Apple iCloud: Details emerge on new music service

Apple is almost certainly getting ready to release a cloud-based music service. So what's inside the 'iCloud'?

Apple is reportedly readying a cloud music service. Here, a user clicks through Apple iTunes.

Apple has not confirmed the existence of its cloud music service, but as the far as the rest of the tech world is concerned, the whole thing is pretty much fait accompli. So let's turn to the good stuff: Assuming this cloud music service does exist – "iCloud," to borrow the terminology de jour – what does Apple have that Google, Amazon, and its other competitors don't? Support from EMI, Sony, Warner Music, and maybe even Universal (probably).

And also the ability to "mirror" your entire iTunes library in the cloud, instantly detecting which songs are low-quality, and replacing those low-quality jams with better-quality files. Thus say the folks over at Bloomberg Businessweek, who have published a much-discussed piece on the forthcoming Apple offering. According to Businessweek, iCloud, or whatever it's titled, will allow users to stream content from the Internet to a range of gadgets.

IN PICTURES: Steve Jobs and Apple

So forget the clunkiness of having to actually sign onto your laptop to access your library. With iCloud, Apple has all your music somewhere in the ether; with a single click, you can access that library on your iPad 2, iPhone, iTouch, etc. Which sounds awesome. But as Businessweek's Brad Stone and Andy Fixmer warn, iCloud probably won't be free.

"Apple no doubt has paid dearly for any cloud music licenses, and it's unclear how much of those costs it will eat or pass on to consumers," Stone and Fixmer write. "One possibility would be to bundle an iCloud digital locker into Apple's MobileMe online service, which currently costs $99 a year and synchronizes contacts, e-mail, Web bookmarks, and other user data across multiple devices."

Also of interest: The recent problems with cloud-based services. Horizons readers will remember that back in April, Amazon cloud servers went dark, bringing down a range of popular websites, including Foursquare, Reddit, Hootsuite, and Quora. The cloud is obviously the direction in which we're headed, but Apple has some work to do convincing users that it can keep all that personal data safe and secure.

IN PICTURES: Steve Jobs and Apple

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