Apple iCloud

The late Steve Jobs promised that "we're going to demote the PC and the Mac to just being devices. We're going to move your hub, the centre of your digital life, into the cloud."

He was talking about iCloud, which would provide easy access to your documents, important information and iTunes library, and which Apple no doubt hoped would erase the memory of its former cloud service, MobileMe.

The media side of iCloud works very well indeed across Mac and iOS devices: you can buy a song on iTunes on the desktop and it'll magically appear on your iPhone or iPad, and if you've bought a movie or TV show on one device your Apple TV knows about it and knows where you left off. You can store your entire iTunes library in the cloud and stream it too, but unlike rivals such as Google Play Music the Apple version isn't free: iTunes Match, as it's called, is £21.99 per year.

From later this year there will also be a Spotify-style music streaming service for music you don't own, iTunes Radio, and if you're an iTunes Match subscriber your experience will be ad-free.

Down to business

iCloud - still in its infancy
Apple's iCloud is still in its infancy: web-based iCloud apps will exit beta later this year

What about documents and data? iCloud gives you 5GB of storage (purchases don't count towards that total, and neither do the photos you share via iCloud's Photo Stream service), with additional storage weighing in at $20 per year for 10GB, $40 for 20GB and $100 per year for 50GB.

iCloud will sync your calendar, contacts and email between devices, can be used to save web pages for later reading and, if your chosen apps support it, it can be used to sync files too. Apple's own Keynote, Pages and Numbers support Documents in the Cloud, as do Garageband, Preview and TextEdit, but many Mac users prefer the more fully featured and more widely supported Dropbox.

iCloud is about to be revamped: when iOS 7 ships later this year there will be new photo sharing features enabling friends and family to add content or comments to your photo and video streams, and iCloud Keychain will create passwords and securely store credit card and account logins for you. There will also be new, web-based versions of Apple's iWork apps, which are already available to iCloud users as public betas.

If iCloud sounds less ambitious than Google's cloud offering, that's because it is: Apple and Google are approaching the cloud from very different perspectives.

Google wants everybody to use its cloud offerings so it can sell ads, but Apple wants to use its cloud offerings to sell hardware. As a result its focus is much narrower, and it's not particularly interested in doing great things on non-Apple devices.