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Is music heading for 'stormy weather'? (It's a Cloud thing...)

Tue 07 Jun 2011

Is music heading for 'stormy weather'? (It's a Cloud thing...)

If you don’t currently have your head in the “Cloud”, you will soon! Last night Apple announced their upcoming online storage service “iCloud”. Apple isn’t the first to offer “Cloud” services and certainly won’t be the last. But what is “the Cloud” and what does it mean to a music lover?

In simple terms “the Cloud” is another name for the Internet. Data (like music, videos and images) is now often stored entirely online but it’s also now popular to operate whole programs like eBay, Facebook and Hotmail entirely online and this has changed the way our information is stored dramatically. In theory Cloud services are more secure than storage on a local device (like a PC or Smartphone) and offer access from any Internet connected device. Applications like Facebook can also be upgraded more easily as they are only stored in one central point rather than thousands (or millions) of users machines.

Although we think of this as a new idea it’s actually a bit of a return to the past, if on a much bigger scale. In the days of early business networks users were given a very simple “client” machine or “terminal”. This consisted of just a keyboard and video monitor which sent and received data to and from from a central “server”. As PCs became cheaper it was possible to run programs like word processors and spreadsheet applications on the client machine as it gained memory and storage all of its own. Over time the local machine became disconnected from any kind of server device and operated in isolation.

When the Internet arrived local machines became interconnected once more and Cloud services arrived. Eventually things started to turn full circle and now the local machine (or Client device) has become less powerful again (think Netbooks, tablet PCs etc.) and the server (now in the Cloud) is taking over as the main storage and processing device.

For music lovers the development of the Cloud has led to a big change in how we buy music and where it’s ultimately stored. Services like Spotify, and Rapsody deliver “live” streaming music on demand from a Cloud server without the actual material ever being stored on the local device. While this offers users a vast collection of music to choose from it also, arguably, offers the music producers a more secure way of distributing music as the content itself becomes harder to copy.

While many more traditional music lovers will still choose to buy physical music (like CDs, LPs and so on) a whole new generation of listeners are perfectly happy to listen to music delivered from the Cloud. Thankfully, devices like Arcam’s rCube and Solo Neo offer a sublime listening experience no matter where the music is coming from!