Our Lion in the Spotlight feature has been pretty comprehensive; we’ve talked you through no less than 14 features, all of which deserve to be spoken about, but I think we’ve saved the best service ’til last in this case. Strictly speaking, iCloud isn’t exactly a feature of Lion, but a separate cloud offering outside the realms of Mac OS X and iOS. It does, however, work very well with both.
Currently in limited beta to developers, iCloud is expected to be released to the public around the same time as iOS 5, and will be compatible with Mac OS X 10.7.2. We’ve been able to get a little sneak peak at the iCloud beta running in Lion, so let’s take a look!
At the moment, iCloud is placed in the ‘Mail, Contacts & Calendars’ section of System Preferences next to the existing ‘MobileMe’ entry, but by the time we get to the final version of iCloud and Mac OS X 10.7.2, I’d be willing to bet that the MobileMe entry might be replaced.
When you set up iCloud, you are given the choice of using an existing Apple ID with your iCloud account, or creating one with a brand new ID. If you choose to create a new one, you will be able to register a @me.com email address for free, which is a nice added bonus if you don’t currently have one.
Once you have set up your email address and iCloud account, you can choose what you want iCloud to sync. I set the service up on my iMac before I set up my MacBook to see how everything would transfer across. I chose to sync my e-mail and notes, as well as all of the contacts in my Address Book, my Safari bookmarks and iCal events. On this page, you can also set up Photo Stream, documents and data syncing, and enable ‘Back to my Mac’ as well as ‘Find My Mac’ features.
This is great right now if you have two or more computers running Lion, but the real advantage will come when you’re out and about running iOS 5 on your iPhone and iPad. Current MobileMe subscribers will already be accustomed to this, but the convenience of being able to add events to your calendar and new contacts to your Address Book and then come home to see them already synced up with your Mac cannot be understated. Simply put, and you’ll have to excuse the cliché, it just works.
There’s no doubt that iCloud will be a hit with Apple users whether they’re on Mac OS X and iOS, and it will also do a great job of further enticing people in to the whole Apple eco-system as well. I’ll certainly be using it more often, at any rate!