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The Excitement & Expectation For Apple's New Domai

And what of existing video streaming services? Video is an increasingly key part of Apple media sales, but it will have to deal with everyone from online king YouTube to industry stalwarts Virgin and Sky, bright start ups like LoveFilm and all the terrestrial heavyweights worldwide, including the mighty BBC iPlayer.

When it comes to Cloud synchronisation it gets little easier. Google Android has always operated in the Cloud, RIM's BlackBerry Protect offers a full Cloud backup and data restoration and even Windows Phone and HP's webOS have integrated Cloud syncing. Of course this isn't entirely fair. Apple has long had MobileMe. While long derided, the premium service does Cloud sync email, contacts, calendar, photos and files and can locate, lock and remote wipe your handset with its Find My Phone functionality. Still the prime reason behind Apple's sluggishness is the company's biggest strength: iTunes.

In March we explained Why Apple Runs Shy of the Cloud and the short answer is iTunes. The software is the backbone of Apple's iDevices and its role as a hub for media purchases, synchronisation and backup has both attracted new customers and locked in existing ones. But its power is fading and the flaw is clear. Forcing mobile devices to be physically tethered to PCs makes little sense, especially when one of those products – the iPad – is meant to be a potential PC replacement for casual users.

All of which brings us back to iCloud. Whatever can Apple do to reshape a business model that defines it, yet also threatens to age it? The first hints are coming. Over the weekend Consomac.fr spotted 'Castle', a codename within the developer preview of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. Castle is believed to be a service which ports user data from MobileMe. And why ready a porting programme if you don't have something bigger, better and – what is more – entirely new to tempt customers in the first place?

There is further reason to be excited. Earlier this year Apple confirmed it was ready to open a new $1bn 505,000-square-foot data centre in North Carolina. This is 5x the size of its old Newark facility, which cost just $50m in 2006. This doesn't sound like the gesture of a company thinking small.

All of which leaves us with the unanswerable question: Will Apple get its cloud service right? There is an obtuse answer: it has to…

Update: As if it had just read our feature, Spotify further increased the pressure on an Apple streaming service today with an update that allows it to sync music with iPods. Game on.

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