Apple took the wraps off its iCloud online storage service Monday and while it doesn’t exactly break new ground, the hype surrounding the announcement is likely to drive more interest and acceptance for the cloud as a safe and convenient repository for files and applications.

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs unveiled the iCloud service during a presentation at the company’s worldwide developers’ conference in San Francisco. He said the service is a step toward achieving the company’s vision of a digital world where users have seamless access to their information, music, photos and other files across a wide range of devices.

“Keeping these devices in sync is driving us crazy,” Jobs said. “We have a great solution for this problem. We are going to demote the PC to just be a device. We are going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud.”

Much of Jobs’ presentation was focused on Apple’s iTunes Match online music storage service, where for $25 a year, consumers will be able to remotely access their entire private music collections. However, the wider implications of Apple’s thrust into the cloud was apparent.

Jobs demonstrated how the iCloud service will automatically synchronize files, so that a user will always be accessing the most update version of a file, no matter which device is being used. He demonstrated the service using Apple’s word processing application, Pages, but noted the service is compatible with calendar, contacts, email and presentations applications.

Other providers, most notably Amazon and Microsoft, offer similar features with their online “locker” services, as do a number of smaller providers like Dropbox and Box.net. While Apple doesn’t really break new ground, its entrance into the market is expected to draw more attention to the technology.

Apple said iCloud is being ramped up at three data centers, including its recently completed facility in Maiden, N.C. The company has invested more than $500 million in the Maiden data center to support the initiative.

An iCloud beta is immediately available to the developer community, while iCloud will be formally rolled out in the fall with iOS 5.

 

 

 

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