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Apple releases beta version of iCloud, officially enters cloud-computing market

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“To the cloud” is now taking on a whole new meaning after the launch of Apple’s most recent venture into media streaming and cloud-based services, the iCloud. The cloud computing market has become a hotbed for innovation and Apple is the most recent company to get involved, following companies like Microsoft, Google and Amazon.

Cloud-Based computing

Apple’s iCloud beta, released Monday and available to users enrolled in the Apple Development Program, features web-based versions of Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Find my iPhone and iWork. Keeping with its simple system of storage capacity, all Apple users will receive 5 gigabytes (GB) of free online data storage for free. 10GB is $20 a year, 20GB is $40 a year and 50GB is $100 a year.

When Apple announced the pending release of iCloud back in June, Steve Jobs said, “Some people think the cloud is just a hard disk in the sky. We think it’s way more than that. We call it iCloud.”

Apple.com describes iCloud as an “effortless way to access just about everything on all your devices. iCloud stores your content so it’s always accessible from your iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Mac, or PC.”

iCloud provides users with instant access to music, apps and latest photos while keeping email, contacts, and calendars up to date across all devices. It doesn’t requiring syncing, similar to how users used to have to sync iPods to specific iTunes libraries. Although users only receive 5GB of free data, purchased music, apps and books as well as the user’s Photo Stream don’t count against the free storage.

With full availability expected in the fall, Monday’s beta release of iCloud was met with mixed reviews. According to PCMag.com, some MobileMe users reported the ability to log into iCloud.com and access working apps, but others were prompted to move their existing MobileMe mail, contacts, calendar, and bookmarks. However, AppleInsider reported the popup window prompting the move doesn’t appear to be functional.

Naturally, with the first release of iCloud, mistakes are erros are going to exist. That is why companies release beta versions to select audiences. Like most Apple products, it takes time to work out the kinks and improve the software. Look at how the iPod evolved from a clunky music device, to a sleek touch-screen “mini-computer.”

What makes cloud computing so revolutionary in today’s computer industry is the lack of a hard drive and the storage of data or software online, accessible via a computer network. Since cloud services are web-based, multiple platforms allow users to access data, including laptops, smart-phones and tablets.

One of the new features iCloud provides is a backup function in the event a user upgrades or replaces an iPad or iPhone. Because data is synced between devices and stored online, iCloud can remember the device’s settings, apps, home screen layouts, ring tones and text messages, according to PCWorld.

If you need more convicing of the benefits of iCloud over other services, eWeek.com released 10 good reasons to use iCloud. The quick release of the beta version is a clear sign Apple is ready to compete in the cloud-computing industry; its enormous popularity is sure to worry competitors.

Photo courtesy Sam Johnston via Wikimedia Commons.

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