Tuesday Apple launched a beta of iTunes 10.3 for the PC and Mac supporting the upcoming "iTunes in the Cloud" feature that's available only on selected Apple devices. As revealed Monday during Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, the service will automatically synchronize (or push) purchased music to all devices associated with the iTunes account. Consumers will even have the ability to download past iTunes purchases when and wherever they want.
"iCloud automatically downloads any new music purchase to all your devices over Wi-Fi – or over 3G if you choose," reads the service description. "Which means you can buy a song from iTunes on your iPad at home, and find it waiting for you on your iPhone during your morning commute. All without having to sync."
But naturally there's a catch: only iOS 4.3.3 users and up have access to the iCloud service. That means the iPhone 3GS, the GSM version of the iPhone 4 (CDMA not included), and the 3rd and 4th generation iPod Touch devices support the service. Everything else is obsolete. That's a shame since a good chunk of Apple consumers are still holding on to their 2nd generation iPod Touch or earlier iPhone devices.
To get the iCloud benefits up and running before the official launch, users will need to install the iOS 4.3.3 beta and download the iTunes 10.3 beta. Previous purchases may be unavailable if they are no longer in the iTunes Store. Additionally, music purchased from other outlets or ripped from a CD will require the iTunes Match subscription-based service.
According to Apple, this pay service is unlike Amazon and Google's offering, as it will match the externally purchased or ripped music with the identical songs stored on Apple's servers. Thus, for $24.99 per year, users won't have to upload tracks to the cloud – 256-kbps versions piped in directly from the music labels will be ready be waiting. The only songs that will be required to upload are those not found in Apple's 18M-song library.
In addition to the music storage/synchronization, the new iCloud service also offers former MobileMe services including contacts, calendars and push mail. All apps and ebooks purchased from Apple can now be installed on all devices tied to the user's account, not just the original device the app or ebook was purchased for. The service even backs up device settings, app data and all iTunes-related content installed on the iOS device.
To get started with the beta, download the iTunes 10.3 beta for Windows 7 64-bit here, and for Windows 7 (32-bit) and Mac here. This version also includes iBookstore for PC and Mac too. Apple's iCloud doesn't officially launch until later this fall when iOS 5 is released, and will come with 5 GB of free storage for mail, documents, Camera Roll, account information, settings, and other app data.