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Apple's Jobs takes stage to talk iCloud

Jun 7, 2011

Apple Inc took a big step toward
getting people to store and access their data
on the Internet as CEO Steve Jobs emerged
from medical leave to present the iCloud
music-streaming service.
A thin Jobs walked out on Monday to a
standing ovation from the more than 5,000
Apple faithful at its Worldwide Developers'
Conference, outlining a service that could
further untether users who rely on storing
their data on home computers even as they
walk around with more and more mobile
devices.
Jobs, a pancreatic cancer survivor whose
decision to headline the event assuaged
some concerns on Wall Street about his
health, said nothing about his health, but
strode onstage after James Brown's seminal
soul classic "I Got You (I Feel Good)" blasted
over the sound system.
The Silicon Valley icon touted an Internet-
based service for consumers called the
iCloud, which lets users play their music and
get access to their data from any Apple
device -- a crucial capability for users
increasingly accustomed to doing things
outside their homes.
"We're going to move the digital hub, the
center of your digital life, into the cloud,"
Jobs said. "Everything happens automatically
and there's nothing new to learn. It just all
works."
In cloud computing, data and software are
stored on servers and devices get access to
them through the Internet. Analysts say the
iCloud could create a new model for media
consumption -- bringing the cloud, which
corporations are already familiar with, to
many consumer devices.
In an event that held few surprises, Jobs
said the iCloud beta version will be available
Monday for free. And from the fall, users can
pay $24.99 a year to have their song
libraries available on iTunes for playback on
any Apple gadget.
The feature, which Jobs introduced with his
customary "one more thing" phrase toward
the presentation's end, catapults Apple past
Google Inc and Amazon.com.
Known as iTunes Match, it scans users' hard
drives and automatically makes the songs it
finds available on the iCloud. In contrast,
users of Google and Amazon cloud-based
storage have to upload every song
themselves.
"This is potentially game changing," said
Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu. "It's a whole
new way of computing where you're less
dependent on PCs and local storage."
Apple's adoption of cloud computing "is
going to put further pressure on Microsoft,"
he added.
PIE IN THE SKY
Monday was only his second appearance in
public on the company's behalf since he
went on medical leave in January. He shared
the spotlight, letting his executive team
showcase new features in Apple's mobile
and computer operating software.
"He is looking thin, but as energetic as
usual," Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart
said, adding that Apple's expansion into
remote computing "is very powerful stuff."
Apple's move to cloud services comes as the
company strives to stay a step ahead of
rivals such as Google and Amazon.com in
the mobile and online content business.
It could ignite more demand for devices
from the iPhone to theiPad, while helping
sales of music through iTunes.
More than 25 million iPads sold in the 14
months since the tablet computer was
launched, software chief Scott Forstall told
the crowd. And customers have bought
more than 15 billion songs from iTunes, the
world's biggest music store.
Jobs said people will be able to share book
purchases, music and data, such as calendar
items, across different devices, while
backing up and updating information
regularly.
Apple will provide five gigabytes of cloud
storage -- enough for about 1,000 songs --
for free, but will charge an undisclosed fee
in the future for more space.
Apple also introduced software upgrades at
the conference, including Lion, its Mac OS X
computer operating system and the next
version of its mobile operating system.
Apple, legendary for keeping its agenda
under wraps, has been unusually open
about what it plans to show at its annual
developers' conference, a five-day
extravaganza for developers who rely on
Apple for much of their livelihoods.
Jobs' decision to headline such events often
is news in itself after the pancreatic cancer
survivor went on his third medical leave for
an undisclosed condition.
Apple's share price fell 1.57 percent to close
at $341.60 on the Nasdaq stock market. The
stock traditionally gains before a major
event before dipping on the day it happens.
"They telegraphed in advance what they
were going to say and that Steve Jobs was
going to show up," said Daniel Ernst at
Hudson Square Research. "It's pretty boring,
which is, for Apple, bad. It's all good, but
everybody always expects them to walk on
water unfortunately."