iCloud opened to developers in advance of fall launch

ICloud blends elements of Lion and iOS. Here's what to expect from iCloud when it arrives this fall.

iCloud is open to developers. Will the new Apple iCloud service change the way we move files from one computer to another?

iCloud, the new cloud computing platform from Apple – and the replacement for many MobileMe features – isn't set to fully launch until this fall. But this week, Apple rolled out a limited version of iCloud for developers, and already, techies are foaming at the mouth.

"As far as I can tell, most functionality is in and this beta is very close to the public release. The UI seamlessly blends elements of OS X Lion and iOS, using iOS-style alert pop-ups, but the look of Lion iCal for example," writes Mike Keller of PC World. ICloud will debut at a variety of price points: 5GB of storage a year is free, 10GB of storage costs $20 a year, 25GB costs $40, and 50 GB costs a hundred bucks.

So how does iCloud stack up against competing services from Amazon and Google? Over at Forbes, Brian Caulfield has a pretty good breakdown – "Amazon’s service appears to be the most straightforward, Google’s cloud storage offering is the cheapest, while Apple’s is shaping up to be the one that offers the best integration with your existing devices," Caulfield writes. (For a comparison of the prices on the different platforms, check out this report.)

But that integration, along with the intuitive Apple interface, come at a price. "ICloud is clearly built to keep customers on Apple’s hardware and software," Caulfield writes. "The ultimate promise: write a document on Apple's iWork suite of applications and you’ll be able to access it from any of your other Apple devices, or the Web." Of course, Apple's MO is to keep people in the Apple mindset, from iTunes on down, so longtime users shouldn't be too surprised.

The bigger question, at least for this blogger, is how eager people will be to throw their digital lives up on the cloud. In theory, the cloud is a great idea: All your files, when you want them, no matter what device you've got in your hand. But as evidenced by a recent Amazon outage, folks can be awful quick to freak out when the cloud goes dark. In that way, Apple has two hurdles to cross: Make iCloud accessible and cheap, and also make it bulletproof.

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