Like Amazon's cloud locker, Apple's iCloud offers the first five gigabytes of storage free. You can store more than fives gigs of music (but not the other types of files, for some reason), but that comes at a price of $25. That's an improvement over Amazon's pay-per-gig plan that makes users cough up $100 a year for 100GB of storage. (All those 99-cent copies of Born This Way aren't going to pay for themselves.) As of now, Google's Music Beta is still no charge for 20,000 songs worth of storage, but it doesn't have the same accessibility or the ability to amass videos and photos as Apple's cloud.
Whereas Google leapt into the cloud business without getting approval from the major labels, Apple has signed contracts with the record companies. To make the jump from iTunes to iCloud a tad easier, Apple also announced something called iTunes Match, which will help synchronize your library with your storage locker. That privilege costs $25 a year if you're uploading more than five gigabytes of music, but as a reward iTunes will upgrade the quality of the song files to 256 kbps AAC. (For us audiophiles, that's a downgrade from the 320 kbps files we've grown accustomed to.) For any music you own that's not available on iTunes, you'll be able to manually upload those tunes onto iCloud, and as an added bonus, Apple won't ask how you illegally downloaded those tracks. Huuuuuuge sigh of relief there.
Apple will roll out iCloud as part of their latest OS5 software this fall. At that point, we'll find out if computer users care as much about cloud-based technology as the computer industry does. Every time one of these cloud lockers launches, the tech industry makes a big deal about it, but the masses don't actually use it. It's like there's a giant digital war going on in an empty battlefield. Is the cloud the final frontier for digital music? We're not convinced yet.