Steve Jobs unveils iCloud digital hub

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs unveiled a free digital hub called iCloud on Monday that allows users to store music, photos and other content on the Internet and access it on multiple devices.

Jobs and other Apple executives also introduced the next generation of Lion, the software that powers Macintosh computers, and iOS 5, the latest mobile operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

"Some people think the cloud is just a hard disk in the sky," Jobs told software developers at the annual Worldwide Developers Conference at San Francisco's Moscone Center.

"We think it's way more than that, and we call it iCloud," said Jobs, who was making just his second public appearance since going on medical leave in January.

Jobs said iCloud would eliminate the need to transfer music, documents, photos and other content stored on hard drives to other devices.

"Keeping these devices in sync is driving us crazy," he said to cheers from the audience. "We've got a great solution for this problem, and we think the solution is our next big insight.

"We're going to demote the PC to just being a device," he said. "iCloud stores your content in the cloud and automatically pushes it to all your devices.

"We're going to move the digital hub in the cloud," he said.

Jobs said music, for example, would automatically get pushed to all devices. "This is the first time we've seen this in the music industry - no charge for multiple downloads to different devices," he said.

Photos taken on any device are stored on Apple servers and can be downloaded to any other device using the Photostream application.

"We're making it free, and we're really excited about it," Jobs said.

Jobs said content stored on Apple servers would be backed up once daily. "If you ever lose your phone, get a new phone, type in your user name and password and everything will be there," he said.

Jobs, who has been on medical leave since January with an undisclosed ailment, took the stage to a standing ovation shortly after the music sound system at the Moscone Center blared out the James Brown hit "I Feel Good."

"Thank you, that always helps," said Jobs, who was dressed in his trademark black pullover and blue jeans.

Jobs, a pancreatic cancer survivor who underwent a liver transplant two years ago, appeared thin but relatively healthy in his first public appearance since March, when he unveiled the iPad 2.

Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller took the stage from Jobs to demonstrate features in the next generation of Lion.

One feature called "air drop" allows Macintosh users to exchange files with other nearby Mac users through a peer-to-peer Wifi-based network.

Lion will be available as a download in July for $29.99, considerably cheaper than the $129 charged for previous upgrades.

Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iPhone software, announced details of iOS 5, the updated mobile operating system for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, and said it included more than 200 new features.

Forstall said Apple has sold more than 200 million iOS devices and more than 14 billion applications have been downloaded from Apple's App Store.

"In the first 14 months, we have already sold more than 25 million iPads," he said.

Forstall also said a personal computer would no longer be needed to set up and activate an iPad and software updates are delivered over the air.

"With the new iPad we're ushering in the post-PC world," he said. "Now if you want to cut the cord, you can."

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