SAN FRANCISCO — Apple chief executive officer Steve Jobs on Monday ushered his company — and, by extension, the global computing industry — into the cloud era.
"We are going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud," Jobs said.
The new iCloud service replaces Apple's MobileMe document-sharing offering, which cost $99 a year. The new iCloud service is free and available now with an iOS 4.3 software update, Jobs said.
Just after 10 a.m., Jobs took the stage at Moscone Center in San Francisco for the kickoff of Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference. As Jobs strolled onto the stage, he basked in the applause.
"Thank you. It always helps, and I appreciate it very much," said Jobs, who has been on medical leave.
With iCloud, content such as music and documents is stored on large servers instead of on personal hard drives — and is accessible from anywhere through the Internet. Apple will provide 5 gigabytes of free storage for mail, documents and backup.
The new iCloud service is Apple's seal of approval of what many experts believe is the next major iteration of the digital world.
All of Apple's devices "have communications systems built into them," Jobs said Monday. "They can all talk to the cloud."
Perhaps the biggest star of the iCloud service is the new iTunes function that lets people download songs to up to 10 devices at no extra cost.
"This is the first time we have seen this in the music industry — no charge for multiple downloads for different devices," Jobs said. "Any song I buy on any device will automatically be downloaded to all my devices."
The iCloud service includes automatic backup functions for all devices.
Photo Stream will allow a person to take a photograph on an iPhone, upload it to iCloud, then download it to other devices, from the iPad to a Mac to Apple TV, Jobs said. Photos will be stored for 30 days on the service, and devices will store the last 1,000 photos taken. If a Photo Stream user wants to store a photo permanently, it needs to be moved into an album on a Mac or a PC.
Earlier, Apple showed new versions of its software for Mac computers and mobile devices such as the iPhone and the iPad.
"Today it is all about software," Jobs told the conference's 5,200 attendees. "If the hardware is the brain and sinew of our products, the software in them are its soul."
The new software — which will ship in the fall — allows iPad and iPhone owners to set up and activate their devices without being connected to a computer. Software updates will be available "over the air," said Scott Forstall, Apple's senior vice president of iPhone software.
"We are living in a PC-free world. With the iPad, we are ushering in the post-PC world," he said. "If you want to cut the cord, you can."
Apple also announced greater integration with Twitter so that people can tweet photos, for instance, directly from a photo app.