iCloud Blankets Apple's Entire Ecosystem
Unlike in previous years, a new model of iPhone did not grace the stage at the 2011 Apple WWDC. But the company still had plenty to talk about. CEO Steve Jobs introduced iCloud, an upcoming service that will sync a wide variety of data across users' Mac and iOS devices automatically. The company also unveiled details about its next versions of iOS and OS X.
On one level, there were few surprises Monday as Apple kicked off its World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco. As expected, it made announcements regarding iCloud, iOS 5 and OS X Lion.
On another level, though, the company provided a great deal of new information about these products, exposing broad and deep sets of new features for each.
Cupertino announced three new free iCloud services emerging from the ashes of its now-defunct MobileMe service, 200 new features in iOS 5 and more than 250 new features and 3,000 new developer APIs in OS X Lion.
The emphasis was on the post-PC experience, Apple's current buzz-phrase, and the new developments in all three areas are aimed at taking the standalone PC a day closer to obsolescence.
Take the Mac, for example. Apple CEO Steve Jobs said it will be demoted to being just another device to the cloud.
"This does put Apple back in the lead, mainly because they're really thought out the post-PC connected experience," Carl Howe, director of anywhere consumer research at the Yankee Group, told MacNewsWorld.
"I buy what Jobs said -- no one else can create this type of post-PC service that 'just works' the way Apple can, because they just don't have enough of the ingredients. Apple can and will," Howe added.
Apple did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
Concrete Details About iCloud
iCloud, Apple's new service, will store data from Apple devices in the cloud and push it wirelessly to all the other Apple devices belonging to the user. Further, it's completely integrated with users' apps.
The three core apps tied into Apple's now-defunct MobileMe service -- Contacts, Calendar and Mail -- have been re-architected from the ground up to be iCloud apps, Jobs said. iCloud service for those apps will be available at no charge to users.
Information entered into any of these three apps on any Apple device will automatically be stored in the iCloud and pushed down to these apps on the user's other Apple devices.
These free services will not carry advertisements, Jobs said.
Users' content will be automatically backed up securely to the iCloud daily when they charge their iDevices.
That automatic backup may make things easy for subscribers when they get a new device. For example, subscribers who get new iPhones just have to type in their Apple ID and password, and their content will automatically be uploaded to the device.
Other iCloud Apps
Other free iCloud-enabled apps Jobs announced include Documents, Photo Stream and iTunes.
Documents in the cloud lets users create an iWorks Pages document on any of their Apple devices that is automatically uploaded and saved to the iCloud. The iCloud will then push the document to all Apple devices that run Pages.
Photo Stream automatically uploads photos and video onto the iCloud and pushes them to a user's other Apple devices, including Apple TV. Photo Stream is built into the photo apps on all iOS devices.
Finally, iTunes has a "Purchased" button that shows users their entire purchased history of songs. Users can download purchased music multiple times on up to 10 devices at no extra charge.
Apple also announced iTunes Match, a service costing $25 yearly that will match a user's ripped music to the songs in the iTunes Store, among other things.
The iCloud offers users 5GB of free storage for mail, documents and backup. It doesn't count purchased music, apps, books or Photo Stream.
Apple pushed out a developer beta of iCloud Monday. The company also offered iTunes in the Cloud without iTunes Match as an iOS 4.3 beta that will run on existing iPhone 4s.
iCloud will ship with iOS 5 in the fall.
A Bit on iOS 5
Users will have more than 200 new features in iOS 5, and it will have more than 1,500 new APIs for developers.
Apple overhauled the notifications feature of iOS, which has been a constant source of griping among users, in iOS 5. The new version of the OS will have a Notification Center which combines all notifications, doesn't interrupt the user and is easily accessed.
Another new feature is iMessages. This lets users send text messages, photos and videos automatically between all iOS devices over WiFi or 3G with secure end-to-end encryption.
iOS 5 will also have a digital newsstand that will offer automatic background downloads.
Another new feature is single sign-on, so users don't have to log into every app they access.
Further, iOS 5 will integrate Twitter with Camera and Photos.
The iOS 5 beta and SDK were made available Monday for iOS Developer Program Members.
iOS 5 will be rolled out as a free software update to users in the fall.
Hear OS X Lion Roar
Mac OS X Lion will have more than 250 new features and 3,000 new developer APIs.
It will be available to customers in July as a download from the Mac App Store at US$30.
New features include multitouch capabilities; system-wide support for full screen apps; Mission Control, which lets users see everything running on their Macs; Launchpad, a new home for apps; and a redesigned Mail app.
The Mac App Store is built into OS X Lion.
The operating system has an Autosave feature that continuously saves documents. A Versions feature automatically records the history of a document as it's being created and lets users browse, revert to a previous version or copy and paste content from previous versions into current documents.
Mac OS X Lion also includes the Resume feature, which lets users resume working in an app where they left off when they restart their Macs or quit and relaunch an app.
OS X Lion also will include AirDrop. This will find nearby Macs and automatically set up a peer-to-peer WiFi connection so users can transfer files easily.
Clobbering the Competition - for Now
Apple's melding all iDevices into a family linked by the cloud is "the normal evolution towards providing more convenient service on mobile devices," Harry Wang, director of mobile and health research at Parks Associates, told MacNewsWorld.
Amazon and Google currently can't match Apple's seamless delivery to multiple devices because "they're dealing with a broad array of systems and devices," but they won't be left behind for long, Wang suggested.
"Google has already said the upcoming version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, will combine tablet and smartphone capabilities," Wang pointed out. "That leads to the possibility of Google having another cloud with the Android Marketplace from which it will push content to Android devices."