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iCloud to make official debut on October 12

Following its preview at Apple's World Wide Developer Conference in June, iCloud has received an official debut date--October 12--at Tuesday's Let's Talk iPhone Apple event. It replaces the company's oft-maligned $99 MobileMe service, offering a central online repository for your mail; contacts; calendars; music, TV, app and book purchases; photos; documents; and backup--all for free. In addition, Apple introduced a new app called Find My Friends, for connecting with friends and family.

Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of internet software and services, unveiled the service after Scott Forstall's presentation on iOS 5, also scheduled to ship on October 12. iCloud is comprised of several parts: seamless sync and backup for iOS devices; a server that pushes your contacts, calendar, mail, notes, and reminders to all your devices; and remote access to all your iTunes purchases. And for $25 a year, customers can purchase the supplemental iTunes Match service and receive access to their entire music library (up to 25,000 songs across 10 devices), including songs not originally purchased from the iTunes store.

Find My iPhone, previously a MobileMe subscription feature (and later opened up to anyone with an Apple ID) has been folded into iCloud, along with a component for finding your Mac. And to complete the "finding things" triptych, Apple has introduced a new iOS app called Find My Friends, which helps you coordinate with your companions via geo-location. Users can only access locations of those people sharing locations with them; you can perennially share your location, or create a Temporary Event, which broadcasts your location to specific people for a certain time period. Privacy controls let you enable, disable, or restrict location sharing, and all of these can be further restricted within Parental Controls.

You'll be able to sign up for an iCloud account with 5GB of storage for free starting October 12, with paid storage upgrades available. Current MobileMe subscribers will be able to transfer their account to iCloud, though they can also elect to stay on MobileMe until June 30, 2012, when the service will be discontinued. The iTunes Match subscription service will be available in the U.S. by the end of October, with other countries to come by the end of 2011.

We'll be updating this story with more information as the event progresses, so stay tuned.

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