Apple's Steve Jobs Unveils iCloud Music Service

Steve Jobs came back from medical leave to announce Apple's much anticipated cloud music service called iCloud. It will allow users to access music they've purchased on almost any device. Apple also will offer cloud services for contacts, calendar and mail for free.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Apple's CEO Steve Jobs took a break from his medical leave yesterday and addressed a packed auditorium at Apple's World Wide Developer's Conference in San Francisco. Jobs introduced a much anticipated online - or cloud - music service. It's not just iTunes that's getting an online makeover. Users of Apple products will now be able to store photos, documents, apps and more in this cloud for free.

NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

LAURA SYDELL: Jobs acknowledged what has become a major frustration for consumers. You take a photo on one device or download a song from iTunes to your computer, but getting them from one to the other is a pain in the butt.

Mr. STEVE JOBS (CEO, Apple): So I have to sync my iPhone to my Mac. Then I have to sync my other devices to the Mac to get that song. But then they've deposited some photos on the Mac, so I have to sync the iPhone again with the Mac to get those photos. And keeping these devices in sync is driving us crazy.

SYDELL: Jobs says the PC, which has been the storage center for everything, is now going to be just another device.

Mr. JOBS: And we're going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud. Because all these new devices have communications built into them, they can all talk to the cloud whenever they want.

SYDELL: This wasn't Apple's first attempt at creating a service in the cloud, but its MobileMe software, which cost $99 a year, flopped.

Mr. JOBS: You might ask, why should I believe them? They're the ones that brought me MobileMe.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SYDELL: Now Apple will provide the services it offered on Mobile Me - contacts, calendar and mail - on iCloud for free. But the most anticipated part of the new service is music. Amazon and Google have already launched cloud music services of their own, but they require users to upload their music to cloud-based storage lockers. Apple will instead scan your existing library for songs that match its iTunes library and give you access to those songs.

Mr. JOBS: We're scanning and matching your library, so we don't need to upload that large part of your library. And the few songs that remain, well, we'll upload them.

SYDELL: Then Apple will download them to your devices. However, you will have to manage your storage capacity, so you might not have access to your entire library the way you do with these services offered by Google and Amazon. And if you didn't purchase a song from iTunes, then you'll have to pay to store it in iCloud. The price is $24.99 a year for 20,000 songs.

Gartner analyst Mike McGuire was at the conference for the announcement and says compared to what Amazon charges, he thinks that's a good value for something most people aren't going to fully use.

Mr. MIKE MCGUIRE (Analyst, Gartner): Are you going to probably, in your travels, find somebody for whom 20,000 songs is not enough? Yes. I will tell you right now that they represent a very small part of the population.

SYDELL: Still, there's the matter of how much storage space you have on your iPhone, for example, which is not a problem with the Google and Amazon services, which simply stream your music from your cloud locker. Forrester analyst Charles Golvin acknowledges the disappointment that has already started to crop up online, that Apple didn't go far enough.

Mr. CHARLES GOLVIN (Analyst, Forrester): This idea of being able to get access to your entire library unconstrained by the amount of memory that's in your device is an appealing one to, you know, more than a few people. And having built up their expectations that that's what Apple was going to announce, they would be disappointed in that.

SYDELL: Still, Golvin points out that Apple remains the big kid on the block, with more than 225 million iTunes accounts that will automatically get access to iCloud when it launches this fall.

Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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