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Apple held a surprise for the later part of the day on Monday by launching iCloud.com for developers as a beta. The pages take on many of the non-media tasks of MobileMe but use a visually much richer interface made to look both like iOS as well as the skeuomorphic calendar and contact interfaces of Lion. Most of these, such as Find My iPhone or iWork, usually need settings switched on in MobileMe.
The Mail web app is clearly running on the assumption that users either already have MobileMe or are using yet to be released versions of iOS or Lion. “To use iCloud Mail, create an @me.com email address by turning on Mail in your iCloud settings using iOS or OS X,” it says.
Only those registered as developers have access, since they should have pre-release access to test builds of Lion and iOS 5 that can talk directly to iCloud.
Apple has also slipped out pricing for iCloud beyond the free 5GB for the first time. While basic services are free, members who need an extra 10GB can pay $20 per year. Doubling capacity again with an extra 20GB (25GB total) costs $40 per year, and 50GB of added space (55GB total) will cost $100 per year.
Update: Apple has closed off access beyond the home screen to only those with Apple Developer accounts. Limited access was available earlier Monday for MobileMe members and others with Apple IDs, but attempts to access the site now result in an iOS-style pop-up warning: “Your Apple ID is Not an iCloud Developer Account,” it reads. “The iCloud.com Beta is only available to developers.”