Apple pulled their automated online storage solution, iCloud, out of beta today. It allows users to effortlessly gain safe storage for all their files. Like Dropbox, iCloud seamlessly backs up and restores your important pictures, video, documents, email, and music. It apparently is being reported as some sort of replacement for iTunes. Let’s chalk that flawed idea up to the godawful media hype around anything Apple. More likely, iCloud will be the behind the scenes method by which users store all iTunes content (similar to Amazon’s Cloud Drive), but it won’t outright replace iTunes. Hell, at this point, iTunes is a really horrible yet popular gold standard for media management. People have convinced themselves to enjoy the torturous exercise in bloatware that iTunes has become. Like Acrobat, really.
Anyway, there is one seemingly innocuous feature that blew me away. If you have existing mp3 files, you can upload those to iCloud under the auspice of backing up your files. In order to prevent users from driving iCloud’s server and bandwidth resources into the ground, iCloud performs some sort of comparison — perhaps bit matching or ID3 tag parsing — to see if that song already exists in iCloud’s database of music files (which is really just the iTunes catalog). If it matches something in there, the file is not uploaded. Instead, a DRM-free 256 kbps AAC original is copied from iCloud’s servers and added to your iCloud folder.
The end result is that if you have 20 gigs of low bitrate dodgy, crackle-prone pirated music, iCloud is going to replace that with high quality retail files. And it is all going to be automated and free. Yikes! Apple better rethink this, otherwise the RIAA is going to be circling it’s greed-based wagon train around Steve Jobs’ skinny butt and extracting a pound of flesh that the Turtlenecked Scarecrow can’t spare.