Like clockwork each June/July Apple since 2007, Apple has unveiled a new iPhone. And like clockwork, each June/July I've dutifully/stupidly (usually on assignment) spent all night waiting on line to get it.
I'll be able to sleep in this summer.
But on Monday morning at the company's annual World Wide Developer's Conference (WWDC) where Steve Jobs has presented each year's new iPhone, Jobs instead will present a plethora of new software, services and features to enhance the user experience for all iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad owners. In fact, it may be like you're getting a whole new iPhone – for free.
First and foremost will be a new operating system for all iPxxx devices, iOS 5.
No more music on your phone
iCloud is a reference to "the cloud," an all-encompassing term for remote data storage and access. For example, photo services such as Picasa are "cloud" services – you upload your photos to these sites, then you can access them from any Internet-connected device such as a PC, laptop, tablet or smart phone.
The idea behind "cloud" computing is to store and access large files heretofore imprisoned on your personal (or "local") hard drives, files which previously could be accessed only when you were home or at the office. Google and Microsoft also offer "cloud" office software, enabling far-flung workers to collaborate on documents from remote locations.
iCloud works the same way, just with music.
You likely don't have enough memory in your iPxxx to carry all your music. You have to spend time to carefully cull your collection to create a tight playlist of a limited number of tracks.
With iCloud, if you have only an 8 GB iPhone but you own 20 GB of music, you would use your iPhone's Internet connection or Wi-Fi (we're not sure if it's one, the other or both) to listen all of your tunes now stored on Apple's remote hard drives.
Not only do you not have to fill the memory on your iPhone with music, you now have more memory to store photos and videos – or save money on your next iPhone by buying a model with less memory.
iCloud vs. Amazon/Google
With the Google and Amazon services, you have to upload your entire music library to their cloud servers. This could take hours, maybe even days depending on the size of your music library. And each time you buy or rip a new song to your library, you'll have to remember to upload it so it's available for you to hear from the cloud.
Apple, however, will read your iTunes folder – with your permission, of course. The company then creates a duplicate of your music library on its servers for you to access. No time-consuming upload, no need for periodic uploads when you add new music.
How iCloud music streaming will work in the real world, of course, remains to be seen (or heard). It may use up your cell phone plan data minutes, music you've bought or ripped from obscure sources may not be duplicated and may require uploading, and streaming may be spotty depending on your iPxxx's Internet connection.
iCloud may encompass more than music, however. It may include all the current cloud services offered through Apple's MobileMe, which stores calendar, contacts, email, work files, photos and allows you to remotely locate, lock and/or erase registered iPxxx devices where they are in the world.
But priced at $99 a year, MobileMe has not caught on.
Speculation is that iCloud will be offered free for iTunes customers, then cost $25 a year.
iCloud is actually part of Apple's next generation iOS 5 operating system, which also could include a host of other enhancements such as:
improved voice recognition, which could mean you'll be able to dictate notes, texts and emails instead of typing;
instead of having to connect your iPhone to your PC to update its operating system, it could update itself wirelessly using the cell phone network ("over-the-air" or OTA), just like Android phones do;
better multi-tasking by being able to swipe left and right between applications;
Twitter integration, which means (among other things) you'll be able to share photos on Twitter from the iPhone's camera instead of using a third-party app such as Yfrog (which, as Rep. Anthony Weiner has alleged and Yfrog has denied, is vulnerable);
background app updating – instead of opening up a Twitter app, for instance, and waiting for all the new tweets to load, they'd all get downloaded while you're doing something else;
MacWorld has posted an excellent and detailed rundown on "Ten Features That Might Appear in iOS 5."
One more thing…
iOS 5 is not the only operating system Apple will unveil Monday morning. A new Mac operating system, OS X Lion (officially version OS X 10.7), also will be unveiled.
There have been reports that buyers of OS X Lion also will receive many iCloud services for free.
We'll find out and report details – such as when iOS 5 will be available for download and on which model iPhones it will work – on Monday.