What's Missing From Apple's iTunes in the Cloud is iTunes in the Cloud

When Apple announced its iCloud service yesterday, the whole presentation led up to the reveal of iTunes in the Cloud, the most anticipated part of the service. As Apple went through its explanation of the service, though, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat disappointed. iTunes in the Cloud is missing a central part of what I was expecting from this service: access to my iTunes library in the Cloud. All the basic pieces are there: Apple knows what music I have on my machine (assuming I pay for iTunes Match once it’s released) and can sync that data to my other Apple devices – but you can’t stream your music from a web-based iTunes interface.

This web interface – to me – would have been the focal point of an iTunes in the Cloud – and would have put Apple in direct competition with Google‘s and Amazon‘s music lockers. My definition of the “cloud” is clearly different from that of Steve Jobs. During his presentation, Jobs specifically mentioned that Apple believes that the “cloud” is not just a “hard drive in the sky” (a thinly veiled swipe at Amazon) and that its more about syncing content between native apps than giving you access to your data wherever you are.

Is Apple’s Idea of Music Purchasing Stuck in the Past?

Apple, in many ways, is stuck in the past when it comes to how people acquire music. Thanks to services like Rdio and MOG, users now have the option to pay less than $10 per month for access to a vast library of music that can be streamed to virtually any device, accessed through the Web and even stored on mobile devices for offline access. Apple’s vision of the future of music is that people will continue to buy music on iTunes, but I wonder if that’s really what will happen in the long run as users discover the convenience of real cloud-based music services.

As for pure music lockers, Amazon, Google and mp3tunes still have a stronger offering than Apple today – what’s missing there, though, is a real mobile component. For the time being, then, neither iCloud nor none of the current locker service really live up to the expectations. iCloud makes it easier to bring your music into the cloud, but once it’s there, it’s still stuck on your iOS devices. I can’t help but think that music streaming services like Rdio and MOG offer a better alternative for most users.