iCloud, iTunes Match: Your questions answered

Since iCloud won't fully launch until the fall, Apple hasn't provided any important details about the product. So, CNET answers your questions regarding iCloud, iTunes Match, and MobileMe.

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When Steve Jobs announced iCloud last week at WWDC in San Francisco, he left us all asking questions about how exactly the product will function.

The books, apps, and music (U.S. only) components of iCloud are already available, but since the full product will only launch in September, Apple won't provide any support until then.

Below are your questions from throughout CNET, including e-mails, Twitter, and Facebook. Apple will offer complete details in September, but here's what we know so far.

iCloud

Q: Can I use iCloud as a backup service for my music if my computer crashes?
A: If you set up your new computer with the same iTunes account you used to purchase your music, then yes, you can redownload all of your tracks. However, this only takes care of music you purchased from iTunes. If you have a digital library of ripped music, you should also sign up for iTunes Match when it becomes available, as it will allow you to "back up" up to 20,000 non-iTunes music files to the cloud. iTunes Match will cost $24.99 for a yearlong subscription.

Q: Is there a Web site to access iCloud? Where can I see all my files?
A: As far as we know, the only way to access iCloud is through your Apple devices and computers. Although there isn't a Web site for your content, your iCloud "hub" can be found by going to iTunes > iTunes Store > Purchased.

Q: Is iCloud available outside the U.S.?
A: Sort of. Right now, U.K. users can already use iCloud for apps and books, and will receive the rest of the services (like mail, contacts, and photos) in September, alongside U.S. subscribers. However, music is a little more complicated. According to The Telegraph, Apple is in very early talks with the PRS (Performing Right Society, like the British version of America's RIAA), and iCloud music probably won't arrive in the U.K. until the first quarter of 2012.

Q: Will I be able to sync music I ripped from a CD or downloaded elsewhere to iCloud?
A: Yes. For $25 a year, iTunes Match will upload up to 20,000 ripped songs to iCloud. If the songs you're uploading are available in iTunes, Apple will upgrade your tracks to 256KBps bit rate, AAC, DRM-free quality.

Q: Is there any streaming whatsoever with iCloud?
A: No, and this is the key difference between iCloud and Amazon Cloud Player or Google Music. When you access music from your iCloud locker on a device, you'll need to download each song before playing (which hogs storage on your device.)

Q: Will iCloud sync podcasts and their played status?
A: Apple hasn't said anything about podcasts yet. Ideally, iCloud would allow you to enable automatic podcast downloading, and notify you when new episodes become available. Resuming paused podcasts on different devices would be convenient, but we'll have to see what Apple offers in September. It's possible Apple might adopt these features, since it's offering a similar "resume" feature with books and magazines in its Newsstand app.

Q: Can other people access the iCloud, or just me? Do all of the devices I use with iCloud have to be authorized under one user account?
A: If you'd like to share your "cloud" with friends and family, each participant will need to use a single iTunes account. So, yes, it's possible. However, all devices would have to be under the same account, supported by the same credit card. That being said, everyone in that "cloud" would be able to access each other's purchases and content.

Q: What security or encryption will iCloud provide to secure our files?
A: Apple's level of encryption for iCloud is unclear. CEO Steve Jobs briefly mentioned that file transfers will be encrypted, but he divulged no details about encrypting stored files. After its location data fiasco, we hope Apple improves security with iCloud.

iTunes Match

Q: What happens to your music if you don't pay the $25 iTunes Match fee after the first year?
A: If you cancel iTunes Match, your purchased iTunes music will still be available, but matched (ripped) music will no longer be in your cloud. Instead, you'll need to store songs locally on your hard drive.

Q: Will my lossless music be preserved with iTunes Match? 
A: If your lossless music can be matched, it will be redownloaded on other devices in the 256KBps AAC format. Unmatched tracks (songs not in the iTunes Store) will be uploaded in their original format, preserving the lossless quality. In any case, the original file in your computer's iTunes library will be left unchanged.

Mobile Me

Q: I'm a MobileMe subscriber. What will happen to my account?
A: Apple recently e-mailed all MobileMe subscribers, informing them that all accounts will be extended, for free, until June 2012. At that time, MobileMe will cease to exist and users will need to shift to iCloud.

Q: I have different iTunes and MobileMe accounts. Will I be able to merge them?
A: This is a tough question asked by many people who are nervous about choosing between their MobileMe account and iTunes purchases. All we can say for now is to be patient. Apple will likely provide a (somewhat) easy transition from MobileMe to iCloud, but you'll have to wait until September to find out. For now, don't change anything--continue using your current iTunes account to make purchases.

Do you have any unanswered questions? Leave them in the comments below.

 

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