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Why Apple's iCloud could mean your next phone is an iPhone

Apple sells existing ideas to a new audience

iCloud may not seem as exciting as a new smartphone or tablet, but it may guarantee that I buy a new iPhone when my current one dies. (I'm not proud.)

Despite a feast of announcements at yesterday's WWDC keynote, and the lack of any suggestion to the contrary, there was still a modicum of disappointment from the uninformed when Apple failed to produce a new iPhone.

In part this is understandable: over the past few years June has become 'new iPhone month'. And there's already a palpable whiff of excitement about the upcoming fifth generation Apple smartphone. But if we get a new iPhone this year it won't be before the Autumn, and the iCloud announcement may well prove to be much more significant.

Not for any pure technological reasons, you understand. There's little in iCloud that's innovative, and nothing that could be construed as breakthrough tech. But then, you could say the same things about the original iPhone and Apple iPad. Neither offered anything revolutionary but, crucially, both offered something the general public wanted in a good-looking, easy-to-understand and use package.

VIDEO: Watch Steve Jobs announce Apple iCloud

What is iCloud?

Nothing less than Apple's venerable 'digital hub' concept, without the PC.

iCloud stores all your media, data and contacts in the cloud, and wirelessly pushes it to all your devices. That's any connected device: smartphone, PC or tablet (as long as it runs iOS, Mac OS X or - crucially - Windows).

Not excited yet? Okay, how about I put it another way: wherever you are, whatever device you're carrying, you can access all of your music, photos and movies, purchase all of the above with a single click, contact anyone you know, login to all your favourite sites, apps and services... All you need is a single login.

Access all your music from your work PC. Buy a new phone and have it set up exactly the way you want it in minutes, and without having to synch to a PC (or worry about multiple phones sharing a computer).

These are not utilising new technologies: think about all the sites and services you can access with your Google login. But Apple's genius is in (a) explaining the tangible benefits of relatively new concepts to end users and (b) making the end-to-end experience simple and smooth. (Was it just me who noticed that one of Apple's new keynote buzz phrases is 'there's nothing to learn').

It's the epitome of Jobs''Post-PC world'. Whereas in the past the idea of the 'digital hub' was that you used your home PC as a kind of server, accessed by portable devices via cabled synching, now - Apple's pitch says - you don't even need a PC. Just an internet connected device.

I have no idea how well it will work but... this is Apple, right? My guess is that it will frustrate techies with its locked-down lack of adaptability, it will somehow remove rights (and cash) from users, and it will be ludicrously popular with a huge group of devoted consumers.

There will be irritations with iCloud. (The concept of iTunes Match is a good one, for instance, but nobody should be made to pay twice for music they've already legitimately purchased, however little the fee works out per song. It's just not right.)

Nothing new

I've already seen plenty of comments from Google fans pointing out that Apple is late to the cloud, and offers nothing new. But this misses the point.

Apple neither invented nor arrived first at digital music, tablet PCs or even the graphical user interface. But its slavish attention to detail, mastery of the user experience and unparalleled ability to give the customer what it wants has seen it make a fortune from all of the above.

And despite my hardened PC editor's sensibility, respect for Android, and healthy irritation with Apple's SkyNet-like behaviour, the potential benefits of iCloud make my next phone purchase much more likely to be an iPhone.

See also: Apple announces Mac OS X 10.7 'Lion', shows 10 new features

See also: Apple announces iOS 5, shows 10 new features

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