Apple May Take to the iCloud

Steve Jobs will reportedly take the stage next week at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (June 6-10), his second appearance since he went on medical leave five months ago. Jobs was last seen on stage in March to introduce the iPad 2. Given the severity of Jobs’ condition we expect something big, and Apple looks like it will deliver.

It is already known that Apple will introduce the next generation of the OS X operating system for Macs. Codenamed Lion, the OS will feature full-screen apps and access to the Mac App Store of course, and it could spell the end of the Dashboard. Apple will also likely show off the new OS for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch – iOS5. None of this is really a surprise.

But the rumors are swirling – to the point that it is so widely reported that it isn’t even a rumor anymore – that Apple will unveil iCloud. Just yesterday the company officially confirmed the existence and name, and this follows reports that Apple had acquired the domain name earlier this year.While speculation is varied on what Apple might bring to the cloud, the leading theories are that it could be a music storage service so users can stream their music anywhere.

The iCloud would mostly support iTunes, but it could also likely support MobileMe, allowing users to gain access to documents anywhere. MobileMe hasn’t exactly been one of Apple’s finer moves, but with the addition of iCloud could give the company the upper hand in reaching for the sky.

So what else do we know? Well, Apple has a 500,000 square foot iDataCenter in North Carolina and has created an additional data center space in Silicon Valley. It would be hard to believe that all this is just in place for iTunes storage.

It also isn’t hard to see why Apple would be looking skyward. Google is clearly thinking about the cloud – so much so that its Chrome operating system is designed to change the way people use computers. This could bite into Microsoft and the PC market, but it could also take a bit out of Apple’s minority share of the computer space. While Microsoft will fight to retain its hold, it could give ground and still move ahead. Apple certainly can’t afford to have people thinking different than Mac in computers – at least unless it wants abandon its original core business in favor of tablets and handsets.

That scenario is, of course, unlikely.

But it was also Steve Jobs who not too long ago proclaimed that the desktop era was ending. While we think he envisioned and even hoped for Apple to dominate with tablets, Google could be thinking the same thing – yet thinking differently – with the cloud on the mind. Clearly Apple now sees this.

Of course we’ll know much more after next week’s WWDC.