Up, up and away!

Time to hop into your classic (though no longer Jobs-approved) rainbow apple hot-air balloon and preview The Future. The day someone, I suppose, has long been waiting for is almost here—the day Apple releases iCloud upon the salivating media hordes who have spent countless hours and column inches (column pixels?) attempting to suss out just what, exactly, the Cupertino crew is going unveil on Monday, June 6. (Yes, I know it's Friday, June 3, and I could just wait and post a follow-up to the Big Announcement. But who wants to compete with Jason Snell?)

Monday is the opening day of Apple's 2011 World Wide Developers Conference, a.k.a. WWDC or "wuh-wuh-dick" for the WYSIWYG-inclined. Apple has already announced that Steve Jobs is shuffling in from his goiter-related sabbatical and giving the keynote. The subject of the keynote will most definitely be iCloud, because Apple doesn't go around hanging up banners in Moscone West about things they're just going to mumble about in breakout sessions. Jobs may also bring up little things like iOS 5 and Mac OS X Lion. I'm hedging my bets on whether he'll finally announce the long-rumored Infinity Improbability Turtleneck that Silicon Valley hipsters have been pining for with fjord-pining-like zeal.

So, iCloud. What the heck will it be? Well, we know it has something to do with "the cloud," which is the current nerd buzzword for what most people just call the Internet. Yes, I know there's a subtle distinction between the two, but come on. "Cloud computing" just sounds a lot cooler than "internet-based application and file hosting," so it wins even if most of the people using it don't understand that "up there in the air" actually means "at Apple's ginormous data center out in the sticks."

Who wants some more quotation marks?

Anyway, Jobs will explain to us all just how magical iCloud will be in a couple of days. We can only hope it's better than MobileMe and cheaper, too. Common pontification suggests that iCloud will include:

Music streaming – This one is obvious, given Apple's recent negotiations with the four major labels and said labels' subsequent leaking of details. Apple has also, apparently, developed some Wicca-based technology for storing part of a song on a device and then streaming the rest. I'm a bit ambivalent about the supposedly super-awesome thing. I already use Audiogalaxy to stream music from my home Hackintosh to the far-flung reaches of Plano. And by "use" I mean I don't. It's not Audiogalaxy's fault—the program works as advertised. I just don't have such a massive collection of music that the tunes I want on the go don't already go with me. Of course, that may change over time. And if I start want to put more TV episodes on my iPhone, well, more music will have to go, because my aging 32GB 3GS is a bit cramped on space. Thanks, Navigon.

File syncing – I'm really hoping for some good file syncing with iCloud. Right now, I use a combination of Dropbox and Microsoft's Windows Live Mesh. Dropbox is instant and has a free tier, but it requires things to be in a specific Dropbox folder. Live Mesh is also free and will keep multiple folders synced across multiple Macs. But the syncing isn't instant, and it tends to self-quit on my Hackintosh. With iCloud, Apple could conceivably eliminate the need for both products, but I'm not overly optimistic that that will occur. I'm sure there will be some sort of iWorks on-the-fly file updating, but going all the way with full-on syncing seems a bit of a long shot. Hopefully, I'm wrong.

Contacts and calendar syncing – MobileMe is just kludgy in this area. Fix it with iCloud, Apple. It's about freakin' time.

Pun-based headlines – You know they're coming, if not already here. And for the record, the title of this piece is not a pun. It's a clever allusion to both the subject of this piece and to a treacly song from 1967.

Another big question is how much iCloud will cost. The current scuttlearse predicts it will be free at first, and then $25 a year. I have no idea if that 25 bucks figure is accurate, but we all know it's going to cost something. If Apple can make money from something, it will make money from something. And if iCloud actually works, I'm sure a ton of people won't mind tossing Apple another 25 bones a year. Especially when they're already used to paying roughly the same per month just to have data connections for their iPhones.

So there you go. Now all we have to do is sit back, fortify ourselves against Steve's Reality Distortion Field (I suggest a cocktail of Flintstones Chewable Vitamins and Yanni) and wait for Monday.



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