Apple confirmed on Tuesday what we and others have long suspected: that it will announce Apple iCloud at its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday. Details are still scant on the service, and at this point, all Apple says is that it will be a “cloud based offering,” which hardly comes as a surprise given the name.
However, Apple is widely reported to have already inked deals with three of the world’s four major labels for a cloud-based music service, which unlike the unlicensed music lockers offered by Amazon, Google, MP3Tunes and mSpot, would be capable of mirroring some or all of music fans’ existing digital music collections to the cloud in minutes rather than the hours, days, or even weeks required by those services.
(Update: Wall Street Journal claims Apple will sign Universal Music Group this week, bringing all of the majors onboard in time for the WWDC.)
In addition, Apple iCloud will almost certainly let fans send song purchases directly from iTunes to iCloud, and might even let them subscribe to the iTunes music store to get access to all of its millions of songs for a monthly fee.
Either way, iCloud will likely not be free — unless Apple manages to pay record labels for these features without charging consumers up-front. Or, as mSpot co-founder Daren Tsui predicted last week, Apple might offer iCloud free for a limited time, losing a bit of money in the hope that people will get addicted and start paying for it before too long. (The company currently offers a free, 60-day trial to its existing cloud service, MobileMe.)
“If [Apple offers] a 30-day trial, [it will] end up alienating a lot of users,” he predicted. “I think that’s a big miss by Apple, if that’s the way they’re planning to do this.”
We shall see.
If iCloud ends up being as big an influence on music as iPod, iTunes, and iPhone have been, users will be anything but “alienated.” Like those previous Apple hits, this putative cloud-based service may not focus exclusively on music, but could transform the way we access it, the way the other three did.
(Bonus: After next week, the coast should be clear for Spotify to launch here too.)