Apple: Obscured by Clouds

Steve Jobs may have moved on, but Apple's quickly returned to shaking up the music and movie industries in the good old-fashioned way: with beta releases and rumors. Commentators are struggling to make sense of what it all means, of course, but it looks like Tim Cook's company is set to keep things interesting in the near term -  iPhone 5 and and iPad 3 aside.

This week saw the beta of iTunes Match - one of the key components of the forthcoming iTunes in the Cloud - make its way to developers; the interesting twist that's keeping people talking today (and likely causing some serious consternation on the part of labels - and musicians) is that it looks like the service appears to offer streaming from the cloud (at 256 kbps) of whatever tunes you might own locally that happen to also exist on Apple's servers, on up to five machines, without you having to download those tracks. At $24.99/year, if true this'll make iTunes a serious competitor to MOG, Spotify, and Rdio, purely as a streaming service. Apple itself maintains that they're not offering streaming per se; just streaming while downloading - i.e., iTunes will remain a download only service, just one that takes the sting out of waiting with simultaneous streaming.

Anyway, whatever the truth turns out to be, Insanely Great Mac has a preview video up; it's worth a look.

As for your viewing habits, Apple's set to change those as well. Analysts seem convinced that Apple is set to offer not just a game-changing video distribution service, but an actual physical HDTV sometime in 2012. The idea's been kicking around for a while now, and it's certainly unclear what will emerge as Apple's video strategy develops under Cook's leadership - or perhaps, continues on under Jobs. But given the cloud infrastructure that's in the works at Cupertino, it's not too big a gamble to assume that something's in the works. And Apple's certainly shown a willingness to change direction on the TV front, no matter how successful the current incarnation of Apple TV may be.!