Apple demoes upcoming iCloud features, announces fall release date

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Date: Tuesday, June 7th, 2011, 05:09
Category: iTunes, News, Software

In the midst of everything at WWDC on Monday, Apple showed off its long-awaited iCloud service, describing it as a service that stores content, wirelessly pushes it to devices, and integrates with applications — all at no cost to users.

Per AppleInsider, iCloud was demonstrated by Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs, who even admitted that the previous MobileMe service was not Apple’s “finest hour.” But he also said that despite the company’s previous mistakes, iCloud is a new product.

“Today it is a real hassle and very frustrating to keep all your information and content up-to-date across all your devices,” Jobs said. “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.”

Apple is ready to ramp iCloud in its three data centers, including the third recently completed in Maiden, NC. Apple has invested over US$500 million in its Maiden data center to support the expected customer demand for the free iCloud services.

The free iCloud services include:
The former MobileMe services — Contacts, Calendar and Mail — all 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.

The App Store and iBookstore now download purchased iOS apps and books to all your devices, not just the device they were purchased on. In addition, the App Store and iBookstore now let you see your purchase history, and simply tapping the iCloud icon will download any apps and books to any iOS device (up to 10 devices) at no additional cost.

iCloud Backup automatically and securely backs up your 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.

iCloud Storage 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. Users get up to 5GB of free storage for their mail, documents and backup—which is more amazing since 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 even more storage, with details announced when iCloud ships this fall.

iCloud’s Photo Stream service 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. 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 forever. 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 and automatically download the latest photos from Photo Stream via Wi-Fi.

iTunes in the Cloud lets you download your previously purchased iTunes music to all your iOS devices at no additional cost, and new music purchases can be downloaded automatically to all your devices. In addition, music not purchased from iTunes can gain the same benefits by using iTunes Match, a service that replaces your music with a 256 kbps AAC DRM-free version if it can be matched to the over 18 million songs in the iTunes Store, it makes the matched music available in minutes (instead of weeks to upload your entire music library), and uploads only the small percentage of unmatched music. iTunes Match will be available this fall for a US$24.99 annual fee. Apple today is releasing 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.

Features from the demo include the following:

Contact, Calendar and Mail Sync: Like MobileMe, iCloud will offer syncing of contacts, calendars and mail. It will also be an ad-free service, and will ship with all iOS 5 devices this fall.

iCloud will come set up by default on new iOS 5 devices. Users will also be given 5GB of storage for mail, all free through the new service.

iCloud will be integrated in the App Store on iOS devices, allowing users to see all of the applications they own, even if they are not installed on the current device.

Backup to the Cloud: Devices can also be backed up to the cloud, for users who want to become truly PC-free. Content will be backed up to the cloud every day, and users will identify their account with a username and password login on any device.

Backups will occur over Wi-Fi only, and will apply to a number of applications on iOS devices, including purchased music, books and applications; photos and video stored in the camera roll; device settings; and app data.

Documents in the Cloud:
A new feature called Documents in the Cloud automatically backs up documents created in Pages, Numbers or Keynote in the iCloud service. The newly released versions of the iWork suite for iOS already have this feature built in.

Developers will also have access to iCloud application programming interfaces for their software. Applications will be allowed to store full documents, and they will be pushed to a user’s device automatically. It will work across all iOS devices, as well as Macs and PCs.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you have your two cents to throw in, let us know via the comments.

Apple releases iTunes 10.3 public beta, begins to introduce iCloud, re-download feature for purchased content

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Date: Monday, June 6th, 2011, 15:28
Category: iTunes, iTunes Music Store, News, Software

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Literally moments after announcing its new iCloud service, Apple offered a public beta iTunes 10.3, the latest version of its multimedia/jukebox application for Mac OS X. The new version, available at download, offers a new “Purchased” tab for re-downloading software and content at no cost.

Per AppleInsider, the new iTunes also includes the iBookstore for Mac and PC, allowing for “an unabridged browsing and shopping experience.”

Users can also find “Purchased” software in the iOS App Store by selecting the “Updates” tab. From there, in addition to available updates, the “Purchased” section can also be viewed.

The new feature offers a thorough list of all software that has been purchased on the authorized Apple ID signed in on the iOS device. A convenient “Not On this iPhone” tab also allows users to only view applications that are owned, but not currently installed.

Similarly, purchased songs can also be viewed in the iOS iTunes Store application. Content that has been purchased from the iTunes Store can be sorted by artist name, in a list of recent purchases, or a complete list of songs.

All content is presented with a cloud icon, connecting the new functionality with the just-announced iCloud service. While Monday’s quick updates offer a taste of iCloud, the full service (including wireless syncing of content and data on iOS devices such as the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad) will roll out with the launch of iOS 5 this fall.

The functionality of “iTunes in the Cloud” can also be extended to music ripped from a personal CD collection with Apple’s newly announced iTunes Match, available for US$24.99 per year. The new service will match up a user’s personal library of songs with the 18 million high-quality tracks available on the iTunes Store, and that content can also be re-downloaded to multiple devices, like an iPhone or iPad.

If you have any opinion on this, please let us know and we’ll get additional details to you as soon as they become available.

Rumor: iCloud service to be initially free for certain customers, then available for $25/year

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Date: Friday, June 3rd, 2011, 02:49
Category: iTunes, Rumor, Software

You can have it for free…for a while.

Per the Los Angeles Times, music industry insiders allege that Apple’s forthcoming iCloud service will have an initial free period for iTunes Music Store customers, but the company plans to eventually charge a US$25 a year subscription fee.

The newspaper confirmed on Thursday earlier reports that Apple had finalized contracts with the last of the major music labels, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

“The service initially will be offered for a free period to people who buy music from Apple’s iTunes digital download store,” the report read. “The company plans to eventually charge a subscription fee, about US$25 a year, for the service.”

It is unclear, though, whether the report refers to the cost of the whole iCloud service or just the streaming music feature. By comparison, MobileMe, Apple’s current online storage and sharing solution, costs US$99 a year.

In addition to charging a subscription fee, “Apple would also sell advertising around its iCloud service,” the report noted, without providing details on why Apple would both charge for the service and sell advertising. Sources also indicated that Apple “envisions the service to be used for movies, TV shows and other digital content sold through iTunes.”

Sources stated on Wednesday that Apple could offer general iCloud features free to Mac users who make the upgrade to Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”), though a music streaming service would likely come with a price tag. Music industry executives have previously suggested that Apple’s cloud-based music service could be free at first, but would eventually cost money.

According to sources knowledgeable with the terms of Apple’s agreements with the music labels claim 70% of the revenue from iCloud’s music service will go to the labels and 12% will go to the publishers, leaving Apple with 18%, according to Thursday’s report.

However, those numbers contradict a report from CNet earlier on Thursday that alleged Apple would keep 30% of revenue and share 58% with the labels and 12% with publishers. That report also cited sources claiming Apple’s streaming music service won’t be available on Monday “but will be offered soon,” though it will reportedly store only music purchased from the iTunes.

Apple is set to unveil the service next Monday at the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote in San Francisco, alongside a preview of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and the introduction of iOS 5.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple, Universal reach licensing terms for iCloud music streaming

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Date: Friday, June 3rd, 2011, 02:29
Category: iTunes, Rumor, Software

It’s never a bad thing when two parties come to terms on something.

Per CNET, Apple has signed a licensing deal with Universal Music Group, incorporating all four of the major record companies into its iTunes iCloud music plans.

Citing “sources with knowledge of the talks,” the reported today that, in addition to Universal, Apple has also reached agreements with “some of the large music publishers.”

Apple announced earlier this week that it would feature iCloud at its Worldwide Developers Conference next week, detailing its plans for the new web service.

It is believed that Apple’s iCloud will deliver a streaming media repository for users’ commercial digital content. iOS 5 is also expected to add new features that make it easy for users to automatically upload and publish their photos, movies, and other content directly from iOS mobile devices.

Apple already offers some basic streaming music and content sharing via MobileMe, but the new iCloud is understood to dramatically expand upon these features and add new ones.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: iCloud to scan, mirror iTunes libraries, Apple close to deal with Universal

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Date: Friday, May 27th, 2011, 03:10
Category: iTunes, Rumor, Software

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the rumor mill keeps technology interesting.

Per Bloomberg BusinessWeek, according to people briefed on talks between Apple and the music labels, Apple has obtained new licenses for its so-called iCloud service that will allow the company to mirror individual iTunes music collections on its servers. Additionally, Apple will replace low-quality music files stored on users’ hard drives with higher-quality versions on its servers.

However, the convenience of increased access to one’s music will come at a price, according to the report. While Apple’s upcoming music service “may be a huge shift, it won’t be free,” the article states. Label executives have reportedly said they are negotiating aggressively for profits in the cloud.

Though specific details on pricing remain unclear, the article speculates that Apple could bundle streaming music services into its revamp of MobileMe, which currently retails for US$99 a year. Fees for the service could also help labels “claw out some money” from pirated music, the authors noted. A separate report suggested last month that the rumored service could be free at first, but would eventually require a fee.

Sources close to the negotiations between Apple and the record companies corroborated earlier reports that Apple had reached agreements with three of the four major labels and is close to a deal with Universal Music.

Music executives also alleged that Google had offered US$100 million up front to the four major music labels for licenses, but negotiations stalled over the labels’ concerns that Google doesn’t do enough to protect copyright holders on Google.com and YouTube. Without the licensing agreements needed to sell music, the search giant eventually launched its Music Beta service as just a ‘digital locker.’

Rival Amazon launched its Cloud Drive online music streaming service in March without renegotiated licenses. Music industry executives, who were notified of Amazon’s plans just days before the launch, have questioned the legality of a feature that automatically adds Amazon.com digital music purchases to customers’ Cloud Drive accounts.

Apple is expected to unveil its iCloud service in June at the annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, though the company reportedly has yet to finalize negotiations for new licenses with music publishers. Apple appears to have completed work on the service, with negotiations with rights holders standing as the final hurdle.

An Apple patent application discovered last week hints at one possible solution for streaming music. According to the filing, Apple is investigating a method of storing portions of songs on devices such as the iPhone in order to allow immediate playback, while the device initiates a download from a remote location.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple anticipated to launch “iCloud” service providing terms can be reached with music publishers

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Date: Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 03:33
Category: iTunes, News

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You’re hankering for Apple to launch a streaming music service with assorted other features.

You may not have to wait too long.

According to MediaMemo, Music industry insiders expect that Apple wants to launch, or at least introduce, its anticipated “iCloud” music streaming service in June, though the company must also reach agreements with music publishers.

Pursuant to this, Apple is said to have started making deals with the labels first in its negotiation process, and only recently began talking with publishers.

How long it will take to reach an agreement with publishers remains to be seen. But Apple’s launch of 90 second song previews in iTunes was reportedly held up for months last year because of negotiations with publishers.

Author Peter Kafka also said that sources in the music industry believe that Apple wants to launch or at least announce its so-called “iCloud” service at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, starting June 6 in San Francisco. This year’s event is expected to focus on software, and it is not expected that Apple will unveil new iPhone hardware as it has done in years past.

“In Apple’s case, I’m told that the company doesn’t have any theological hurdles to clear with the publishers,” Kafka wrote.

As for the music labels, Apple has been making headway, with deals already reached with Sony Corp., EMI Group, and Warner Music Group. Those agreements would allow users to access song collections from mobile devices via the Internet.

The lone holdout remains Universal Music Group, the largest recording company. But it has also been said that Apple and Universal are close to reaching an agreement.

The Internet-based service is expected to offer more than just music, serving up calendar events, contacts, e-mail and bookmarks. Apple recently acquired the “icloud.com” domain name, suggesting that the company’s current cloud-based service, MobileMe, could be rebranded in the revamp.

Your guess is as good as ours on this one, but let us know what you think and we’ll get the information to you as soon as we get it.

Rumor: Apple secures EMI licensing deal for upcoming cloud service

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Date: Thursday, May 19th, 2011, 04:08
Category: iTunes, Rumor

You’ve been eagerly anticipating the Apple Cloud.

And they might be one step closer to releasing it.

Per CNET, music industry sources claim that Apple has signed a cloud-music licensing agreement with music label EMI and is “very near” to completing deals with Universal and Sony.

Apple appears to be putting the final pieces in place for the long-rumored cloud-based iTunes music service. The article states that Apple’s negotiations with Sony Music Group and Universal could wrap up as early as next week, according to music industry sources.

Last month, it was reported that Apple and Warner Music Group had reached an agreement for an unannounced iTunes cloud service. A separate report suggested last month that Apple had already procured deals from at least two of the four major music labels.

Finalizing licensing deals appears to be the final step for Apple, as a recent report suggested that Apple had completed work on a cloud-based iTunes music streaming service. Sources close to the story have said that Apple’s cloud solution is expected to be vastly superior to competing services from Google and Amazon.

Both Google and Amazon decided to launch their “digital locker” music services without renegotiating licenses with the labels. As such, Google’s service is unable to sell music and Amazon faces a potential backlash from rights holders.

Mounting evidence suggests that Apple will use the name ‘iCloud’ for the new service, though it’s been rumored that iCloud will be more than just music. Sources said the new service will also serve as a revamp of the company’s existing MobileMe service, allowing storage of contacts, calendars, photos and video.

According to one report, Apple purchased the iCloud.com domain for an estimated US$4.5 million from the Swedish company Xcerion.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple purchases iCloud.com domain name for $4.5 million

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Date: Friday, April 29th, 2011, 05:37
Category: iTunes, iTunes Music Store, Rumor

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Moving away from the white iPhone 4 for a moment, Apple is said to have indeed bought the iCloud.com domain for its forthcoming cloud-based iTunes music streaming service, though the rumored US$4.5 million purchase price remains unconfirmed.

Citing his own sources, John Paczkowski of Digital Daily reported Friday that Apple did purchase the iCloud.com domain from Swedish cloud computing company Xcerion. Those sources declined, however, to say whether the rumored US$4.5 million purchase price was accurate.

The report corroborates a rumor from earlier this week in which it was stated that Apple had acquired the domain, likely revealing the name of the company’s forthcoming cloud computing service. The Whois database still lists Xcerion as the owner of iCloud, but the company recently rebranded its service as CloudMe.

Still a mystery is exactly what Apple has planned for the domain. The company already has a name for its current cloud computing efforts: MobileMe.

Back in February, it was reported that Apple is working on a major revamp of its MobileMe service, and is considering making the US$99-per-year product free. The report also said that Apple will offer a digital “locker” that will allow users to store and remotely access personal content, like photos, music and videos.

More recently, Apple is said to have “completed” work on a new music streaming service that it has been pitching to music executives. And one of the four major record labels, Warner Music, is said to have signed a deal with Apple over the service, though the specifics of how it might work remain unknown.

Set to open this spring, a new Apple data center in Maiden, N.C., will support both the iTunes and MobileMe services, which has led to speculation that the US$1 billion facility could be an integral part of Apple’s anticipated cloud services. The 500,000 square-foot data center is five times larger than the company’s current data center in Newark, Calif.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple “completes” cloud-based music streaming service, users unsure what to expect

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Date: Friday, April 22nd, 2011, 03:10
Category: iTunes, News, Software

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For those of you wondering what the future of Apple’s music plans may be, we might have a hint.

Per the All Things Digital blog, a new report claims that Apple has succeeded in procuring deals with at least two of the four big music labels in the last two months, possibly signaling that the rumored iTunes streaming music service is imminent.

The story reported Thursday that Apple is “actively seeking licenses” for a new cloud-based music locker service and is willing to pay labels for the privilege.

According to author Peter Kafka’s sources, Apple has inked deals with two of the for major labels, which include Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony and EMI within the last two months. One source claimed Apple VP Eddy Cue will be in New York on Friday in an attempt to solidify remaining deals.

“They’ve been very aggressive and thoughtful about it,” Kafka reported an industry executive as saying. “It feels like they want to go pretty soon.”

Kafka’s sources have yet to see the service for themselves, but say they’re aware of the “broad strokes.” “The idea is that Apple will let users store songs they’ve purchased from its iTunes store, as well as others songs stored on their hard drives, and listen to them on multiple devices,” Kafka wrote in his report.

The report comes on the heels of a Reuters report earlier Thursday that claimed Apple had “completed work” on a cloud-based iTunes music streaming service. Citing anonymous sources, the report said Apple is “set to launch” the service, which would store users’ songs on a remote server and allow them to access them from “wherever they have an Internet connection.”

However, a Reuters report claimed that Apple had yet to arrive at new licensing agreements with the labels.

Rival Amazon launched a digital music locker last month without new licensing approval. The online retailer has reportedly faced a backlash from the music industry as a result.

According to Kafka, Apple would be able to create a more “robust service” than Amazon with re-negotiated licenses. That service could include “better user interfaces, sound quality, and other features,” said Kafka.

For example, Kafka has heard that Apple’s new deals with the labels would allow the company to “store a single master copy of a song on its servers and share it with multiple users.”

Apple’s upcoming music streaming service could come in the form of an enhanced version of MobileMe. In February, it was reported that Apple plans to revamp its MobileMe offerings by adding a free ‘locker’ service for storing photos, music and videos.

In 2009, Apple bought streaming music service Lala for $85 million, prompting speculation that iTunes streaming was in the works. However, Apple shuttered Lala last year and the rumored service has yet to materialize.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

NBC Universal balks at iTunes Store 99 cent rental price, seeks higher rates

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Date: Thursday, September 23rd, 2010, 03:37
Category: iTunes, News

It happened before, it can happen again.

Television network NBC Universal is unlikely join a pair of its peers in serving up a la carte TV show rentals to Apple TV users for 99 cents for pop through Apple’s iTunes Store later this year, according to comments from the company’s top executive.

“We do not think 99 cents is the right price point for our content,” NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker said on Wednesday at Goldman Sachs investor conference. “We thought it would devalue our content.”

Per AppleInsider, NBC currently offers iTunes customers the option of purchasing its shows outright forUS $1.99. But like the vast majority of networks that also distribute their content through the digital download service for the same price, it has balked at Apple’s new 99 cent model announced earlier this month alongside the revamped Apple TV set-top box.

Thus far, only Walt Disney’s ABC and News Corp’s Fox have agreed to the price cut, though News Corp President Chase Carey similarly told investors at the same conference Wednesday that its participation in the matter is only a “short-term test.”

For NBC and Zucker, this isn’t the first time they’ve had difficulties with Apple over digital download pricing on the iTunes Store. After accounting for roughly 40% of video downloads through the service in 2007, the network abruptly pulled its video library from iTunes after Apple wouldn’t agree to a reported 100% increase in the wholesale price of each show.

During an October 2007 breakfast hosted by Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Communications, Zucker even went as far as to single out Apple for ‘destroying’ music pricing and urged his colleagues to take a stand against the company’s iTunes Store, alleging that the service was undermining the ability of traditional media companies to set profitable rates for their content online.


NBC eventually caved to the popularity of the iTunes Store, signing back on with the service to sell its standard definition content for US$1.99 an episode and HD content for US$2.99 an episode less than a year later.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.