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Confused about your Apple technosphere? (Or... why it's time to get your head out of the clouds and into iCloud)

Posted on Nov 18, 2011

Apple iCloud Logo

With the recent introduction of iCloud, Apple has left some of us a bit confused as to the best, proper and even legal way of sharing music, apps, movies and books among our many devices as well as among our family member’s devices.

I’m going to attempt to briefly (Ha!) straighten it out and make some quick recommendations.

I’ll use my home as the example.  While my family used to be unique in our level of technology, we are quickly becoming the norm.  We have 4 family members that live in the house and each has a Mac, an iPad, and an iPhone or iPod Touch.  If you’ve been counting along, that’s 12 Apple Devices.  Add in my Macbook Air and our Mac Mini server and its technically 14.  And that doesn’t count the two Apple TVs or the 4 PC’s which brings us to a whopping total of 20!  Ok, maybe we’re not quite the norm and some techno-withdrawal therapy might be advised, but that’s for another blog. For our purposes today, we make a good case study nonetheless.

Like everyone, we’re hooked on Angry birds. I want to play it on my iPad, my iPhone and maybe sometimes my Macbook Air.  My kids want to play it everywhere including using Airplay mirroring from their iPads to the Apple TV.  Even at less than $5 an app it starts to add up. And some Apps such as the Crestron Home Control App are $99 each.  Not sure I want to spend just under $2,000 to get a single app on all our devices.  Music and movies which are $10 to $20 for albums and feature films are an even bigger issue.

Apple understands this.  They have made it so that as long as you register each device with the same iTunes store account, you can buy any media once and use it on any of your devices (some limits apply).  Before the advent of iCloud this was a perfectly acceptable solution. However, iCloud adds some really interesting syncing and sharing features such as auto download of new purchases.  So if I purchase an app on my iPad using my iTunes account, it auto downloads to every other device that is registered with that same iTunes account. If I take a picture with my iPhone, it automatically loads over the air wirelessly on to all the Macs, iPads, etc. that are associated with that iTunes store account.

Wait a minute… so now with iCloud all devices registered to the same iTunes account are linked?  That means if my wife wants to enjoy the benefits of being able to take pictures of the kids with her iPhone and have them auto-load on to her home computer, she is going to have to put up with seeing pictures I take with my phone at some trade show showing up on her computer, her iPad and her iPhone.  Or she is going to have to get her own iTunes account and repurchase all those apps and movies we had been sharing.

Luckily Apple has enabled (although not advertised) a solution.  As long as you are using the latest version of iTunes on Mac or PC and you are using iOS5 on your devices, it is absolutely possible and apparently acceptable for a family to share an iTunes account while having separate iCloud accounts.

So for example… I could register an iTunes account called BolotnickFamily and have it point to any email address I wish.  I then can register an iCloud account for each of my family members (Mom, Dad, Son, Daughter). Each of those iCloud accounts can point to their own email addresses all of which can be different than the email address used for our BolotnickFamily iTunes account.

Then each family member will assign his or her unique iCloud account to his or her computers, iTunes, iPads, iPhones and iPod Touch’s for their personal email, synching and settings.  They will then assign the family iTunes account to each of those devices for purchasing purposes.   By setting up your family technosphere this way, you enable all devices to share purchased content such as movies, apps, books and music, while allow the syncing features of iCloud such as Photostream, Reminders and email to stay separate.

My wife can now shoot pictures for her work or with her friends and they show up only on her computer, her iPhone and her iPad.  I can shoot pictures with my phone and they only show up on my devices.  At the same time, if I purchase a great new App, my wife can download it without having to purchase it again.

Of course, if you are an individual or have no intention of sharing purchases with any family members, then your iTunes and iCloud accounts may be one and the same.  But for those of us with an ever growing family of digital devices, Apple has thoughtfully (or inadvertently) made having our digital cake and eating it too, a welcome possibility.

We understand that this can actually be a little confusing, daunting or even overwhelming.  That’s why you have us.  If you’d like assistance setting up your Apple technosphere and integrating it with Apple TV and your home control & automation system, please Contact us.

If you have your own iCloud tips and experiences, please share with us on Facebook.







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