Apple today took administrative control of the iCloud.com domain less than a week before CEO Steve Jobs is to unveil his company's new cloud-based service.
According to WHOIS searches Wednesday, Apple is now listed as the owner of the iCloud.com domain. As late as Tuesday, the domain was still registered to Swedish firm Xcerion, which had used the URL for its online file-storage service.
Reports that surfaced in late April said Apple paid Xcerion $4.5 million for the iCloud.com domain. Several weeks before those reports, Xcerion had changed the name of that service to CloudMe and registered a new domain, cloudme.com, to support it.
As of late Wednesday, iCloud.com still redirected users to Xcerion's site.
On Tuesday, Apple uncharacteristically identified the name "iCloud" as its "upcoming cloud services offering," and said several executives, including Jobs, would talk about the service during the opening keynote at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) next Monday, June 6.
Apple offered no details about the service other than its name in the short press release issued Tuesday.
At the least, experts have said, iCloud will replicate the online music "locker" services already launched by Apple rivals Amazon and Google, giving customers the ability to stream tracks from their iTunes collection over the Internet to their iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches and Macs.
But some analysts have used the news that Apple has signed deals with major music labels to speculate that the company will up the ante by launching a music subscription service as part of iCloud.
Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, is among them.
"[iCloud] will be the splashy part of the show," Gottheil said in an interview Tuesday. "They feel that they messed up on cloud stuff -- and I agree -- and will want to make it as big as they possibly can. Apple doesn't tend to repeat their mistakes, and a music subscription service could be a part of iCloud."
iCloud is expected to replace the existing MobileMe online sync and storage service, which costs $99 annually.
MobileMe, however, has had difficulty competing against free services such as Dropbox in online storage and cross-computer synchronization. It also has a troubled history.
Launched in mid-2008, MobileMe stumbled even before it got off the ground.
The transition from the earlier .Mac service, which was supposed to take only a few hours, instead dragged on for a full day, raising the ire of users locked out of their accounts.
Days later, customers complained about slower-than-expected synchronization, which Apple answered with an apology and a 30-day service extension to all users. Shortly after that, an Apple server went south, taking down the e-mail accounts of about 1% of MobileMe's subscribers.
The outage lasted 11 days before service was fully restored.
In reaction, Jobs shook up Apple's executive table of organization , and handed the service to Eddy Cue, who already led the company's iTunes and App Store properties.
Cue is currently Apple's vice president of Internet services.
What price Apple will charge for iCloud is unknown, although analysts generally believe the company will offer some part of it to customers for free.
Late on Monday, Apple filed a trademark application for iCloud with European Union regulators, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office indicates that in the United States "iCloud" remains a registered trademark of Xcerion.
The WWDC keynote, which is slated to start a 10:00 a.m. PT next Monday, will also preview Mac OS X 10.7, aka Lion, and the next version of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 5.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com .
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