All right, Steve Jobs did show up at this year’s WWDC keynote, but VP Phil Schiller and the rest of the crew did the heavy lifting — at least for the first two parts of the presentation.
But let’s get this little nugget out of the way first: Just last week, the Tech Night Owl predicted Apple will charge a mere $29 for Lion, same as Snow Leopard, even though it has an estimated 250 new features. Well, friends, I was mostly right. The retail price will be $29.99 when Lion goes on sale in July. I’ll take that as a correct guess, if you can overlook the 99 cents.
When it comes to the second part of the equation, distribution, well, I was only able to bat .500 on that one. I said it would be available online via the Mac App Store, one huge download (4GB), but there would be physical media for those who are bandwidth challenged. Well, that’s what I thought should have been done, but Apple, in its infinite wisdom, has decreed that physical software distribution is dead and buried. It must all be done online, with the Mac App Store serving as the focal point. So it’s download or nothing when it comes to Lion.
As far as the feature rollout is concerned, the WWDC presentation of Lion didn’t reveal much of anything new. What you’ve seen so far is pretty much what you’ll get, but I wonder what Microsoft is going to do with Windows 8 now that Apple has lowered the bar for good.
When it comes to iOS 5, first and foremost, that troublesome notifications feature will be fixed, with the entire interface being seriously revised. That has probably been the number one problem on the existing iOS.
With iOS 5, instead of interrupting you with a modal prompt (meaning you can’t do a thing until you dismiss it), there will be a Notification Center, available with a swipe, which will deliver the entire list of notifications. Each notification itself will be revealed with a display across the top of the screen when it arrives, one that won’t stop you from doing what you’re doing. You’ll be able to check it later, or swipe it then and to see what it’s all about.
The ability to handle subscription publications has been revamped with an app known as Newsstand, which makes it easier to manage those subscriptions. Your updates will also be downloaded in the background, an enhancement to the iOS’s carefully crafted, if limited, multitasking feature.
There will, as predicted by the rumor sites, be extensive Twitter integration, meaning that you can enter your login information in the iOS Settings screen, and it’ll be fully configured with apps, such as Apple’s, which support the new feature. I do wonder, in passing, how you’re supposed to handle situations where you have more than a single Twitter account, as I do for the two radio shows, since they reach different audiences. Oh well, maybe Apple will find a way to work that one into iOS 6.
The Camera app is also greatly enhanced with the ability to shoot a picture by clicking volume up on your iOS device. There will also be simple editing tools borrowed from iPhoto, such as one-click enhance, cropping, rotating and, of course, redeye reduction.
Mail gains rich text formatting, draggable addresses (it’s about time), all supported by a system-wide dictionary. But nothing was said about multiple signatures, support for rules, custom folders, and even junk mail filtering. Maybe they’re all there, but we have to wait for Apple to offer more information. For now, color me disappointed.
As you might imagine, some handy App Store utilities are going to fall by the wayside when iOS 5 comes out this fall. But many of the new features represent the things that Apple should have incorporated in the core OS in the first place. Now doubt they were influenced heavily by customer requests — not to mention the popularity of some of those third-party apps.
One of the most important developments, however, was the decision to make iOS gadgets PC free, cutting the cord between the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and your Mac or PC. To Apple, the post-PC world is now being ushered in, and Apple is taking advantage of the fact that customers are using the iPad as their one and only computing device, and the iPhone the only tool for Internet access. The comment that Apple is selling to customers who don’t have computers in their home was at the very least intriguing. And, oh yes, there will be Wi-Fi syncing with iTunes too, so it’s not a total separation. And I should mention that the Android OS has always been free of the PC, for better or worse.
You’ll be able to download software updates for your iOS gadget over the air, and Apple will incorporate Delta updates, a feature also debuting in the Lion version of the Mac App Store, which only downloads the changes in an app. In other words, it’s a patching mechanism, something that’s been part and parcel of the personal computers for a number of years. Only Apple can pretend it’s all new.
There will also be enhancements to Game Center, which Apple boasts has a user base much larger than Xbox Live, a new messaging service called iMessage that supports photos, videos, contacts, group messaging, secure encryption, and lots more. It appears to be iChat on steroids, although Apple’s executives didn’t say whether iMessage will support other messaging services, such as AOL and Yahoo! Perhaps third parties can use a system hook to enable such support; time will tell.
In all, there are loads of new developer APIs, and 200 new features, and get this, the iPhone 3GS will still be supported. But don’t expect that support to last when iOS 6 arrives next year.
Closing the session was Steve Jobs, who introduced iCloud. He began the presentation announcing that he said the PC would be the hub of you digital life long, long ago. But this model has broken down over the years with the introduction of such devices as the iPhone and the iPad.
Simply speaking, iCloud is designed to be integrated with your apps, storing content in the cloud so all your Mac OS X and iOS devices can send and receive that content wirelessly. And unlike the competition, there will be no ads. Furthermore, most services are free. There will no longer be a $99 per year MobileMe service; subscriptions were extended until mid-2012, to give you time to make the transition to iCloud.
In addition to contacts, email, calendaring and so forth, iCloud will support your App Store and iBook purchases, meaning apps and books are downloaded and/or patched to all your devices. The third piece of the pie is Backup. Your iOS stuff will be backed up to Apple’s servers via iCloud each day, up to 5GB. To answer the Google Apps and Microsoft efforts to build an office-based cloud document management system, you’ll be able to also store documents in the cloud. iCloud support has already been added with the latest versions of the iWork apps, which include Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. Other features include Photo Stream, to sync your photo library.
The basic focus, according to Jobs, is that the file system can present a “staggering” problem for many Mac users, and this new scheme supposedly allows Apple to move past such constraints. iCloud Storage APIs are now available for developers to join in the fun. Jobs also stated that iCloud will work on all iOS devices, plus Macs and PCs. His summary about all these goodies is the usual, “it just works.”
The final page of the equation is full integration of your iTunes music, along with the ability to sync all of your purchases on up to ten devices. iCloud ships with iOS 5 this fall, and music, apps, books, and photos won’t count towards your 5GB limit. Beta support is now available courtesy iTunes 10.3, released within hours of the end of the keynote.
There were no new hardware announcements, but iTunes in the Cloud was the subject of “one more thing.” The most intruiging feature, iTunes Match, scans all your tunes, whether from iTunes or elsewhere, and matches it up with the same songs in the iTunes library, assuming they’re offered. You won’t need to upload that material. Matched songs will be upgraded to 256K versions, AAC, DRM-free, at a flat subscription rate of just $24.99 per year, no doubt the result of those recent agreements with the music companies. This is a technology that Apple acquired when it bought Lala.com, a music streaming service, a couple of years ago. But it’s taken this long to nail down agreements with the music companies.
If you an forgive the lack of new hardware, this was quite a meaty keynote, and I expect to be ready to download Lion the day it appears in the Mac App Store, particularly since my guesses were at least partly correct.
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