Apple is set to reveal its eagerly anticipated iCloud service offering at the Worldwide Developer Conference today, and analysts have predicted the service will see an integration of MobileMe and iTunes.
The event will be the first public appearance by Apple chief executive Steve Jobs since he returned briefly from sick leave to launch the iPad 2 three months ago.
Details of iCloud remain vague, but speculation is rife among analysts that the offering will see iTunes becoming cloud-based, something users have long called for as services such as Spotify revolutionise the way in which music is stored and accessed.
However, the question on the minds of many analysts and industry observers is whether iCloud will contain any services apart from music storage.
"Think of iCloud as the new iTunes," wrote Apple expert John Gruber in a blog post. "Let's just think about the ways that iCloud might be a major, dare I say it game-changing, step away from USB tethering between iOS devices and iTunes running on your Mac."
The company relaunched the service as MobileMe in 2008, but its lack of success was demonstrated by Apple's decision to stop selling the product in retail stores in February.
IDC analyst David Bradshaw suggested that, if Apple decides to merge MobileMe functionality with iCloud for more than just music storage, the firm will be up against a large number of strong competitors such as DropBox.
Bradshaw warned that businesses could be slow to take to such an offering, which would put Apple at a disadvantage.
"Apple's traditional weakness is getting into the business," he said. "Apple is on a roll no doubt, but it can't just do anything."
However, Ovum analyst Mark Little expects Apple initally to launch the iCloud purely as a consumer offering.
"I don't think Apple will be coming to the market with a completed and finished cloud service," he said.
"I think the service will allow consumers to stream music to multiple Apple devices wherever they are, but I don't think we will know by tonight what else Apple plans to do with the cloud."
Little argued that a cloud-based media streaming proposition would compare favourably against Amazon's Cloud Drive and Google's "rather lazy" Beta for Music.
"If iCloud is bundled with an unchanged MobileMe, Apple's aged and less than successful $99 per year cloud services offering, Apple could land itself with a handicap," he said.
"However, if the storage and applications available in MobileMe are significantly upgraded with other useful services, at the right price, Apple could at last be creating a cloud platform as a base from which to defend iTunes' dominant position, not just against Amazon and Google but, perhaps more importantly, against Spotify."
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