Apple Moves Digital Life to the Cloud, ‘Demotes’ the PC

In brief appearance, Steve Jobs unveils iCloud

Steve Jobs (along with Steve Wozniak) may have created the first real personal computer, but today the Apple CEO knocked his own invention down a few pegs.

In announcing Apple’s highly anticipated iCloud storage service at the company’s annual developers conference in San Francisco, Jobs said, “We’re going to demote the PC and the Mac to just be a device.”

Taking a break from medical leave to host the event, Jobs acknowledged that keeping mobile phones, laptops, and tablets in sync is “driving us crazy.” Apple’s solution, he said, is to move the center of digital life from the tangible gadget to the intangible cloud—or, more specifically, iCloud.

The new Apple service, which industry watchers have been buzzing about for some time, wirelessly stores and syncs a person’s information, photos, music, and applications across all Apple devices.

For example, take a picture with your iPhone and watch it automatically pop up on your iPad or MacBook. Same goes for contacts, calendar appointments, and other kinds of content.

The free service (which will ship with the newest operating system this fall) also extends to iTunes. Music purchased through iTunes on one device will automatically download on up to 10 other Apple devices.

As usual, Jobs couldn’t leave the stage without mentioning his “one more thing”—in this case, a new program called iTunes Match that gives cloud-sharing capabilities to music not purchased with iTunes. For a $24.99 annual fee, the service scans an iTunes user’s music library and, within minutes, makes available the songs it can find in the iTunes store (instead of taking potentially weeks to actually upload an entire music library).

In addition to its iCloud announcement, Apple unveiled its new Lion operating system for the Mac, which is only available as an upgrade in the Mac App Store, and iOS 5, the latest version of the operating system for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

The new mobile operating system is sure to please legions of Twitter fans with an integration that lets people sign in once with their Twitter credentials and then tweet photos, map locations, articles, and more with a single tap. It also includes a new messaging service called iMessage that hosts conversations across iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads, and a new app called Newsstand that visually displays the covers of newspaper and magazine subscriptions.