but it generally works well with other Apple kit, software and services. Therefore, when Apple's iCloud ambitions are revealed, we'd like them to work with Macs and iOS devices, offering similar features to all (although we're not crazy enough to hope anything running less than the latest versions of Mac OS X or iOS will be supported).
2. iOS data back-up/restore
Cloud services could be the means to detach iOS devices from PCs and Macs, finally making iPhones, iPods and iPads truly standalone units. You'd be able to store data in the cloud and access it from a range of apps.
Apple should also back-up and enable you to restore iOS app data. It's absurd that when you delete an app or a game, your data and progress is gone for good - you should be able to optionally reinstate these things on an app reinstall.
GET IT BACK: Delete an app and your data disappears. With cloud-based data restore, this needn't happen in future
3. Music locker
Apple's iOS devices are hardly known for their generous storage, and now Macs are going the same way, embracing SSD. If you've tons of music, chances are your iTunes library is the biggest folder on your Mac, and you can't fit much of your music on your iPhone. But if Apple can figure out what music you own and enable cloud-based access to it via iCloud, problem solved.
4. Label participation
Of course, any major shifts in how Apple deals with music will need label backing. Rumours suggest Apple's in talks with the 'big four', which should give Apple more options than its rivals. It remains to be seen whether labels would allow playback of content not purchased through iTunes, but remember when DRM was removed and iTunes enabled you to 'upgrade' your tracks for a small cost? Perhaps Apple could do the same again with iCloud - a few pence to enable you to play a track from the cloud.
5. Music streaming
For people who don't really want to buy music but still enjoy listening to it, Spotify's more appealing than iTunes. While Spotify is still struggling to expand into the USA, Apple already has worldwide presence and ongoing discussions with labels. Perhaps another string to its music bow will be a streaming subscription service to complement a music locker.
6. Movie and TV streaming
Historically, the movie industry has been even more bone-headed than music labels when it comes to new technology. Therefore, we're not holding our breath about Apple announcing movie and TV-show streaming through its iCloud services, but this would be great to have, again dealing with storage issues on iOS devices and SSD-equipped Macs.
7. Fast media playback
One problem with cloud-based media playback is speed - too often, you have to wait while files buffer. Rumours suggest http://www.techradar.com/news/computing/apple/apple-music-streaming-to-be-sped-up-by-local-storage--957549 Apple might deal with this problem by storing small portions of files locally on your device. Playback would start locally and then sync with a downloaded file, reducing caching problems.
8. Improved existing services
Apple's been pretty bad at unveiling new online services and letting them die a long, lingering death. We like the concepts behind the likes of iWork.com, Ping and Game Center, but the execution in all of them is lacking; a new iCloud offering would be a great excuse to beef up and integrate these services.
NEW AND IMPROVED: Unveiling new cloud services gives Apple a good excuse to improve mediocre existing offerings
9. Document storage
When using iOS devices, moving documents between them is a pain. Even worse, if you want to move something between your Mac/PC and an iOS device, you have to use email or hideous iTunes File Sharing.
Many apps now get around such problems by using Dropbox for storage, but Apple doesn't control this and it's not fully integrated. It'd therefore be great to see Apple provide a service of the same quality in iCloud. (Sorry, iDisk - you just don't cut it.)
10. Optional sync/merge
Finally, if Apple offers even a fraction of these things with iCloud, it must enable users to more easily manage their computers and devices, along with the information on them.
You should be able to easily sync and merge app collections, music, movies and documents. Using iOS devices and Macs is typically simple and intuitive; Apple must bring similar thinking to the complexities of document and media management across a number of devices and computers.