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New Apple iCloud Goes Live Today

Apple today will launch its iCloud wireless storage and syncing service for US Apple and Windows users, in a move which takes on Amazon’s “S3” Simple Storage System, as well as a forthcoming new storage service from Google dubbed Gdrive.

In Australia, the iCloud service will launch tomorrow, and will be followed on Friday by launch of the new iOS 5 operating software. Orders are being taken from today for the new iPhone 4 S, for delivery on Friday.

Apple claims iCloud will work seamlessly with the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac or Windows PCs, wirelessly storing content including e-mail, music, photos and videos, and automatically pushing them to all of a user’s devices without any need for cables.

Users get five gigabytes of cloud storage free, and can purchase more, with Australians paying $21 a year for 10GB, $42 for 20GB and $105 a year for 50GB. By contrast Amazon’s S3 service charges users for even the first gigabyte of storage space.

A maximum of 10 Apple devices can automatically be synced. Songs purchased on one device will be available immediately on the other devices.

US users of iCloud will also score a service called iTunes Match. This is said to prevent the need to upload music into the cloud, as iTunes Match itself creates a library matching the user’s existing playlist. The music it copies does not have to have been bought from iTunes.

The service seeks to match a user’s music with 20 million songs in Apple’s library. Items that match can be accessed from the cloud while those that do not are uploaded to the cloud and counted in a user’s iCloud storage quota.

Meanwhile Amazon is pinning its hopes for making a major dent in the online storage business by virtue of its new low-price – US$199 – Kindle Fire tablet.