iCloud rumors is that Apple's upcoming service is a "Cloud iTunes" - meaning a way to access all your music, movies, podcasts and more from any Internet-connected Apple mobile device like the iPhone or iPad. Some think it may be much more than that - imagining iCloud also as the successor to Apple's MobileMe, an uncharacteristically underperforming product that provides email, contacts, calendar and online storage to paying customers. This combination of rumors makes the most sense because it would allow Apple to directly compete with Google's Android operating system, or, perhaps, offer something even better.The most believable of the
What Android Has: Easy Setup, Cloud-Sync
One of the best features of Android devices is the set-up process: you simply sign in with your Google account information, and, automatically, everything is synced to the device from the cloud, including your email, calendar and contacts, and, on newer versions of Android, your apps.
Where Android struggles, however, is on its content offerings - the Android Market is not an iTunes-like store where users can download or rent TV shows, movies, podcasts or educational material (e.g. "iTunes U" type content). In fact, it was only this month that Google launched Android Market's "Movies" service, which provides a limited selection of movie rentals.
And Google Music is nothing more than an online storage site with a music player user interface as its front-end. A fun recommendations feature was thrown in for extra measure, but it's not ground-breaking by any means. To actually get your music into Google's service, you have to download desktop software, and then tediously upload your entire MP3 collection over the course of several days, depending on the size. (By now, most of our collections are quite large - 10s of GBs, if not 100s of GBs).
That said, cloud-based music and video streaming, single sign-in, plus account, email and application sync, are all things that current Apple mobile devices can't do today without the use of third-party applications.
Sounds like an opportunity for Apple!
iCloud: Far More than Cloud iTunes
If Apple truly wanted to best Android, it wouldn't simply build a "Cloud iTunes," it would rebuild the entire back-end of its mobile lineup to be cloud-enabled. What that means is not only would you sign in with your Apple account, and have your Apple email, contacts and calendar information sync down to the device, all of your apps would sync, too. And where you left off in those apps, and the data they contained. And all of your media purchases, whether music or video. And the way your apps were organized. Etc, etc.
Hazarding a Guess: That Twitter and Facebook Integration is Tied into iCloud
But here's where my guessing game goes off course from the known rumors - instead of having your Apple account function as a single standalone account, it would be more like a "profile" where you could register your other social networking accounts, too. Your Facebook account, your Twitter account, and others could be associated with your Apple ID so when you sign into your phone or tablet during the first-time setup process, it's immediately Facebook-enabled and Twitter-enabled with your social networking account information. This takes the "Twitter is deeply integrated into iOS5" rumor for a little spin.
The benefit of having this functionality is so obvious, it's surprising to me that I haven't heard more people talk about this. No, it's not so you can tweet your photos or post them on Facebook (although obviously, that would be included) - it's so you can STOP SIGNING INTO TO YOUR HUNDREDS OF APPLICATIONS with unique username and password combinations created for each and every app.
Instead, application developers will be encouraged to include Facebook and Twitter login capabilities into their apps, and these would tap into the Facebook and Twitter account information associated with your personal device. Imagine: your whole phone, Facebook-enabled. Or Twitter-enabled. You can just start launching and using apps, no more nagging "sign up for an account" boxes!
This may or may not be presented as a part of the iCloud service, but it would be great if it was. Instead of having to set up this social networking info on each new Apple device, you would only need to sign in with one username and password - your Apple account. Everything else would follow. In doing so, Apple wouldn't just be on par with Google Android's single sign-on offering, it would have trumped it. All that music, video and app syncing would just be icing on the cake.