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Opinion: Considering media in an iCloud

Christopher Breen, | June 1, 2011
What might Apple do for media streaming with its forthcoming iCloud service? Christopher Breen has a few ideas in advance of next week's Worldwide Developers Conference keynote.


Let’s get active

Lockers can also be active. This is a different scheme where you don’t upload your tracks but instead upload a record of your tracks, much like you upload a record of the contents of your iTunes library so that iTunes can make Genius and iTunes Store recommendations. With such a record in the cloud, you, Joe or Jane User, simply select a track, album, artist, or genre you want to stream; the device checks with the database of songs you’re allowed to play (because you’re the verified owner of that music); and the copy of that music on the server streams to you. This same copy is available for other verified owners to stream.

The advantage of an active locker is that you needn’t spend days uploading tracks (and absorb the bandwidth hit in the process). But it’s not all roses and butterflies. Streaming that content will still count against any bandwidth cap you have. And the music companies will certainly kick about any music whose ownership can’t be verified. So, in the case of Apple, you could stream any music you’ve purchased from the iTunes Store, but not music you’ve ripped from CDs or acquired in more creative ways.


Apple and its options

Now that Apple has officially announced its intention to announce the iCloud service, what might it hold for those interested in streaming media? Implementing an active locker system is the obvious primary feature. And given the rumors that Apple has locked down deals with the major music companies, this is the kind of bet you can make with your eyes closed. The system for uploading a database of tracks is built into iTunes and Apple is well aware of the music you’ve purchased from the iTunes Store. Just get the music companies’ approval, someone to plug in Apple’s new data center, and a new iTunes version and iOS update, and you're ready to roll.

But suppose you’ve populated your iTunes library with something other than tracks purchased from Apple? Such an active locker wouldn’t be terribly attractive. But, since you’re so good at supposing, suppose too that you could create a local locker—one housed on your Mac or PC that you could access via the Internet? Essentially you’re looking at an iTunes Home Sharing feature that’s not restricted to a local network but rather available from anywhere. This isn’t pie-in-the-sky technology. Before it disappeared, Simplify Media was a popular option for doing exactly this. And Rogue Amoeba’s $40 Nicecast currently allows you to stream audio from your Mac to others on the Internet. In short, this isn’t hard. It simply takes the music companies signing off on it and Apple making it easy to do.


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