Apple cloud story updated with additional analyst commentary.MAIDEN, N.C. ( TheStreet) -- Apple's ( AAPL) massive new data center in Maiden, N.C. may provide the key to the tech giant's technology roadmap and could herald a major push into future cloud-based services, say analysts. The notoriously secretive gadget maker has provided scant details of its new facility, which reportedly cost $1 billion to build and, at 505,000 square feet, dwarfs the company's existing data center in Newark, Calif.
Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, says that there is a 90% likelihood of a cloud-based iTunes service in 2011. "Apple has largely failed in cloud services to date -- its first major push into Web services for its connected devices, MobileMe, was riddled with issues surrounding the July 2008 launch," he wrote in a recent note. "We believe iTunes streaming represents Apple's largest opportunity in services with an addressable market of 160 million iTunes active accounts, each with a real problem that Apple can solve (accessing music on portable devices)." Munster also expects Apple to beef up its longer-term cloud strategy. "Other web services could include expanded support for document storage in the cloud, or even remote computing capabilities using the cloud to access your Mac and all its files and settings from another Mac (or an iPad) via the cloud," he said. Video may also feature in Apple's cloud story, and the company is rumored to have been in discussions with Hollywood about streaming movies via iTunes. Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research (TBR), thinks that the FaceTime video calling technology that was introduced on the iPhone 4 could also feed into the cloud strategy. "Integration of face-to-face video could enhance business apps, conferencing, education apps, social networking apps and multi-player games," he said. "If Apple was providing the
cloud platform and the tools for developers to create these apps, then they have the opportunity to go and get a bigger subscriber base." Additionally, Netflix has been touted as an attractive acquisition target for Apple, a move that would also place a massive strain on the tech giant's back-end hardware. "I think that it's a compelling idea -- Netflix is a unique property that would not dilute Apple's premium brand," said Kreher. "I think that it's a possibility, but, at the same time, regulators would be interested in that deal as well." --Written by James Rogers in New York. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/jamesjrogers. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.