iCloud Is Apple's Key To The Cloud 'Castle'

The iCloud spotting comes just days after Apple bought the domain iCloud.com from Swedish cloud storage-as-a-service player Xcerion, which has since changed the name of its iCloud service to CloudMe.

French blog Consomac showed screen shots of Castle. According to the blog, researchers stumbled upon Castle while seeking out Find My Mac, iCloud and MobileMe references in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. Consomac wrote that they found strings that said "Complete your Castle upgraded" and "Click OK to open System Preferences to complete your upgrade from MobileMe to Castle."

The ability to upgrade for MobileMe to Castle, as highlighted in the latest developer preview of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, has led industry watchers to deduce that Castle is the codename for the public iCloud service.

Apple bought the iCloud.com domain last week for a reported $4.5 million purse, according to several reports. Apple buying the domain for a storage-as-a-surface offering has led to speculation that Apple is prepping a cloud competitor to the recently launched Amazon Cloud Drive and Amazon Cloud Player, a pair of cloud storage and cloud music streaming services from Amazon.

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Quoting "reliable sources," AppleInsider reported that the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer giant plans to use iCloud for more than just streaming music, however, and will likely be an integral part of Apple's MobileMe service going forward.

A new version of Apple's MobileMe is expected as early as June 6 at WWDC 2011. It's been widely speculated that the updated MobileMe will include a digital locker service for cloud storage, media streaming and a feature that lets users find and share locations.

Along with MobileMe, Apple has been said to be prepping a cloud-based version of iTunes.

Apple's myriad cloud moves come as the company looks to carve out its niche in the bustling cloud computing market, which Forrester Research recently said will hit $241 billion by 2020.

Apple has made it no secret that cloud computing is a top priority. Last month, Apple posted a job listing for a Cloud Systems Software Engineer. The job description indicated Apple was looking for someone to write software that "forms the foundation" of some of Apple's "most exciting new products and services." The posting adds that the ideal candidate will have experience "designing, implementing and supporting highly scalable applications and Web services" and will "collaborate with cross-functional engineering teams to define and implement some of the company's core backend platform frameworks and systems."

Apple also recently hired a Microsoft cloud computing guru to help it hone its cloud offerings. Microsoft has confirmed for CRN that Kevin Timmons, its general manager of Datacenter Services, has left his post. Reports said Timmons will join Apple after years of being instrumental in Microsoft's build out of data centers to support is cloud computing initiatives. Apple has already built a massive data center in North Carolina, which is expected to be fully operational come spring and could serve as the hub for Apple's cloud computing push.