Today Apple took the unusual step of announcing a new service, the iCloud which will be presented to the public during the Apple developer conference next week. Apparently speculation on this service has been making the rounds on the interwebs ever since Apple bought the icloud.com domain name in April.
More details of what this service will be is going to be outlined during the conference, where it is also said Steve Jobs will show of the new "Lion" release of OSx.
What's this got to do with music? Well, it may have everything to do with files bought from Apple, apparently one of the main features of the cloud service is to allow people who have purchased music via iTunes to keep their files stored on remote servers. Essentially that's what a "Cloud" is, in tech terms, it's just using servers as a storage medium for various files. For example, a website may use Amazon's cloud service to remotely serve audio, video and image files to a website which is hosted on a different server altogether, reducing load and increasing speed.
For music enthusiasts this means that, by keeping your audio files on the cloud, you will be able to have those files served to you on demand....
But the big question which remains to be seen, and which has been asked across the internet and on news services, what does that mean for ownership? Will you be able to download the song whenever you want to your hard drive to burn it to your "on my way to work" disc for the morning drive, or does it mean you will only be able to stream those songs using Apple products? Will iTune purchases now only be accessible via the iCloud? Apple has already limited user's freedoms quite a bit with their M4P proprietary format which most other players don't recognize, now are they trying to remove the book, audio and video libraries from our homes as well? Apparently Amazon has a cloud player too, but the big difference is Amazon offers DRM free downloads and, as of this writing, you can still purchase and download both individual songs and entire albums.
Recording artists deserve money for their hard work, and by keeping tighter control over the distribution of files may help insure that, but does that mean you will have to connect to the cloud everytime you want to listen to an album?
Whatever the case, we shall soon see, but what Steve and the crew at apple may not understand, they will never be able to make people completely dependent on their iTunes, iBook, or, now, iCloud services because of the simple fact that we like to have libraries in our home, whether they be audio, book or video; we like to show 'em off, we like to rummage through them and we like our guests to peruse them as well. E-books, MP3s, and M4Ps may be convenient, but I love my library.
EDIT June 6 2011: Details released on iCloud have cleared things up a bit. This is what we know: