MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

I'm Melissa Block.

And it's time now for All Tech Considered.

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Today, Apple founder Steve Jobs returned briefly from medical leave to address the company's annual developer's conference in San Francisco. Jobs took the podium to the strains of James Brown's "I Feel Good." He's been battling pancreatic cancer. And perhaps the most anticipated announcement Jobs has made was for Apple's Cloud-based music service.

NPR's Laura Sydell was at today's conference and she joins us now. Laura, it's called iCloud. Tell us what it does.

LAURA SYDELL: Well, essentially what it does is it makes possible to put all kinds of things in what they call the Cloud. And what the Cloud really is, it's a storage facility far away that Apple owns, but that you can access from any device.

So no longer will you have to just download all your music onto every single device. Instead, you'll just be able to sign in and your music will be there. And in this case, there were other things too, as well as photos and documents. So it was a whole kind of iCloud service that they were talking about here.

BLOCK: Yeah, Apple is following on the heels of Amazon and Google. Both of those companies have announced their own Cloud-based music service over the past several months. How is iCloud any different?

SYDELL: Well, it is different and time has something to do with it, as in how long it's going to take you to actually get access to your music. So both Amazon and Google did something, where essentially you're going to have to upload every song up to the Cloud and that's going to take time. So it could take a long time before, if you have 20,000 songs, before all of your songs are up there.

What Apple did, Apple is doing this thing where iTunes will essentially scan your library and it will look at what's songs you've, and then it will find those same songs in its library. So it just knows you've got and that you bought them or you own them, and it will give you access to those particular songs. And that means it's going to happen instantaneously. You won't have to wait until every song uploads.

BLOCK: What about a cost to the consumer, Laura?

SYDELL: Well, here's how it goes. It's actually free if you have purchased songs through iTunes. So any song you purchased on iTunes, you'll be able to get on your iPhone, on your iPod Touch. You'll be able to get it on your iPad.

If you didn't buy it from Apple but you have a whole collection, say, of CDs that you've put into your iTunes library, for 24.99 a year you will be able to access those songs. That is providing Apple has rights to them in their library.

So, say, if it was something that wasn't in their library, that would still be problematic. But they have a very big library, so were talking about a lot of songs. So for 24.99, I think it's about 20,000 songs. And as one analyst I talked to afterward said, for most people 20,000 songs is a lot of songs to be able to access from any device.

BLOCK: Yeah, you're paying to access songs you already own though it's...

SYDELL: Yeah.

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SYDELL: Yes, that is true. You are paying for a service. That is absolutely true. Though I have to say, you know, if you compare it to, say, Amazon's Cloud service, it actually ends up being cheaper. It's 24.99 a year. And to me, it seems like a pretty good deal for a service that essentially lets you get all your music wherever you are. But I don't know. That's me.

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BLOCK: Laura, briefly. Did - Apple is a little bit behind the curve here. Why did it tale them so long to unveil this Cloud-based music service?

SYDELL: Well, you know, there are a lot of rights involved here. And the reason that Amazon and Google did it the way they did it is because they didn't want to step on anybody's rights. The reason Apple's work so quickly is because they've got all four major record labels involved. They've got publishers involved and everybody is getting a cut on this. And so that's why it took them longer.

BLOCK: Okay, NPR's Laura Sydell, thanks so much.

SYDELL: You're welcome.

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