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iCloud portal goes live ahead of iOS 5 release

Apple's iCloud service has gone live ahead of the release of iOS 5, expected to take place later on Wednesday.The company pushed the portal live ahead of the launch, dropping the 'beta' label in the process, but customers will need to wait until they have iOS 5 on their mobile devices, or Mac OS X Lion 10.
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

Apple's iCloud service has gone live ahead of the release of iOS 5, expected to take place later on Wednesday.

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The company pushed the portal live ahead of the launch, dropping the 'beta' label in the process, but customers will need to wait until they have iOS 5 on their mobile devices, or Mac OS X Lion 10.7.2 on laptops or desktops, before they can perform initial set-up of the service. After setting up the account from a device running one of those two platforms, users will then be able to access iCloud.com from a PC.

The Apple iCloud hub allows users to sync mail, calendar, photos, contacts and iTunes libraries, or to find lost handsets or create new documents using iWork. The service also introduces iTunes Match, which scans a users' music library and offers high-bitrate alternatives streamed directly using the service. However, this feature is not currently available in the UK.

Users get 5GB of storage for free but can pay for additional room if required. Extra storage is offered as 10GB, 20GB or 50GB in return for an annual fee of around £14, £28 and £70, respectively.

The music streaming aspect of the service will go head-to-head with competitors in the form of Amazon's Cloud Drive or Google Music, which is currently in private beta.

Similar to iCloud, the Amazon Cloud Drive offers 5GB of online storage for free, plus unlimited storage of tracks bought from Amazon. The Google Music service currently offers users the option of storing up to 20,000 tracks.

The iOS 5 operating system is due to be available for download on Wednesday and brings with it usability improvements, such as native editing of photos and one-touch access to camera functions, and a new native 'Find My Friends' app that plugs into iCloud.

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