Registered Apple developers have had access to the iCloud beta since the company’s WWDC in June, but of course they’re bound by Apple's strict NDA and aren't allowed to discuss the cloud service yet. But today, Apple inched a bit closer to the public release of iCloud with the beta release of the iCloud web site, which is very much like the soon-to-be-retired Mobile Me web site, only with fewer options. Now, what's available is web-based access to iCloud Mail (again using a me.com address), Contacts, Calendar, and, for iOS users, Find My Phone and iWork (document storage).
(The iCloud beta web site is still only available to Apple registered developers, unfortunately.)
It's not much to look at, at least not yet. In fact, it's pretty clearly just Mobile Me 2.0. Which is fine: Despite its poor initial implementation, Mobile Me was always a good idea (i.e. "Exchange for consumers"). Still is.
But if you're a Windows user, like me, this service will be largely uninteresting, since iCloud, like Mobile Me before it, is much more full-featured if you're a Mac OS X/iOS user. But even for those fully in the Apple camp, the iCloud beta is currently pretty lackluster, and doesn't yet include the service's most eagerly awaited (but optional) feature, iTunes Match.
On a related note, Apple also revealed the cost of additional storage on iCloud. (Users will get 5 GB for free.) There are three added cost storage plans: An additional 10 GB for $20 a year, 20 GB for $40 a year, and 50 GB for $100 a year.
I'll be reviewing iCloud when possible, but again, this won't be as compelling for Windows users as it is for Mac OS X/iOS users.