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Explanation of the iCloud, iTunes in the Cloud and PhotoStream

What iTunes in the iCloud Is and What It Is Not


iTunes & iCloud logos
Apple Inc.

We initially assumed that the iCloudwas that it would be the streaming music service  for the iTunes store — similar to Google's and Amazon's music cloud services — and that it would be accessible by iPhones, IPads, iPods, iTunes on a computer, and Apple TV.  According to Steve Jobs' announcement at WWDC 2011 and the details provided by Apple (see previous report), this isn't exactly how iTunes in the Cloud (iCloud) will work.

How Apple Describes the iTunes in the Cloud

Apple explains that the "iTunes in the Cloud" part of the iCloud service "lets you download 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." The word "download" is the key to understanding that the iCloud will not be a streaming service.  

In other words, While all of your music can be downloaded to your device at any time, it still must be downloaded and saved on the device. It is not being streamed from online.  Because the music is always available from the iCloud, you can download a list of songs you want to listen to now and remove them when you want to listen to other songs.  When you want to listen to a song again, simply download it again from your iCloud.  

To keep your music selection fresh, you'll need to juggle the songs you download with consideration to how much memory you want to use for your music.  You will probably only store the music you want to listen to right now. Music can be downloaded directly to your device. You don't need to connect it to your computer.

Storing only the music you want does mean that you won't use up large amounts of memory for your entire library.  If you are driving 400 miles on a vacation, you could save six or eight hours of music you want to listen to in the car, then delete it when you get to your destination.  The next morning, you could replace it with your workout music to play in the gym.  

iTunes in the Cloud is available now to anyone with an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 4.3; it is not available on computers until Mac's Lion system upgrade in July.

iTunes in the Cloud and Apple TV

At this time, it appears that the second-generation Apple TV will not have access to the iTunes in the Cloud — because you must download the music rather than stream it directly from iTunes.  Instead, you will to need to use AirPlay to stream music from an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch to the Apple TV.

Update: The Apple iCloud is now compatible with Apple TV.

iTunes Match

iTunes Match will launch in the fall of 2011.  iTunes Match will scan the iTunes library on your computer for legally obtained music — or at least correctly named and labeled music — then will match them to those files to songs found in the iTunes store.  The matching songs will be available in your iCloud in the same way that your previous purchases are available.  Once you have iTunes Match, you will be able to download songs you imported from CDs and other sources along with those songs that you purchased from iTunes, . Of course, this is provided the iTunes store has the title among the millions of songs it offers.  

With iTunes Match, you will truly be able to have all of your iTunes library available for download to your device.  What's more, the songs will be available in a 256 kbps AAC DRM-free version.  This means that the songs will be in better quality and playable on any iTunes-compatible device without restriction — typically, songs are imported at a lower quality 128 kbps to save memory space. 

While iTunes in the Cloud is free, iTunes Match will cost $24.99 per year.

How iCloud's PhotoStream Feature Will Work

The other media sharing aspect of the iCloud is PhotoStream.  According to Apple, "PhotoStream automatically uploads the photos you take or import on any of your devices and wirelessly pushes them to all your devices and computers."  If you take a photo on your iPhone, it is immediately available on your home computer, and on Apple TV in the PhotoStream tab.  

This means that you can use an iPhone to shoot a picture of little Johnny making the winning soccer goal and, within seconds, share it with Mom can see it on the Apple TV at home.  It happens automatically.

The last 1,000 photos you have taken are stored in the iCloud for 30 days.  This gives you time to save them on your computer and/or devices.  But you must save them, as the oldest photos will be deleted when you add new ones. 

PhotoStream can be accessed by the AppleTV  because the photos are stored online and streamed to the AppleTV.  

Along with sharing the photos you shoot on your iPhone or iPad, PhotoStream will also be able to share photos that have been imported to these devices.  There are a number of ways to import photos to your device.  EyeFi camera memory cards can wirelessly transfer photos, and Apple has an accessory to connect your digital camera or camera's memory card directly to your iPad to transfer photos. 

Through importing photos on your iPad, you can share photos you take with any digital camera.  Note that an imported photo will be converted for iPad viewing and will not be the original size of the camera's file, so you may want to download the original photos when you get to your computer.

Other iCloud Services

The iCloud will provide cloud locker services to save your documents and backups for your devices.  You can learn more about iCloud's other service at Apple's iCloud page.

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