Jobs, who has been on medical leave since January, wore his standard uniform of black mock turtleneck, pale-blue dad jeans, and white sneakers. Taking the stage in front of a typically rapturous audience, he explained why he thinks the service will change how consumers interact with their technology.
"We are going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud," he said.
Apple enters into a crowded market that Amazon and Google have already made inroads with, with Amazon's Cloud Player and Google Music Beta hitting the market in recent months.
The major advantage Apple has over Amazon and Google is the legwork it has already done with major labels, which will allow for drastically faster music library upload times. "We have 18 million songs in the music store. Our software will scan what you have, the stuff you've ripped, and figure out if there's a match," Jobs said during his presentation. "If you have to upload your whole library, that could take weeks. If we're scanning and matching, we don't have to upload them. They're in the cloud. It takes just minutes -- not weeks."
The big question for consumers of all three services: What does it cost? Apple will charge $24.99 a year to use its iTunes Match service for any music acquired outside iTunes. In other words, if you are used to burning CDs from your computer or pirating songs, you'll have to start ponying up.
Still, for those with large music libraries, Apple's service is significantly cheaper compared to Amazon's, which currently charges $20 a year for 20 gigabytes of storage, adding $1 more each year for every GB added after that. Google Music is free while in beta, but it's unclear if that will remain the case.
Also announced were new versions of the Mac's desktop and mobile operating systems, dubbed Mac OS X Lion and iOS 5.0. Compared to the major move forward with iCloud, the two seemed a bit anticlimactic. Quipped public radio host John Moe via Twitter: "Lion and iOS 5 announcements are like if you came to see AC/DC but have to sit through Dokken and Stryper first."