Another look at the iCloud: it's a start, but unexciting

​Apple introduced the iCloud yesterday. Given that the first part was practically just about relaunching the old MobileMe as a free service, let’s focus in this post on the more anticipated part of the announcement, the iTunes in the Cloud. There are a couple of points that caught my attention. You can also check my preview from Friday.

It’s still a bit unclear to me whether the iTunes in the Cloud will actually use streaming or re-downloading, but at least Apple’s presentation used only the verb ‘downloading’ so I assume that it will be just about synced downloads to the covered 10 devices. Streaming (in a combination with offline caching) is definitely a more convenient method from the consumer viewpoint – tackling the limitations of local storing is after all one of the key benefits of all things cloudy. It would thus be odd if Apple didn’t provide streaming at a later stage. The download strategy sounds like a temporary compromise made with the labels and publishers – or maybe even mobile operators.

As we argued in our cloud music report, making legal music services more convenient and exciting to use than illegal ones is a way the rights-holders can monetize consumption that has so far escaped their revenue channels. Apple’s iTunes Match is exactly about that – if you pay for it, it will sync even the stuff you never paid for; no questions asked.(TheMy Music Anywhereservice Catch Media has deployed for Best Buy / Carphone Warehouse does more or less the same and some more, for a higher price.)

A whole another matter, then, how many users Apple will convince to pay for this. It won’t save storage space and it won’t allow you to discover new music, so I personally find the value proposition pretty poor. Even still, perhaps the biggest surprise is the iTunes Match’s low price tag: $24.99 per year isn’t actually a lot for laundering gigabytes of pirated tracks from people’s hard disks, if one considers that Apple most probably had to agree to rather generous revenue-sharing terms to win over the rights-holders.

With its push to the cloud, Apple obviously wants to add extra appeal to its device family, but in addition it will be interesting to see how much and what type of advertising the new services will contain. The more central role Apple’s ecosystem will play in consumers’ everyday lives, the more attractive it will become as a mobile advertising platform.​

Anyhow, as I mentioned already on Friday's post, the importance of the iCloud launch shouldn't be judged simply by what it actually offers. Your mainstream consumer isn't yet either familiar orcomfortable with cloud services,and it may well take Apple to change that.