iTunes Lofted Skyward

What game-changing moves did yesterday's Apple software announcements hold for home theater enthusiasts?

Among the few mentions of Apple TV, the company's video streaming set top box, came in connection with Photo Stream. This new app pushes photos and other content to the cloud, then sends them to your computer, portable, and other devices. Apple TV is one of those devices.

An Apple press release also mentions AirPlay Mirroring, which will "wirelessly display everything you do on your iPad 2 right on your HDTV through Apple TV."

The iCloud, discussed below, will distribute video among devices, though via downloading, not streaming, according to this guy.

As expected, Apple unveiled its iCloud, which will work with the new iOS 5, which in turn will run on both generations of iPad, iPhones 4 and 3GS, and iPod touches third gen and up. The multifaceted server-based service (is that redundant?) stores music, pix, apps, calendars, docs, and other content on a remote server. One of those facets is iTunes in the Cloud which runs on iOS 4.3 beta.

Any music you've bought from iTunes becomes available in the cloud and downloads in AAC 256kbps to any of your devices at no extra charge. You needn't even go to the trouble of syncing.

But what if you want to have this flexibility with your own rips, non-AAC purchases from stores other than iTunes, or music files procured, ahem, otherwise? You'll need to use iTunes Match: Software scans your library, matches tracks with those in the store, and within minutes you can access them from various devices. Note that the service is not free: The price is $24.99/year. However, all other iCloud services are free, which is always a great price.

Steve Jobs made a big point of comparing iTunes Match with Amazon's and Google's cloud-based music lockers. Among the comparisons was cost, with Amazon's pegged at $50/year and Google's unknown. But he failed to note that Amazon's service is actually free for the first 5GB and extends to 20GB with the purchase of one album-length download (which typically costs less than 10 bucks) if you buy before the end of 2011. Only beyond that point does Amazon levy big fees.

Jobs seems to have overlooked these details. But he was right about Amazon's Cloud Drive being painfully slow: It took us a whole evening to upload a few dozen albums.

Perhaps it was Jobs himself who was the event's biggest story, making a rare public appearance in the wake of a serious illness that has kept him out of the office and the public eye. Our best wishes for his recovery and longevity. The technology world would be a duller place without him.

Our coverage is necessarily limited and a/v-oriented For further details on the event, check out the liveblog and wrapup at Engadget (our compliments to reporter Tim Stevens and photographer Darren Murph). Also see Apple press releases on iCloud, iOS 5, and Mac OS X Lion.

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