Apple Will Unveil iCloud, iOS 5, New Mac OS X at WWDC

After weeks of rumors, Apple has confirmed it will announce its iCloud service at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), which begins Monday. The new service, expected to be centered around streaming music, will be unveiled during the morning keynote address by CEO Steve Jobs and a team of Apple executives.

Except for that acknowledgment in a brief press release, the company has been quiet about what exactly iCloud will offer. But various news reports have given Apple watchers a sense of what to expect.

Deals with Music Labels

Apple has signed licensing deals with EMI Music and Warner Music Group for a cloud-based music service, and reportedly has also done so with Sony Music Entertainment. Reports indicate that a deal with the fourth big music label, Universal Music Group, hasn't yet been concluded but is close. These contracts with the big four music labels would give Apple a leg up on Amazon.com and Google, both of which recently unwrapped their versions of cloud-based music services.

Amazon's Cloud Player and Cloud Drive launched in March, and Google's beta service, appropriately called Music Beta, was unveiled earlier this month. The big difference between these two services and the iCloud service from Apple is that Amazon and Google's are essentially storage vaults that require users to spend time uploading their music collections to the cloud, while Apple may be able to provide or duplicate all or most of a user's music collection in the cloud.

Since Apple is doing licensing deals with the labels, which Google and Amazon have not, the music industry is expected to favor iCloud at this point.

In 2009, Apple bought the Lala music service, and Apple could employ Lala's "scan and match" technology in iCloud. This could enable iTunes to scan a user's drive for titles and then provide access to them on Apple's servers.

'Natural Springboard'

iOS 5 for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad will also be unwrapped at WWDC, along with more details about the upcoming Mac OS X 10.7 Lion.

Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for consumer technology at the NPD Group, expects the Mac interface to "migrate toward some of the iOS features," including LaunchPad and full-screen apps. He also mentioned the upcoming AirDrop feature, which will allow users to more easily share files between Apple devices, such as between a Mac and an iPhone.

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