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Are we ready for our music on the ‘iCloud’?

Steve Jobs at WWDC '08For months there have been murmurs of Apple’s ‘iCloud’ music service, and if CNN is to be believed, Apple has all four of the big record labels in the bag. Amazon and Google have both already laid their chips on the table but without the backing of the big four, they will soon find themselves coming unstuck. Apple’s recent press release indeed confirms that Jobs will be taking to the stage on Monday evening (6pm GMT), to unveil iCloud and blow the competition out the water. So Apple are almost ready. But the questions remains – are we?

I hear you ask, why the skepticism? Conceptually, it’s fantastic. You could be at a party and pull up the drum n’ bass album that isn’t quite appropriate for the day to day routine, or secretly access Spandau Ballet on the bus without the shame of carrying it around on your device all day. And despite the increase in flash storage sizes we’ve seen over the past few years, our digital music libraries keep growing and growing! It’s a system that would be useful, and since Steve Jobs axed the entire team behind the abomination that was MobileMe, I have little doubt that ‘iCloud’ will be a success.

Sounds great! But before you rush to sign up, here are a few things to consider…

Data – It’s taken them a while, but UK carriers are starting to pick up on the trend that people like smart phones. A lot of smart phones. Nearly 12 million, and that’s a trend that’s growing fast. This is a problem for the carriers who simply don’t have sufficient infrastructures to cope with the amount of data we use. In their infinite wisdom, their solution to this problem is to charge more for the data we use. Remember how cool it was to use YouTube on your phone? Well you can’t do that now. Not with 500mb download limit a month, and now you want a mandatory music streaming service too? I rest my case…

Cost – How much is this rumoured service going to set you back? We don’t know. But having spent your hard earned cash on your phone, monthly contract, and possibly insurance, are you going to want to  part with more money for this service? Spotify has hardly seen earth shattering success in it’s nearly 3 years of business, which explains their recent aggressive strategy to stop free users getting quite so much for nothing.

On the other hand, it might be free… (Having paid for MobileMe for 4 years, I certainly hope so!)

Hassle – When Apple’s shiny new service opens it’s virtual doors, we want to know exactly what’s involved. Is iTunes going to sync it automatically? Will there be an irritable sidebar in peripheral vision? (Similar to the subtle ‘genius’ bar that was anything but genius!)

Ads – While it’s by no means guaranteed, it’s a possibility that Apple will be selling advertising in some shape or form through iCloud. The only redeeming fact is they can’t be worse than Spotify’s adverts!

So there are a few of my concerns. I’m sure that the service itself will be shiny and intuitive in true Apple fashion, but I just don’t think that we’re quite ready for it yet on our small island. Maybe the solution we’ll see is some of the data being stored locally with some of it being streamed from the cloud, but until the carriers find a solution… our UK version of Apple’s service will be nothing more than a gimmick.

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