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June 6, 2011 9:06 AM
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Steve Jobs Announces iCloud: What Will it Mean for Indie Film?

Steve Jobs at the Worldwide Developers Conference today. [Photocredit: Engadget/AOL]

Today Steve Jobs unveiled Apple's new iCloud service at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. And unlike the Amazon and Google cloud storage services, iCloud could have a more immediate impact on how we watch movies.

Unlike its competitors, iCloud is intended to store more than music. It's for documents, photos taken with any Apple device, everything previously linked to MobileMe, will be automatically updated and available from all Apple devices.

As Mashable reports,

The entire iCloud service will be free and automatic. You get it on your iOS5 [the new mobile operating system] devices, when that launches. You get 5GB for free, and they’re not counting music, photos, apps and books towards that total.

While the iCloud does not currently include the ability to store TV and film on its servers, indieWIRE spoke with some of the indie world's top digital distributors to figure out what the iCloud announcement could mean for film distribution.

One thing is clear: the iCloud has the potential to make cloud-based computing more acceptable. Says Matt Dentler, head of content for Cinetic Rights Management, "One of the things that deters people from buying media digitally is the security of their files. The cloud gives an extra layer of security, as long as you can access the cloud."

Currently, the iCloud model would rely on the consumer to have downloaded (and typically, paid for) the digital content in order for it to be hosted on the cloud's servers. That model challenges the subscription-based streaming model made enormously popular by Netflix and Hulu Plus. "It's much more convenient for a consumer to know that anything they want to purchase to view they can have as long as they're willing to pay for it," says Adam Chapnick, the CEO of Indiegogo-owned digital distributor Distribber. "In the case of the subscription model, it is beholden to the distribution deals they can arrange and not all films are available."

At this point, it is safe to assume that video is not a part of the cloud deals because of bandwidth and storage issues. Regardless, as Chapnick notes, "There's a pressure toward subscription on the retail side. It's a better business model for the services, but for filmmakers that's a downward pressure on revenue."

Chapnick sees the announcement as a way for Apple to edge out the competition. "They're keeping their status as the most popular destination for user content management. I wouldn't bet against them going to a streaming model. They're perfectly positioned to do so. If they keep the consumers, they can do with them as they will."

Another distribution executive, speaking not for attribution, noted that the cloud also reduces or removes a huge revenue opportunity.

"Entertainment companies want to sell you things and they want you to sell you to it again when you lose it or when it becomes outmoded," he said."The cloud creates an environment where you potentially never have the chance of losing access to your data. We'll be seeing companies looking for money to make off of the cloud in other ways -- by releasing different editions of films, the way that a lot of studios release special editions. We'll begin to see the digital equivalent of that."

For more insight on the leading cloud services and their reluctance to include video, read this report from Gigaom.

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