Hyperconnecting your world
Cut the cord, head in the iCloud: Apple's WWDC comes in like a lamb, goes outlike a Lion (OS X)
Apple CEO Steve Jobs wouldn't be happier if you did nothing but keep your head in the cloud.
In a Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) that began as a laundry list of what ideas Apple stole from where (Amazon, Google, Android, Instapaper, and BlackBerry come to mind), the innovative computing behemoth wrapped its technology domination dreams in an "it's-about-time" bow.
The fuss centered around the ambitious and highly overdue implementation of iCloud, Apple's answer to your multiple device and scattered data dramas. Perhaps the most lofty reveal of the day, iCloud stores your content in the ubiquitous cloud, and wirelessly shares your information with any and all Mac OS X devices that you authorize.
Simply put, if you own an iPhone, an iPod Touch, an iPad, and a MacBook Pro, you can have every bit of your personal data in one place — without lifting a finger. "Everything happens automatically and there's nothing new to learn," said Jobs. "It just all works."
Jobs proved it by taking a photo with his iPhone, which simultaneously appeared on the cloud-connected iPad.
"Anything I've bought I can now download to any of my devices at no additional charge," Jobs boasted.
And with the introduction of iTunes Match, an iCloud-specific service, you can scan your entire music library, match what's in it, and play the files on any iCloud-connected device — even songs you didn't purchase from iTunes.
"It takes minutes, not weeks." Take that, Amazon and Google.
Is it too good to be true? Not exactly. iCloud can only be backed up over a Wi-Fi connection, which might put a pinprick of limitation in the incredulousness of some fanboys. And iTunes Match will cost you — $24.99 for a yearly subscription.
If there's one thing we know about Apple, it's that iCloud is going to work (forgetting MobileMe, of course). And it's going to work well. And this could change everything.
But Apple's other announcements at WWDC won't change too much. In fact, with the rollout of its new operating system, Lion OS X, it seems that Apple wants to make everything exactly the same.
Recognize those tap-to-zoom, pinching, two-finger-swiping functions? Of course you do. You have an iPhone and an iPad. How about that new and improved App Store? FaceTime? You'll see all of those and more — 250 in total, including a few lifesavers like AutoSave, Resume, Versions, and AirDrop — featured in Lion OS X. It'll be available in the Mac App Store (and only in the App Store — no more CDs!) in July for $29.99, making it "the easiest upgrade ever."
The runner-up stunner of the two-hour presentation was the update to the mobile platform's operating system (which means iPhone, iPad, and iPod), iOS 5, coming out sometime this fall. In addition to aggregating notifications a la Android, the Twitter program will get some useful integration functionalities with Safari, Maps, and Contacts (again, like the Android).
The upgrade to Safari — with a Safari Reader button and Reading List — make it clear why there hasn't been any foreseeble integration with Instapaper. And if your device is your best friend in daily life, you'll appreciate offline subscriptions in Newsstand and the handy-dandy Reminders features.
Oh, and we can't forget the updates to the Camera — the most popular camera on photo sharing site, Flickr, ahem — effectively bringing your piddly mobile camera closer to being the real deal. Multiple buttons to control the shutter, autofocus lock, and photo editing within the Camera app are just a few killer attributes that'll give your point-and-shoot a severe run for the money.
And the Mail app is finally getting some love, with the addition of rich-text formatting, indentation control, flagging, and content search — not to mention that Houdini-esque split keyboard trick for the iPad.
And we'd be remiss if we forgot to tell you about iMessage, a cross-device conversation platform reminiscent of BlackBerry Messenger with a twist — start a message on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod, and pick up any other associated iPhone, iPad, or iPod to continue the chat without missing a beat.
With over 200 new features, it's guaranteed iOS 5 is going to breathe new life into your mobile Mac devices.
Even though WWDC's emphasis harped on hyperconnection, in one sense, Apple was enthusiastic about cutting the cord. With over-the-air software updates (where you'll only get what's new or changed), you can kiss that tangle of white cords goodbye for setup, activation, or upgrades.