Apple Confirms iCloudy Forecasts for WWDC
Apple has confirmed the existence of its upcoming cloud services offering, iCloud. More details will be revealed at the company's WWDC in June, where CEO Steve Jobs will deliver the keynote address. It's unusual for Apple to confirm the existence of a new product or service via press release before a company executive gives it a grand debut at an Apple event.
Apple on Tuesday gave a thumbnail sketch of what will be demoed at its World Wide Developers Conference, scheduled to kick off June 6.
On opening day, CEO Steve Jobs will deliver a keynote address together with a team of company executives, Apple said.
The keynote will include the unveiling of iCloud, Apple's cloud services offering, as well as information about Mac OS X Lion and iOS 5, Cupertino stated.
It's rare for Apple to disclose what new products will be shown at WWDC in advance of the event, and the move triggered speculation about the company's motives for doing so.
"Overall, I think the fact that an unannounced product called 'iCloud' appeared in a press release is significant because Apple doesn't usually do things like that," Carl Howe, director of anywhere consumer research at the Yankee Group, told MacNewsWorld.
Apple did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
Saying Little in Few Words
Despite the unusual disclosure of an upcoming product to be unveiled at WWDC, Apple has essentially revealed relatively little.
In addition to announcing Jobs' presence and stating the products that will be unveiled, Apple said only that WWDC will feature more than 100 technical sessions presented by Apple engineers.
Mac developers will see and learn how to develop applications for OS X Lion, while mobile developers will be able to explore the latest innovations in and capabilities of iOS and learn how to improve their apps.
Devs will be able to bring their code to the labs and work with Apple engineers at WWDC, Apple said.
What iCloud May Bring
Speculation surrounding iCloud focuses on the possibility that it will offer consumers digital music lockers to which they will be able to upload their music libraries.
Consumers will reportedly be able to stream music from their digital lockers to their computers and iOS devices.
"I think it's probably a bit small-minded for us to expect that music will be all iCloud offers," Josh Martin, a senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, told MacNewsWorld.
"It may not just be music; you may be able to store all your digital content in the cloud so you won't have to store it locally," Martin suggested.
Mac OS X Lion and iOS 5 will likely link seamlessly to the iCloud service, the Yankee Group's Howe surmised.
"That's not a big departure from today's MobileMe service," Howe pointed out. "iDisk, for example, is a standard destination in the Mac OS Finder," he added.
Whither iOS 5?
Rumors and speculation also surround iOS 5.
Some believe it will offer widgets -- small programs in floating windows that provide ready access to various functions, information or news feeds. Other smartphone platforms, including iOS arch-rival Android, already have widgets, and their absence from iOS has made some users restive. An less intrusive notification system is also on many iOS 5 users' wishlists.
Another rumor is that iOS 5 will include a replacement for Google Maps, which is currently the technology used by the OS's built-in Maps app.
It's still unclear what new features iOS 5 will include, but the idea of replacing Google Maps doesn't strike everyone as a savvy move.
"I don't know if Google Maps will be replaced or not," the Yankee Group's Howe said.
"But, if it is, the replacement has to be darned good -- Google Maps remains the gold standard for mapping apps today," he pointed out.
Excluding Google Maps "would attract attention of the wrong kind in just the same way" Apple's bid to get rid of Skype and other third-party services on the iOS platform did, Will Stofega, a program director at IDC, told MacNewsWorld.
On the other hand, "it's Apple, and Apple does whatever the hell it wants to do right now," Stofega said.
Why Are Cupertino's Lips Flapping?
It's not quite clear why Apple has breached its general policy of maintaining silence in regard to upcoming events and releases.
Could it have been concerned that speculation about iCloud, iOS 5 and Mac OS X Lion might set consumers' expectations on a path it didn't want them to explore?
"I think Apple mentioned iCloud to focus everyone on the fact that this is a software-focused conference," the Yankee Group's Howe suggested.
"It's not about new hardware platforms, but about the software platforms developers will be using to create apps," he added.