A lot of what Apple announced yesterday in the Cupertino love-in was already understood before the announcement, but lets revisit what it means in terms of your iCloud music experience now that the details have been declared.
iCloud will run you $25 a year, which works out to fifty cents a week. There are other free services out there, but for fifty cents a week, it seems worth it to have an elegant solution to managing all of your media seamlessly. Secondly, you don't have to have an iPad or iPhone or iPod to use iCloud, you just need any kind of a computer. Third, if you add a song to one device, it will instantly be available to all of your other devices. Never again will you be stuck without a song because you didn't sync a library here or leave a file on a work computer.
iTunes In the Cloud will scan and match your songs, which is a world of difference from what Google Music offers. Anyone who's tried Google Music will tell you that it took days to upload all of their music to the cloud, because it literally makes a duplicate copy of every file you have. When Apple uses "Scan and Match" technology, that means that Apple does not need to upload any of your songs that already exists in Apple's vast iTunes library. With an iTunes library of 20 million songs, most of what you have in your library is already in the cloud before you begin, and any remaining songs that aren't in the cloud will be uploaded for you. This is a much faster process than Google Music, but Amazon also uses a scanning type of technology. The iTunes Music Store and Amazon MP3 Store both already have significant libraries of music, so they'll use those libraries to help make your songs available. Google Music does not have a music store, so they have to upload each ... and every ... song that you have.
iCloud will work with your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, as well as other devices like a laptop or desktop computer. You'll get a seamless flow of your media between all of these devices, meaning you'll never be stuck with your music or a video or a photo on a different device than the one you're carrying with you.
You'll be able to listen to your music anywhere, by either 1) streaming it through an internet connection or 2) choosing to keep a group of files permanently downloaded to your computer or portable device. For the second option, think of an airline flight when your cut off from the internet, a road trip through unconnected areas, a camping trip or anywhere you'll be without an internet connection. You can choose in advance to have parts of your library downloaded and ready to go.
This all works for photos, videos and documents too. This iCloud video also shows you visually.
Check out more about steaming music sites in the Spacelab Streaming Music Guide.