At WWDC 2011 today, one of the big announcements was iCloud. MobileMe clearly wasn't doing too well and Apple decided to beef up its storage service and launch iCloud. iCloud basically stores all your information and shares it across devices. Contacts, Calendar and Mail have been rewritten from ground up to the iCloud apps. Contacts are pushed to the cloud when added on one device and synced across all other devices. It's the same with calendars. Make or edit a calendar and it gets pushed to the cloud. Apple also introduced calendar sharing, which means you can share a calendar from your device to another friend or family member's device even if they're sitting far away from you. Mail too works where all folders are synced and up to date across all devices.

Apple stores in the cloud

Apple stores in the cloud

Two more apps brought to iCloud were the App Store and iBookstore. Same principle, apps and books purchased on one device are synced across other devices as well. You'll see a “download from cloud” button. If you bookmark a page in an iBook on one device, it will transfer over to another device. iCloud backs up your iOS devices to iCloud daily over Wi-Fi, when you charge your iPhone, iPad and/or iPod Touch. If you replace your iOS device, enter your Apple ID and password during setup and iCloud restores your new device.

Documents can be shared over the cloud, too. If you're on your iPad and you make a “Pages” document it automatically stores it to the cloud. It then pushes it to all the devices that have Pages on it. Likewise with Numbers and Keynote, which were updated last week. Users get up to 5GB of free storage for their mail, documents and backup. The storage for music, apps and books purchased from Apple, and the storage required by Photo Stream doesn’t count towards this 5GB total. Users will be able to buy more storage, with details announced when iCloud ships this fall.

Sync your music from one device to others

Sync your music from one device to others

Another iCloud feature is the Photo Stream service. It automatically uploads the photos you take or imports 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. To save space, the last 1,000 photos are stored on each device so they can be viewed or moved to an album to save. Macs and PCs will store all photos from the Photo Stream, since they have more storage. iCloud will store each photo in the cloud for 30 days, which is plenty of time to connect your devices to iCloud and automatically download the latest photos from Photo Stream via Wi-Fi.

Also, you can't forget iTunes in the cloud. Not only can you share all your bought and downloaded music across all devices, but older purchases can be quickly downloaded from your purchased folder. For music not bought from iTunes, iCloud has an iTunes Match feature which recognizes songs you haven't bought from the iTunes Store and will upload the rest of the songs that they can't match. iTunes will bump these up to 256 kbps AAC DRM-free. The iTunes Match service will cost $24.99 (approx Rs.1,120 ) per year, however, this service seems to be available in the US only.

The iTunes Match service from iCloud

The iTunes Match service from iCloud

Apple also released a free beta version of iTunes in the Cloud, without iTunes Match, for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users running iOS 4.3. iTunes in the Cloud will support all iPhones that iOS 5 supports this fall. Apple is supporting iCloud in its three data centers, including the third recently completed in Maiden, NC. The iCloud beta and Cloud Storage APIs are available immediately to iOS and Mac Developer Program members at developer.apple.com. iCloud will be available this fall concurrent with iOS 5. Users can sign up for iCloud for free on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch running iOS 5 or a Mac running Mac OS X Lion with a valid Apple ID. iCloud includes 5GB of free cloud storage for Mail, Document Storage and Backup. Purchased music, apps, books and Photo Stream do not count against the storage limit.

iCloud syncs contacts across devices

iCloud syncs contacts across devices

iTunes in the Cloud is available today in the US and requires iTunes 10.3 and iOS 4.3.3. Automatic download of apps and books is available today. Using iCloud with a PC requires Windows Vista or Windows 7; Outlook 2010 or 2007 is recommended for accessing contacts and calendars.

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