Apple's iTunes in the Cloud Arrives Ahead of iOS 5


Apple (NAS: AAPL) launched iTunes 10.5 on Tuesday, one day ahead of the scheduled public release of its iOS 5 mobile operating system update.

Chief among the highlights of iTunes 10.5: Support for iTunes in the Cloud, which enables consumers to download previously purchased iTunes music to all iOS devices at no additional cost. It does not yet offer support for iTunes Match, which essentially mirrors music files downloaded from sources other than Apple's digital storefront with a 256 kbps AAC DRM-free version culled from the iTunes Store. Apple will offer iTunes Match at $24.99 per year -- the service is expected to launch imminently.

The iTunes 10.5 launch also heralds an automatic downloads option that copies music purchased from any device or computer to the user's PC or iOS devices as well as Wi-Fi Syncing allowing consumers to sync their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch with iTunes anytime they're both on the same Wi-Fi network. It is available now as a free download from Apple.

Apple previously announced it will launch iOS 5 sometime today, although the timeframe is unknown. Apple promises more than 200 new features in iOS 5 as well as backwards-compatibility with devices dating back to the iPhone 3GS. Speaking last week at a media event at the company's Cupertino, Calif. headquarters, Apple senior vice president of iOS software Scott Forstall spotlighted many of his favorite new features in the update, including iMessage (a free SMS alternative enabling users to send free text messages, photos and videos between all iOS devices), location-based Reminders, deep Twitter integration, Newsstand (an in-house distribution system for iPad magazine content), an improved Safari browser and PC-free activation.

First announced in June during Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, iOS 5 also touts seamless integration with the new iCloud, which replaces Apple's premium MobileMe offering. The iCloud service automatically syncs content on Apple servers for access across iOS devices as well as Macs and PCs -- each day, iCloud Backup saves information from the user's iOS devices over Wi-Fi, storing content including purchased music, apps and books, as well as photos, videos, device settings and app data.

The iOS 5 launch additionally heralds the introduction of voice recognition technologies acquired by Apple when it purchased startup Siri roughly 18 months ago. The Siri software enables iOS device users to employ natural spoken language to access and perform device tasks like mobile search, messaging and contacts -- Apple senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller described the solution as an "intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking." Schiller said Siri works with all built-in iOS apps and operates across both Wi-Fi and 3G networks. The technology will support English, French and German during its initial beta launch.

Forstall said Apple has seeded beta versions of iOS 5 to more than 100,000 registered developers. He also stated that the company has paid developers more than $3 billion in revenues derived from App Store sales. According to Forstall, the App Store now boasts more than 500,000 iOS applications in all, including 140,000 optimized expressly for the iPad tablet -- consumers have downloaded 18 billion iOS apps in all, with downloads now exceeding 1 billion each month.

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