Apple's iCloud to be Unveiled Monday, Suspense High

With Apple finally announcing the June 6 unveiling of the much-talked-about iCloud service at its annual conference in California, months of speculation over its launch ended Tuesday but it left gadget fans wondering what all the new software will offer.

“Apple® CEO Steve Jobs and a team of Apple executives will kick off the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) with a keynote address on Monday, June 6 at 10:00 a.m. [in Cupertino, Calif.],” the world’s leading tech company announced. It promised to unveil its next generation software – Lion, the eighth major release of Mac OS® X – “and iCloud®, Apple’s upcoming cloud services offering,” added the statement by Apple, which rarely discloses its plans.

With the arrival of iCloud software, it is expected that users will be able to stream music libraries from the Internet to their smartphones and tablets as opposed to downloading it to the hard drive of an Apple device. According to The Wall Street Journal, the California-based gadget maker has signed agreements with leading recorded-music companies including Warner Music Group Corp., Sony Corp.’s Sony Music Entertainment and EMI Group Ltd. and expects to sign a fourth with Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group, to enable the launch of iCloud.

However, what still remains unclear is whether iCloud will be an improvised version of Internet services like Mobile Me, iDisk and Ping which will include music apart from contacts, calendars and e-mail. Users are also wondering if iCloud will provide movies apart from music.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that Apple, which brought a revolution in the music industry by introducing the iTunes music software around 10 years ago, is collaborating with Hollywood studios and television broadcasters to add movies and television shows to the iCloud service. If it is true, Apple will likely outdo its competitors, such as Google Inc. and Inc., which also launched cloud-based storage services recently. But it is doubtful if Apple will be in a position to announce remote access to movies by next week’s conference.

There are more questions. Will iCloud be compatible with a Windows PC, or will it run only on iOS-based devices and Macs? Will iCloud be available to mobile devices other than the iPhone and iPad? And, equally important is how much will it cost.

Meanwhile, while Apple has traditionally launched a new version of the iPhone at its annual conference, it is not expected to unveil the next-generation iPhone until at least September or October given that it released the Verizon CDMA iPhone in February, tech analysts are saying.

However, the announcement that Jobs, on medical leave since January, will appear at Monday’s conference caused Apple shares to rise by 3.1 percent.

The lingering questions notwithstanding, Apple’s chief executive will offer a feast for software enthusiasts at the conference.

“WWDC will feature more than 100 technical sessions presented by Apple engineers. Mac® developers will see and learn how to develop world-class Mac OS X Lion applications using its latest technologies and capabilities. Mobile developers will be able to explore the latest innovations and capabilities of iOS and learn how to greatly enhance the functionality, performance and design of their apps. All developers can bring their code to the labs and work with Apple engineers,” says Apple’s press release. And that’s worth the wait.