Will Apple’s iCloud Be ‘the New iTunes’?

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Apple’s iCloud is just hours away, and the only question the internet is asking is “What is it?”

Follow-up: Apple Debuts ‘iTunes in the Cloud’ (but No New┬áiPhone)

Much-respected Apple blogger John Gruber has a theory, based on whisperings and rumors that have reached his ears: iCloud is nothing short of a new iTunes.

That would indeed be a radical move, and one that goes in the right direction. Even the most die-hard Mac fan will confess that iTunes is a bit of a mess.

True, there are things it does well. It organizes music very effectively. But it has outgrown its musical roots, and outgrown its name. The thing we call “iTunes” has to do many other tasks beyond managing tunes.

Those include backing up, syncing, setting up and managing every plug-in iDevice that Apple sells. The reason is the same: Those devices began their evolution as music players, so it made sense that they synced to iTunes. But they’ve evolved far beyond music, into something very different and much more complicated.

And that’s not to mention all the non-musical media like podcasts, movies, TV shows and so on.

There’s just too much going on inside iTunes. It no longer feels like a simple Apple solution.

So what if, as Gruber suggests, iCloud moves all of that stuff to the so-called “cloud” (or “internet”, as most people still call it)?

That would mean that the master copy of your stuff would no longer reside on your Mac or PC. It would be stored online, ready to sync with any iDevice you connect to it using your Apple ID.

Oh yes, the Apple ID. Now that’s another thing to consider. It started life as a way of buying music on the original iTunes Store, of attaching a person’s name and email address to a credit card and an iPod.

Just like the iPod, just like iTunes, the Apple ID has evolved into something bigger. It’s become central to the act of buying apps, which itself is central to owning an iDevice of any size. Hands up the adults here whose young children have been pestering them for an Apple ID of their own?

Apple might not have had much success with its music-based social network Ping, but it has built another social network behind the scenes: the one that knows everything about you, because it knows the media you consume and the apps you buy.