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Amazon working on Apple, Google competitor with cloud locker for media

amazon.comAmazon is getting ready to debut a “digital locker service” for online media content, according to a report from CNET. In fact, the new feature could be announced this week and would offer customers cloud storage for their film and music libraries — regardless of where the content was purchased.

Apple and Google have long been rumored to be creating cloud-based storage for media content, and CNET’s sources claim that Amazon wants to get a leg up on its competition. Google has been notably proactive with its online music service, which also offers users storage on its servers. But Amazon isn’t too far behind: The online retail site has been meeting with “major record companies and Hollywood film studios” about the new project, and of course it has some experience in this field. It’s Kindle and Instant Video features both defer to the cloud for storage.

But what about Apple? We heard that iTunes Cloud would be introduced in 2010, which obviously didn’t happen. And there hasn’t been too much talk about the online service since. Apparently, this could be the Cupertino giant’s own fault: Cult of Mac claims that the company “is said to have gotten an earful from music heads that don’t agree on streaming fees,” which sounds pretty familiar to the battle Apple fought regarding its iTunes subscription service. But apparently, Apple is still planning a digital locker for MobileMe, and there’s also been some musings lately that Apple has some big plans for video streaming.

Either way, if Amazon does indeed introduce its digital locker service this week, it will beat two major competitors to the punch. Amazon is something like the dark horse in the unending innovation coming from Google and Apple — the company is surprisingly keeping on trend and introducing vital technologies for users. Its Android Appstore opened last week, and there are rumors it’s considering its own Android tablet in the future. The company is definitely starting to step outside its former boundaries of retail sales and give the big names some new competition.

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Molly McHugh
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Before coming to Digital Trends, Molly worked as a freelance writer, occasional photographer, and general technical lackey…
MobileMe has one year to live: Apple shuts down service June 2012

MobileMe is one of Apple’s few failures. A recent Fortune profile [via MacStories] of the company tells the story of how an irate Steve Jobs once lambasted the application’s team for its shortcomings. “Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?” he once asked. When given an explanation, he replied, “So why the f*** doesn’t it do that?” He didn’t stop there: “You’ve tarnished Apple’s reputation. You should hate each other for having let each other down.”
Apple isn’t used to these types of project stalls and stutters, and it comes as no shock that it plans to shut down MobileMe entirely. A couple of months after discontinuing its in-store sales, rebate programs for MobileMe were halted, causing many to think Apple might overhaul the service and make it free of charge. And it appears that Apple’s band-aid for the debacle is iCloud, announced yesterday at WWDC. From first glance, iCloud (which is free) appears to be enough of an upgrade from its predecessor to eliminate many of the headaches, but there are still some skeptics who believe this could be MobileMe 2.0. Yesterday Jobs admitted Apple’s faults with cloud computing, saying MobileMe “wasn’t our finest hour." Only time will tell if it can successfully replace MobileMe - but what about the doomed services' current subscribing members?
According to Apple Support, as of yesterday current members’ accounts were extended through June 30, 2012 without any additional charge. And come June 30, MobileMe will cease to exist. Content will be transferred to iCloud, where users can use their or email addresses. Details on how exactly this will work are coming in the fall. Subscribers using the Family Pack option can create new accounts under this service, but effective yesterday you can longer upgrade to this or purchase more storage. And if you are one of the many out there with unused activation codes for MobileMe sitting around, you can ask for a refund – under the following conditions: “If you purchased a MobileMe box and your activation code has not been used to start or renew a MobileMe subscription, then you may be eligible for a refund.”
Users can also get pro-rated refunds. If you just started using the service within the last 45 days, you get all your money back; longer than that and you will get a partial refund.
While there aren’t many of them out there, will iCloud be able to assume everything devoted MobileMe users need it to? The new application’s iTunes syncing across multiple devices has stolen most of the hype, but Apple hasn’t fully discussed how iCloud will swallow up other MobileMe features, like iDisk, Photo Galleries (Photo Stream isn’t quite the same), and sharing content in general hasn’t been entirely explained yet. Of course an important ball in iCloud’s court is that it’s free, so we’re sure there are plenty of MobileMe subscribers out there ready to hear the ensuing details in the fall and kiss their annual fees goodbye.

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Apple iCloud: Everything you need to know

In addition to discussing OSX Lion and iOS 5 today at Apple's WWDC, Steve Jobs announced that Apple will once again make a foray into cloud storage with a new service called iCloud. The idea is that the new service will seamlessly push user content like music, photos, and documents from the original source (theoretically a Mac or PC) to all of the user's other iOS devices. With iPhones and iPads becoming almost as common as phones and computers themselves, Apple realizes that it's now common for users to have all of their content on a home computer without an easy way to get it to their other devices. Jobs noted that the notion of having a home computer as a digital hub for content will soon be outdated. The new hub will be in the cloud, where content can be easily accessed from any of several devices. Apple took a shot at cloud service with MobileMe, but it was generally considered a failure and also cost users $99 per year. Now, Apple has revamped its approach and is offering the content-syncing service for free. Jobs reviewed all the specs in his announcement today, but we've got all the details you will need to know as a user looking into the iCloud service.
Jobs boasted today that the best thing about the iCloud service is that it works without any hassle for the user. Content will be stored in the cloud and transparently and wirelessly pushed to all devices. The service will be integrated with apps as well, meaning that all synchronization will be automatic. The free service will also offer daily backups, via Wi-Fi, of important data like photos, music, apps, and books. We've broken iCloud down into categories to show you how the service will work with your various forms of content.
Data, apps, and documents
Like MobileMe before it, iCloud will offer easy syncing of basic data like contacts, calendars, and email. Everything in those categories will be synced automatically with no effort by the user. iCloud users will also be able to look at a list of every app users have ever purchased, and then tap to download the app again to any of their devices, free of charge. In the future, apps will automatically download to all devices. Until then, the same system will apply to iBooks, including bookmarks and last-read page markers. Documents will also be available in the cloud. Anything created in Pages or Keynote will automatically be shared across devices, meaning that users will no longer have to worry about physically transferring that document from their home computers to their iPads.
A new app called Photo Stream will keep photos synchronized across devices along with iCloud. Take a photo on your iPhone and it will automatically be downloaded to your computer and iPad. This feature is built-in to the photo app, meaning that users don't have anything new to learn to make sure their photos are syncing. The photos will be accessible from your Apple TV, too. Your photos will even show up on your PC. Photos will be directly downloaded to the My Photos folder on PCs.
Perhaps the most important part of the iCloud announcement today was hearing how Apple would integrate iTunes with the cloud. As expected, any songs purchased in iTunes will be available to download on any iOS devices. This syncing won't be automatic, but it's probably a plus to leave users some control when dealing with large music libraries. However, Jobs noted it as an advancement in the music industry as it's the first time record labels have allowed users to download the same album on multiple devices with no extra charge. When new music is purchased through iTunes, users will have the option to have the songs automatically available on all devices.
The other important question that users will have is whether iCloud will be able to handle and store songs that weren't purchased through iTunes. Luckily for all music lovers, the answer is yes, in some form or another. For songs that have been ripped from CDs or downloaded somewhere other than iTunes, users will have two options. The most significant option is the new iTunes Match, which will scan the non-iTunes-downloaded songs in your library and attempt to find a match for each song in the iTunes store. As long as there is a match to the song, iCloud will treat the song as if you downloaded it from the iTunes store originally, giving you all the benefits of the song within iCloud. The iTunes Match service, which should allow users to have full access to their entire music libraries in iCloud (without any slow uploading process), will cost $25 per year. If there is no match to a song in the iTunes store, or if users don't want to fork over the $25 per year, songs can be uploaded to the cloud manually. Songs matched with iTunes Match will also be upgraded to a 256 Kbps DRM-free AAC format.
We will have to wait until we can get our hands on the full iCloud service before making a full judgment, but it sounds like Apple is headed in the right direction with the announcement of iCloud. Apple clearly wants users to have a full suite of products at home: iPhone, iPad, Mac, so it makes sense that they would create a service that would allow users to move seamlessly from one device to another. This service makes it clear that Apple is moving forward with the assumption that users will want to have their 'hub' of data in the cloud instead of on their home computer. We think this is a safe assumption that will make iCloud a success, even if it takes consumers a little while to fully catch up to the idea.
You can now watch the WWDC Keynote on Apple's website to learn more about iCloud, iOS 5 and OSx Lion.

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Apple’s cloud music service scans user’s iTunes library for content, sources say

Apple has yet to formally announce its planned cloud-based music service, but it's really just a rumor in name only at this point. Amazon and Google are both up and running, to varying degrees, with competing offerings. Cupertino's been silent on this front simply because of a reported push to ensure that deals are struck with the major record labels before there's any kind of launch. EMI, Sony and Warner Music are all on board, and Universal is said to be not far behind. Of course, just because nothing is official doesn't mean people in the know haven't been talking. They have, and Bloomberg Businessweek has some insider-sourced details on what's planned.

The so-called iCloud service will apparently scan each user's music library in iTunes and then create a cloud-sourced mirror of it with any songs ever having to be uploaded directly, three sources "briefed on [Apple's] talks" confirm. Any tracks with sub-par sound quality will automatically be replaced with a high quality version. Once the cloud-based library is built, you'll be able to stream the content to your computer or iOS device.

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