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iCloud offerings might be free to those who upgrade to Lion

Lion and cloudsWhen Steve Jobs kicks off Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) next Monday, AppleInsider suggests the iconic CEO may reveal an aggressive price-point for some of the Cupertino company's upcoming cloud services -- free.

On Tuesday, Apple announced plans to unveil iCloud, a suite of cloud services expected to replace MobileMe, and Lion, the eighth significant upgrade to Mac OS X, at WWDC next week. According to the post, people familiar with Apple's plans expect the computer maker to offer some of iCloud's services gratis to Mac users who upgrade to Lion.

But AppleInsider notes that some components of iCloud are not likely to be free for any customer. Apple recently negotiated new licensing deals with (at least) Sony, EMI, and Warner Music, and is expected to announce its own music streaming services on June 6. Much like MobileMe today and competing music offerings from Google and Amazon, Apple's upcoming music services will likely include a complimentary trial period, but customers should ultimately expect to pay a subscription fee to host content on the company's servers.

Today, Apple charges US$99 a year for MobileMe, the company's current suite of internet-based services which provide subscribers with email, remote file storage, iLife-integrated web-hosting space, online photo galleries, and data syncing for bookmarks, calendars, and contacts. The annual subscription rate will likely remain the same for customers who use the new iCloud service from versions of Mac OS X prior to Lion or systems running Microsoft Windows.

The rumored price structure for iCloud may remind longtime Mac users of Apple's pricing for iTools, the company's original suite of cloud services. When Apple first introduced iTools in early 2000, it offered the internet-based services for free to every Mac user as an incentive to make the switch from Windows. Re-branded as iCloud, a revamped suite of cloud offerings from Apple could soon help compel its customers to make the switch to Lion.

Additionally, Apple might continue its aggressively low pricing for operating system upgrades with Lion according to one of AppleInsider's "unproven" sources. When the company introduced Snow Leopard in 2009, the upgrade debuted with a price of only $29, $100 less than its predecessor. It's not yet certain how much Apple will charge customers to upgrade to Lion, but the company appears interested to drawing users to its latest operating system swiftly and in record numbers. The combination of free cloud services and a low upgrade price could be the formula Apple plans to use to ensure a successful launch for its newest big cat.

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