How Apple’s iCloud Stacks Up Against Competitors
Apple's new iCloud service is the latest platform to allow users to stream media files from iTunes to mobile devices and share files to with others. But despite existing offerings from Amazon, Google and Dropbox, Apple's free one-stop-shop is a strong new product that could likely shut out competitors.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced today (June 6) during the World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote that the iCloud service will have the ability to store files and music "in the cloud ," which essentially means on Apple's servers.
"Some people think the cloud is just a big disk in the sky," Jobs said. "We think its way more than that."
The iCloud — which will be running in a developer beta version starting today — will ship with iOS 5 in the fall.
What can iCloud do?
Apple's iCloud service will store content and wirelessly push and sync it to all of your devices. It also integrates with apps, so everything happens automatically.
"Everything happens automatically and there's nothing new to learn," he said. "It all just works."
Whether a change is made to a calendar or contact in any device, all of the devices you own will be updated. These features, along with a @me.com account that will also be synchronized, will be free with iCloud.
Users can also back up devices to the cloud through Wi-Fi, including purchased music, books, photos and app data. Other apps in the cloud include "Photos" and "Documents."
"If I’m on my iPad and I create a Pages document, it automatically uploads it and stores it to the cloud," Jobs said. "It then pushes it to all the devices I have Pages on, so I can document between my devices."
This also applies to iTunes purchases: "Anything I've bought I can now download to any of my devices at no additional charge,” Jobs said. "This is the first time we've seen this in the music industry — no charge for multiple downloads to different devices."
"Anything I've bought I can now download to any of my devices at no additional charge."
The iTunes Match will scan and match your library in minutes. Jobs stressed that this would be a scan, not an update: "This takes minutes, not weeks. If you have to upload your entire library to some service in the cloud, that could take weeks."
This will be priced at $24.99. Amazon charges $50 for its Web-match service, which Jobs emphasized would take weeks, as would Google's platform.
"Apple is $24.99 regardless of how many songs you have, so if you have 20,000 songs you're looking at $200 on Amazon," he said. "It's still anybody's guess how much that will cost on Google."
Amazon and Google are the two main competitors here. Users of both Google Music and Amazon Cloud Player's services must download a program to a computer in order to upload their music library to the cloud. The iCloud does not require a download.
To access the music on a handheld mobile device, Google and Amazon cloud users then download an Android app that connects to their stored music collection before streaming. Another major drawback to both services is that an iPhone app is not available, which alienates a certain Apple product users.
What set Amazon's Cloud Player apart from Google Music before was that retail giant Amazon sold music that could directly be stored on an account. Google allows users to upload only previously purchased songs.
The iCloud sweeps in to correct this problem, as well. Users can download songs directly from iTunes .
Apple also announced a feature called AirDrop on its new OS X Lion operating system. Dropbox uses cloud computing to store and share folders and files through synchronization. Airdrop does the same, with promises of peer-to-peer Wi-Fi, auto discovery and setup, sent and receipt confirmation and a fully encrypted transfer.
In addition to big files, users can also drag a conversation if they want to file it away on AirDrop.
Dropbox has both free and paid service packages. The free service provides 2 GB of online storage and those that refer friends can gain up to 8 GB.
Dropbox also supports revision history, so users can retrieve deleted items for up to 30 days. A paid option called "Pack-Rat" also gives members the ability to retrieve items for an unlimited time.
The new Mac OS X Lion will be available in July, with a variety of features, including AirDrop, for $29.99.
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