Apple on Monday took the wraps off its iCloud online storage and synching service, which lets users move up to 5GB of personal documents (as well as 20,000 iTunes-purchased songs) to the cloud for free.
Coupled with Apple's $24.99-per-year iTunes Match service, which allows users to store music purchased (or ripped) outside Apple's iTunes store, the new system may be a blow to competing media storage and streaming services.
After an early look at the service, critics are weighing with their first impressions of the iCloud. Check out our roundup of opinions from Engadget, the Times, Fast Company, Wired and Read Write Web.
Read on for more details about how Apple's iCloud stacks up against its biggest competitors. Then, view our slideshow of Apple's other major announcements from the WWDC 2011 keynote event.
"Apple's music iCloud is nice, not revolutionary," according to Buskirk's early review of Apple's big announcement. Furthermore, he wrote, the lack of a streaming service "leaves the full promise of cloud-based music up in the air," though he appreciates that this also means users can listen to their music anytime--even without WiFi. Buskirk admits, however, that iTunes Match is the system's silver lining. "$25 isn't much to pay, considering that it means you can download nice, clean, 256 Kbps AAC versions of even your dodgy bit-torrent-downloaded MP3s from iCloud to any iDevice or iTunes-running computer for a year," he wrote.
Engadget compared the iCloud's features to those of the recently announced Google Music and found iCloud to be the clear winner. "iCloud as a whole may not make too may Android users jealous, but Google Music is already looking a bit dated, and it's not even out of beta yet," wrote Tim Stevens. Darren Murph had a similar opinion: Put simply, the music aspect of iCloud is exactly what Google Music should've been, and it's hard to imagine what kind of talks went on behind the scenes to make that all come together. Either way, at $25 a year, it's a total steal (iTunes Match, that is), and it'll most certainly serve iOS users well. I wasn't quite sold on iCloud only holding Photos for 30 days (why isn't this the same for music and documents?), but I suspect that a few premium options will unfold in due time for heavier users.
Kopytoff considers whether iCloud can kill competing services like Dropbox, Box.net and Cx.com, as well as Microsoft's and Amazon's cloud-based storage services. Pointing out that Jobs demonstrated only Apple-formatted documents in his demonstration of the iCloud, Kopytoff wondered if iCloud would block documents created with non-Apple software and noted that such restrictiveness could hinder the success of iCloud. "There was no mention of Microsoft Office software like Word and Excel or Adobe Acrobat. If it doesn't work with those applications, iCloud would have limited utility for many people," he wrote.
Watters was initially excited by the idea of Apple's iCloud. "At first blush, the thought of having your entire music collection available through iCloud sounded like an amazingly awesome deal," she wrote. "And for those of us who have amassed large record collections outside of the iTunes marketplace, it felt as though we were being pardoned for sins against the $.99 download - whether we came across our mp3s through ripping, legal filesharing, or piracy." Watters soon changed her mind, however. Most "disappointing", she noted, is the absence of a music streaming option, an aspect of iCloud that means users will have to download chunks of their library to their devices before listening.
Eaton implies that competing services should be very worried about iCloud. "While there are other companies that offer parts of all these services--Amazon's latest music service, Google's Gmail inbox--no one combines it all into one seamless service that also works across a set of hardware devices. And it's free," writes Eaton.