It’s almost here: WWDC 2011. After tomorrow, we’ll know what Apple has to offer for the future. And yet, we already know a lot more than we did just one week ago. In a move decidedly unlike Apple, the tech giant began the week by sending out a press release. With it, iCloud was announced BY NAME! We also got confirmation iOS 5 and OS X Lion were to be discussed at WWDC.

Meanwhile, there was app news too.

Here are the top stories of the past week:

WWDC, WWDC, WWDC!

Apple Announces iCloud, iOS 5 & Steve Jobs At Next Week’s Keynote

In what many might consider a surprising announcement, Apple just announced the details of next week’s WWDC opening Keynote. With it, the tech giant officially announced iCloud, a new cloud service offering, as well as the company’s intent to officially unveil its next generation Mac software, OS X Lion. In addition, Apple confirmed Apple CEO Steve Jobs would speak at Monday’s keynote.

Last, but not least; Steve will be unveiling on stage iOS 5, the next generation OS for the iPhone/iPod touch and iPad.

No Surprise: Music Labels Onboard For iCloud Service

Hours after Apple’s unexpected press release that discussed its new iCloud service, comes news not all that surprising. The company is said to have reached agreement with each of the four large labels to bring music to the cloud, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Although Apple has not yet officially announced what iCloud is, we’ve known for awhile now one of its components is to provide music “in a cloud.”

Up until today, Apple had signed three of the four major recorded-music companies, including Warner Music, Sony Music, and EMI Group. According to The Journal, the fourth, Universal Music Group is expected to sign this week.

Is Apple About To Merge iOS & Mac OS? WWDC Schedule Points That Way

Apple has been surprisingly slow at releasing this year’s WWDC schedule. We speculated it would be big, and now that Apple revealed the details of the sessions, it seems like they might indeed have something huge to announce.

If you look at the first day of sessions, sent to us by various developers (above), Apple is following the launch keynote with an Apple platforms kickoff, followed by a developers tools kickoff. Both are addressed to iOS and Mac OS X developers and they have never done that before. Usually, they hold a simple state of the union on the tools and the platforms, telling people about the new features. A kick-off sounds like a relaunch to us; a reboot, just check your thesaurus.

Indeed, while Steve Jobs made it clear that iPhone OS, now iOS is based on Mac OS X, it’s really not that similar. Yes, you can develop for both of them using the same language, but the interfaces need to be redone, and there are still many differences. If Apple merges the two, this could allow cross-platform development between all of Apple’s platforms. Actually, they even have a “Designing User Interfaces for iOS and Mac OS X Apps” session scheduled … convinced?

Apple Assumes Ownership Of iCloud.com Ahead Of WWDC

Apple has now taken ownership of iCloud.com, following the company’s purchase of the domain (which we first reported on in April, earlier this year). As you can see in the above screenshot, Apple, Inc. is now listed as the official owner of the domain.

A couple of days ago, Apple announced in a press release that its cloud-based service would be called “iCloud.” Furthermore, the company noted that Steve Jobs (along with a team of Apple executives) will unveil the product at WWDC 2011′s keynote address, which is scheduled to take place on June 6, at 10 a.m.

iCloud and OS X Lion Pricing Rumors Start Raining Down

Apple, who announced iCloud on Tuesday, is keeping otherwise quiet about its planned pricing structure for the remote media storage and streaming service. As expected, though, small rumors are bubbling up in these last few days before June 6′s WWDC keynote presentation.

Neil Hughes of AppleInsider has received a couple tips about Apple’s forthcoming approach, and — on the surface — they both seem pretty plausible.

First, iCloud services are said likely to be free for every Mac user who upgrades to OS X Lion. However, that only applies to basic utilities, as premium streaming services for music and movies would obviously come with monthly or yearly fees.

Secondly, Mac OS X Lion itself will presumably carry an inexpensive price tag, much like Snow Leopard did when it launched back in 2009. Explains Hughes,

Whether Apple will choose to go with the same sub-$30 pricing of Snow Leopard when Lion goes on sale is unknown. But software now plays a very small part in Apple’s bottom line, and the company is said to be interested in ensuring that users quickly upgrade to the latest version of Mac OS X, through incentives and low barriers to entry…

Apple executives are said to have so much confidence in Lion, they believe the new operating system will help the company carve away even more market share from traditional Windows PCs. The idea is near-ubiquitous adoption of Lion on Macs will go a long way in promoting the Mac platform and further expand Apple’s market penetration.

It is possible Apple could implement an exclusive Mac App Store sale on Lion like it does for some of its other in-house software, but it’s hard to imagine the price being too high wherever you buy the OS.

iCloud Will Be Free, For Limited Time

Apple’s new iCloud service will arrive for free, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, Apple will eventually charge $25 for a yearly subscription. But, what does $25 get you?

Accordingly:

Dubbed iCloud, the service initially will be offered for a free period to people who buy music from Apple’s iTunes digital download store, allowing users to upload their music to Apple’s computers where they can then play from a Web browser or Internet-connected Apple device.

The company plans to eventually charge a subscription fee, about $25 a year, for the service. Apple would also sell advertising around its iCloud service.

Of course, assuming this story is correct, the definition of “free” could mean different things.

Apple To Pay Between $100 Million & $150 Million In Advanced Payments To Labels

Apple reportedly has four major music labels on board for iCloud, but how much did that cost the Cupertino, CA company? According to a recent article by The New York Times, Apple is paying each company between $25 million and $50 million in advanced payments, meaning the company could “fork over between $100 million and $150 million” in total.

As reported by The New York Times:

Apple will fork over between $100 million and $150 million in advanced payments to the four major music labels in order to get its iCloud off the ground, three separate sources told The Post. The Cupertino, Calif., tech giant has agreed to pay the labels between $25 million to $50 million each, as an incentive to get on board, depending on how many tracks consumers are storing. The size of the advance payments have been a major hold-up for Google, which had been negotiating with the music companies and now will likely have to pony up higher fees to get a rival cloud service into action, said music industry sources.

Indeed, this agreement with music labels is what may give Apple’s cloud-based service the edge over competitors. During Eric Schmidt’s interview at the D9 event, the Google CEO noted that Google and music labels “couldn’t come to terms.” This is why Google’s cloud-based music service “does not scan-and-match users’ music library and prevents people from downloading files once they’re up in the cloud,” as noted by 9to5Mac.

Why iOS 5 + Lion + iCloud = WWDC: The New iCloud Explained

Apple has already announced they will be unveiling a new cloud service called iCloud on Monday. Yet, besides the few rumors surrounding some music distribution deals, nobody really knows what iCloud really is.

Following yesterday’s discovery, based on the conference schedule, we spent some time thinking about what iCloud will be, and what the banner Lion + iOS 5 + iCloud = WWDC really means. Well, we think we’ve figured it out. It’s actually pretty obvious, here is our take:

In a nutshell, we believe Apple will be unveiling the Dropbox killer that Jon Gruber heard about back in October. That is, it’s going to allow developers to move the data part of their apps to Apple’s online servers.

Twitter Photo-Sharing Coming To iOS 5

Twitter, the social networking monster is about to get into the photo-sharing business. To do so, it might have found an equally impressive partner: Apple, by way of iOS 5.

This news comes from TechCrunch, which sees Twitter making the announcement at the D9 conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California this week.

Other News

Apple Now Worth More Than Microsoft & Intel Combined

A recent article by Cult of Mac has drawn our attention to something extremely interesting, and a little breathtaking, too. At the close of markets yesterday, Apple (APPL) was worth more than Microsoft (MSFT) and Intel (INTC) combined.

Impressed? I am, too. Here are the details, outlined by Cult of Mac:

  • Apple (AAPL) — $317.60 billion
  • Microsoft (MSFT) — $201.59 billion
  • Intel (INTC) — $115.21 billion

 

Obviously, Microsoft and Intel combined gives a grand total of $316.8 billion, while Apple is still ahead at $317.60 billion. This really is astonishing, considering the climb Apple has had to undertake in order to become the massive company it is today.

App News

Apple Updates Its Two Biggest Media-Creation Apps With New Features And Stability Enhancements

First posted by MacStories (and surely noticed by several readers since), Apple has updated two more of its flagship iOS applications (the first batch being the iWork suite): GarageBand and iMovie. The former received the most substantial set of feature tweaks, while the latter’s improvements are strictly bug-related.

The Pulse News Universe Now Includes The Web

The Pulse News universe is getting a little bit larger. Readers can now save articles of interest on their Pulse iPhone/iPod touch app or iPad app and read them later online. The new service, located at Pulse.me, was announced via the Pulse Blog.

Created by Alphonso Labs, the Pulse News Reader was one of the first RSS news apps created for the iPad in 2010. Since then, the California-based company has grown and now includes both an iPhone and Android app.

Pulse.me expands the company’s reach to the web. Best of all, it is extremely simple to use once the initial setup is complete.

Fox News Brings A New Take On Its Successful iPhone App To The Big Screen

Yes, Fox News finally has an iPad app.

After having the most downloaded iPhone news app of 2010 (and tripling last year’s mobile website traffic to 12 million unique monthly viewers), Murdoch’s minions decided the time was right to jump on board the Apple tablet train and build a new news app from the ground up. Mashable reports Fox News VP Jeremy Steinberg claims his company

waited until now to release its app because it was looking for the critical mass that would support the app financially. “We waited for the right moment,” he said. “We want all of our products to be viable financially.”

To that end, users will notice the app is supported by a sole sponsorship deal with ExxonMobil. The advertising banner, which runs along the bottom of the screen regardless of orientation, is a little intrusive (even if quite subdued).

Instamap: Subscribe To Instagram Photos On Your iPad, With This Handy App

Instamap is a recently released application for the iPad, which allows users to view Instagram photographs and subscribe to to images by locations or tags. Currently, the app is available to download for $1.99.

As mentioned Instamap allows users to “subscribe” to Instagram images via location or tag. Once subscribed, images will appear live within the app as they are uploaded to Instagram. Users of the app can also “like” or add comments to images from within the app, as well as view Instagram users’ photo streams.

 

Top AppAdvice News & Apps Of The Past Week is published each Sunday, and is a wrap-up of some of the stories we felt were interesting during the last week.