Apple make it quite obvious that their WorldWide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) held every year is the place to find out their latest and greatest plans and despite no new iPhone release, this year was just as amazing as ever.
Steve Jobs took to the stage just over three hours ago to welcome the world to three new products from Apple: Mac OSX Lion, iOS5 and iCloud. All new pieces of software (there was unfortunately no new hardware this year) which Mr Jobs thought we would all like. So let’s have a look at what we learnt.
Mac OSX Lion
I’ve been a Mac fan since OS 9, but as most Mac users will tell you, OSX changed everything as far as Apple computers were concerned. Now in it’s eighth incarnation, Lion boasts over 200 new features.
Sadly what we were shown today was nothing that new. The features look pretty cool and will integrate into OSX well, but we knew about nearly all of them since November last year. Still it was nice to finally see some of them in action.
Apple’s main plan with OSX seems to be to reinvent the whole ‘windows’ system that every computer operating system runs on. They plan to do this with a combination of full screen app, fusing Mac with iOS and a nifty new feature called Mission Control. This feature gives you an overview of everything you have running on your Mac, a bit like Expose does on the current OSX. But Mission Control goes that little bit further, adding in your full screen apps and spaces you may use, creating one big overview of your machine, helping to keep things in order.
By adding in trackpad gestures, Apple have made this whole process easier. You can swipe between apps in a similar fashion to the iPhone/iPad which looks very easy and intuitive. You can even use this swipe feature to go back or forward on an internet webpage. Going further, Apple have added zoom and scrolling features for web pages, eliminating the side scroll basr (although they return when needed we’re told!). I do like gestures, I think it’s a good step forward, but I do wonder how easy they’ll be to perform with a desktop Mac.
Clearly thinking with their iOS hat on again, OSX brings you a much more app based experience. You can see all your apps (remember when they were called programs?!) in one place called Launchpad. This reminds me a bit of the Windows 8 preview we saw last week, except Apple still make the desktop the main focus of the computer – the apps an added attraction, which I feel is the correct way to do it.
The biggest revelation about Lion was it’s price, just $30 for a complete operating system. It will also be a download as opposed to the CD we are used to for OS upgrades – a nice idea, but I do wonder if it’s a bit of a risk should you lose your computer setting/internet connection. How exactly do you reboot?
OSX Lion will be with us in July.
This is the section I enjoyed the most. Apple have been teasing us that this was the biggest update of their mobile operating system so far and I think they’re probably right.
The new camera functionality looks brilliant. Instead of waiting up to 10 seconds for it to launch, it’s now instant. You don’t have to launch it from your home screen, you can now tap the lock screen twice to activate camera mode. There are new ways to focus the show so you can get exactly what you want, as well as gridlines to help you straighten your shot. You can even edit your photo’s iPhoto style all in the same app. And the best part? You can finally use the volume button to take a pic. That got the biggest round of applause of the day!
The iPhone notifications system has been completely revamped, giving it a bit of an Android feel. Instead of a disruptive and annoying pop up box filling your whole view, you’ll now get a simple box at the top of the screen. Drag the box down and you’ll enter Notifications Manager where you can see all your alerts. This is obviously a lot easier and more convenient, the notifications show up in a similar fashion on the lock screen also. A much needed overhaul.
The biggest iOS5 upgrade has to be the PC free aspect of it. You no longer have to tether your iOS device to a computer via wire every few hours to update it. This can all now been synced through wi-fi straight to your device. It can do this automatically whenever it finds your iTunes open. This is a big leap forward, particularly for the iPad which always seemed cumbersome to link up to a PC.
Other new features include complete Twitter integration on the whole device (YES!!), improved versions of Safari and Mail and iMessage which is… well BBM. Yep, Apple have finally brought us that one thing Blackberry’s had over the iPhone. You can now message any iPhone, iPad or iPod for free with text and pics instantly. Not new, but nice all the same.
iOS 5 looks incredible and will be arriving in the rather vague date of Fall 2011. It’s compatible with all iPads, iPhone 3GS and 4 and iPod touch 3 and 4. And no doubt the yet to be announced, iPhone 5.
And so, we come to the big one, the one Apple has been pushing the most, the iCloud.
Apple have tried and failed in the past to utilise the cloud with their rather average MobileMe service. This allowed users to store their calendars, contacts and e-mail in the cloud for easy use, but at a price of around $99 per year. But as of today, Jobs claimed that MobileMe is dead and is to be replaced with iCloud. And whats more, that’s all now free, that must have annoyed some loyal subscribers.
As well as the MobileMe features, iCloud also brings you iBooks, your documents and your photo’s all in the cloud. Well, sort of. Instead of being a full cloud drive, Apple sees iCloud more as a way to sync your devices instantly. So when you take a photo on your iPhone, that’s uploaded to the cloud and then pushed to your Mac/PC, iPad and iPod all without you doing anything. Apple will store those photo’s for 30 days before deleting them. Documents will stay there for longer and you can even back up in the cloud, Apple will give you 5GB of storage up there (not much in this day and age, but not bad for free!).
The big part is obviously iTunes in the cloud. With both Amazon and Google releasing their own ‘music lockers’, many were looking for Apple to compete with this. iTunes in the cloud works by instantly downloading any of your iTunes purchases to all your devices. This part is free and a handy service. But what about the majority of your non-iTunes-purchased library. Well for a small price of $25 per year, Apple will let you use their ‘match’ service which will match all songs in your library with Apple ‘upgraded’ versions in the cloud, meaning no upload required to enjoy your music everywhere (and of course an easy way for Apple to profit out of stuff they haven’t sold).
I do wonder how useful the match service will be, after all we can all just wirelessly sync our iPhones now so whats the point exactly, but if it makes enough money for Apple to keep the rest of iCloud free, then I’m happy.
It seems to me that iCloud isn’t revolutionary at all, but it unites several syncing services all under one umbrella, making things quicker and easier to use, so it is a great convenience and you know Apple, this’ll end up being a phenomenon. iCloud will be available later this year, although the iTunes part is said to be live very very soon!
Personally I thought Apple’s WWDC performance was excellent. It wasn’t so much revolutionary as evolutionary, but there are some great new ideas there and almost all niggles with the iPhone/iPad appear to have been solved. It looks like a great Summer and Fall for Apple… once again!