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What is Apple iCloud?

Posted on 17th Nov 2011 @ 10:48 AM

Apple recently launched its iCloud service, to little fanfare.  In broadband-starved South Africa, it's easy to see why this little development has flown under the radar.  We tend not to like things that automatically use up our caps, and we always turn all of those automatic syncing options off.  But as the Broadband war heats up in South Africa, and we start to see uncapped accounts at reasonable prices, services like iCloud start to become more important.  Let's have a look at exactly what iCloud is, and how you can use it.

What is iCloud?

icloud-music-apple-240909.jpgiCloud is "a catchall phrase that covers Apple’s entire suite of wireless sync and backup services, which aim to keep your devices—both iOS, and desktop computers running OS X Lion, Windows Vista, or Windows 7—on the same page, no matter which one you’re using at any given moment." In essence what it does is make sure that your iPhone, iPad, and your iTunes library on your computer all have the same media.  It is an internet-based storage system that keeps track of all of your music and media, and ensures that it is available from all of your devices.

How Does iCloud Change Things?  

iCloud marks a very important change in the way we will use our computers and mobile devices.  In the past, your computer has been the "hub" of your music and media.  It's where everything gets downloaded to first, and is the thing you use to put music on everything else you own.  In Steve Jobs' own words, iCloud will "demote" the personal computer to "just another device" - another extension of your entire suite of gadgets, all of which are rooted in the cloud.

It means that if you're on the go and you download a song on your iPhone, it will be on your computer by the time you get home, and it will be on your iPod the next time you're within wireless range or you connect it to your computer. This helps me a lot - I have an iPhone and an iTouch, both of which I use for music, but both of which have very different collections on them.  Keeping them both up to date had become a major chore, but now I just turn on iCloud, make sure I have enough space, and let iCloud do its thing.

This makes owning Apple devices all the more convenient, but it also does something important for Apple: it makes sure we all stay in the Apple ecosystem, using their services exclusively.  For good or ill, this is becoming the way of the technological world.

Can I Use it to Copy Music to my Computer?

The age old question remains unanswered.  If you have an iPod with your life's collection of music, and you get a new computer, you will still have some problems getting that music onto that computer again.  We'll cover that issue in a future post (it still requires a bit of trickery).  Right now, only the music you have downloaded from iTunes, using your Apple ID, will be available through iCloud.  In order to make sure ALL of your music moves wherever you do, you will need to live in the US and make use of Apple's iMatch service.  For those of us in South Africa, it's still a bit of a hack - and one we'll get to later in the week.

For now, play around with iCloud.  Don't worry - it won't erase all of your music or change anything.  If you use Apple and iTunes exclusively, then you will probably find that it makes your life a whole lot easier.