After following and anticipating its release for quite some time, iCloud has officially been made public.
By taking a trip over to the Apple’s site, users can read the official description. Confirming previous rumors, iCloud provides an easy way to sync your music purchases across all of your Apple devices (assuming you have more than one), functioning as an online hard drive. So, to mimic Apple’s own example, if you download a song on your iPhone at work, it will also be available on the iMac or iPad you left at home. Moreover, every single song you’ve previously bought will be stored in a “purchase history”, meaning it will be available for download any time to any of your devices.
iCloud also has the capability to sync any of your previously purchased songs, regardless of the source (i.e. ripped from CDs, downloaded from P2P software, bought at Amazon, etc.). In tandem with iTunes Match, iCloud will search its online database and find the corresponding song and instantly place it in your library. The only songs you have to manually upload are those that can’t be located in the database.
Furthermore, iTunes will automatically upgrade the fidelity of your music files to 256-Kbps iTunes Plus quality. Whether or not this upgrade in sonic quality is free or requires an additional fee is still unclear.
The annual price to avail of iCloud is $24.99 for 20,000 songs (approx Php 1,080.00). Oddly enough, Apple’s doesn’t mention anything about streaming, and instead focuses on downloading and syncing. This leads to some confusion on what exactly iCloud is offering as its primary service.
MP3.com, back in the year 2000, introduced an identical concept but was quickly shut down by the RIAA. So, since Apple was able to sign deals with record labels and publishers, will iCloud’s apparent “legality” last long?
Other questions arise with the launch of Apple’s new service, especially with regards to artists and the indie community. According to TuneCore, labels and publishers receive revenues every time an iCloud subscriber streams or re-downloads a song, based on Apple’s current business model. While this initially sounds great, it will definitely shape the direction of the music industry. For starters, indie artists might have a reason to worry because not only will they get less playtime, they will struggle to receive their financial dues as well, despite the fact that they can be featured on iTunes for a fee. Moreover, iCloud might dominate the mass music market far too much by imposing to its users to download only from its database and subconsciously discourage them from hunting for and acquiring music from other sources, making it even more difficult for obscure artists to be heard.
Regardless, iCloud is a very useful service and provides its users with a lot of perks. It will be interesting to see in the coming months how both the public and the music community will be affected by Apple’s new service.