Apple WWDC 2011 announcements: Mac OS X Lion, iOS 5, and iCloud

mac osx-lion

Apple has kicked off its 2011 World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) with CEO Steve Jobs (still on indefinite medical leave) introducing Mac OS X 10.7 Lion (due in July), iOS 5.0 (due “this fall”), and iCloud—a series of transparent synchronization, backup, and cloud-based storage services designed to be transparent to users. Finally, Jobs, also introduced iTunes in the Cloud, which will enable iTunes music purchases to be synched between devices without fussing with cables or repurchasing—and while iCloud will be free, a $25/year “iTunes Match” service will enable users to put their whole music library in iCloud—purchased or not—as well as upgrade their existing matched tracks.

Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion”

As usual for his keynote presentations, Jobs opened proceedings with an overview of Apple’s market success, noting there are now over 54 million Macintosh users around the world with the Mac’s market share up 28 percent for the last quarter—whilte the entire PC market actually shrank. Jobs attributed the Mac’s success to products like the MacBook Air, noting that 73 percent of Mac sales are currently notebooks.

Jobs then launched into an overview of Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion”, the next release of the Mac OS X operating system. The system will include some 250 new features and capabilities, and Jobs chose to focus only on a handful, the first being multi-touch gestures: borrowing from the iPad, Mac OS X Lion will support momentum, pinch-to-zoom, and multitouch apps using MacBook’s built-in trackpads and Apple’s Magic TrackPad for desktop systems. In another nod from the iPad and iPhone, Mac OS X Lion will also offer standardized support for full-screen applications, with users able to move between apps with swipes and a gesture-based move to the desktop. Apple is retooling the majority of its built-in applications to support fullscreen modes (including its Safari browser, iCal, Preview, and iLife applications like iPhoto and iMovie).

macbook-air-osx-lionMac OS X Lion will also feature Mission Control, which will be a unified interface for managing multiple application: like Apple’s existing Exposé technology, it enables users to get an overview of their applications, but also organize them by group.

The Mac App Store will also be central to Mac OS X Lion: Apple claims since they launched the Mac App Store for Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard it became the leading PC software channel, outdoing the likes of brick-and-mortar retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, and Office Depot. In Mac OS X 10.7, the Mac App store will get in-app purchase capabilities, including the capability for developers to push “delta updates” to customers, sending them only the bits of software that have changed with an update rather than an entire new application.

Mac OS X Lion will also feature a system-wide “Resume” capability that enables users to pick up applications where they left off: applications, windows, palettes, and documents will all be restorer to their previous setup, even if the Mac is shut down (or runs out of battery juice). When users log back into Lion, their environments will be restored to their previous state, apps and all. Lion will also feature system-wide auto-save capabilities: not only will users not have to remember to constantly save their documents, but (via a new feature called Versions) they’ll be able to revert to previous versions of a document using Time Machine-like technology. Users can also lock documents so they can’t be altered (or effectively nuked) with a future autosave.

Apple also introduced a new feature called AirDrop, intended to make it easier for users to share documents with friends and co-workers. The service is based on peer-to-peer networking with auto-discovery and setup : users can choose to share a document with a nearby user and, if the recipient accepts, the item simply appears in their downloads folder, no muss no fuss. Transfers are fully encrypted so users dont’ have to worry about man-in-the-middle interceptions of their data.

Apple OSX Lion email

Apple has also substantially revised its Mail application with an emphasis on improving the reading experience—and also leveraging Lion’s full-screen capabilities. The new Mail application integrates message snippet capabilities derived from iOS mail, along with new search suggestions: as soon as users start typing, Mail guesses whether a user is looking for a user or subject matter. Searches can be limited to specific mailboxes, and additional parameters can be quickly added with tokens. Mail will also feature a conversation view that separates out replies and attachments and attempts to show conversations exactly as they were sent.

Perhaps most significantly, Apple does not plan to deliver Mac OS X Lion on optical disc: it will only be available for download purchase through the Mac App Store. The OS will come in around 4 GB, and doesn’t require users to reboot from an install disc or buy multiple copies: as soon as it’s purchased, it’ll be installed on all authorized Macs. And Apple says this approach is not only more convenient, it’ll be cheaper: Mac OS X Lion will cost just $29.99. That’s down from the $129.99 for a Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard disk. A developer preview is available today (this is WWDC after all) and Apple says Lion will ship next month.

iOS 5.0

Apple then switched gears to its iOS platform, noting that more than 200 million iOS devices have been sold and, when you total up iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch devices Apple accounted for some 44 percent of the mobile device market—the iPad alone has sold more than 25 million units. Apple also touted the more then 400,000 apps available via its App Store, with more than 90,000 of them made specifically for the iPad—and Apple has paid out more the $2.5 billion to developers in the last three years.

Apple’s iOS 5 will have more than 200 new features—and, as with Lion, Apple chose to focus on just ten for the keynote. First, Apple announced its notifications interface will get a significant revamp with a new Notifications Center. Notifications Center will serve as a hub for all notifications from ioS applications: users will be able to peruse and scroll through their entire list of notifications at any time, with down-from-top swiping for navigation—and notifications during a lock screen will enable users to go directly to the app that sent the notice. Users will also be able to clear all notifications with a single swipe.

iOS 5 NewstandiOS 5.0 will also feature Newsstand, enabling users to keep up with newspaper and magazine subscriptions on their iOS device. Users will be able to keep up with all their magazine and newspaper subscriptions from a single location, rather than having to manage them all separately through individual apps. Subscription downloads will happen in the background, so new content is available for users as soon as they get up in the morning.

As rumored, iOS 5 will also have integrated Twitter support, including a new single sign-in feature that means users won’t have to sign in for every Twitter application they want to use. Twitter will also be integrated with Camera and Photos, enabling users to easier share photos via Twitter. Users can optionally attach location information. Twitter integration also extends to YouTube and Safari, enabling users to quickly tweet videos and Web pages, and users can automatically update photos on their contact list by linking them with a Twitter username.

Next, Apple announced it is building a version of Safari Reader into its mobile version of the Safari browser, enabling users to easily pull content on to a single page and (if they like) send the contents via email without all the cruft of adds, navigation, and multiple page breaks that clutter so many Web sites. Users will also get a Reading List, a set of stories saved for reading later: once a piece is added to a reading list, it’s synced along with everything else across iOS devices and Safari on Mac and Windows. Mobile Safari will also get full tabbed browsing.

iOS 5 remindersApple’s iOS 5 will also feature an integrated Reminders feature, featuring multiple lists of to-do items that can be associated with dates, times, and locations. Users can choose to have reminders pop up when they arrive at (or leave) a particular location, to make sure (for instance) you don’t leave the house without your gym bag, or that you remember to check your email once you arrive at a particular location.

Apple’s Camera app is also getting a significant update: users will be able to take photos more quickly thanks to a shortcut on the lock screen, and if users have a passcode set they can take a picture without exposing their old pictures: just press volume-up and Camera will snap a new picture. The camera will also get new optional rule-of-thirds grid lines to help compose photos, and improvements to built-in image editing.

Mail in iOS is also getting a revamp, with rich text formatting capabilities and indentation control, full-text searching (including going back to servers to search messages there), along with new features to support enterprise users like S/MIME and certificate support. Mail will also be able to tap into a new system-wide user dictionary: when users add a special word or term to their dictionaries, other apps will be able to pick up on it.

Apple is also introducing a new split keyboard: users can tap and drag the keyboard button to bring it up, and it stays where users put it across every application on the device. The split enables users to see the middle of their iOS device screen, or more keys to more thumb-friendly positions in landscape mode.

Apple will also be divorcing iOS devices from PCs (or Macs): when users get a new device, they will be able to set it up and activate it without having to use a separate computer. Software updates will also happen over the air: similarly, features that users had to go back to a computer to accomplish (like managing their calendars) will now be possible within iOS. Of course, users will still be able to configure their devices from a computer, but they will no longer be required to do so.

Game Center will also be getting an upgrade: profiles will have photos, users will be able to more easily compare their achievements against others, and turn-based games will be supported right within the operating system.

iOS 5 imessageFinally, Apple will also be amping up iOS’s messaging capabilities with iMessage, which will serve as a new messaging service for all iOS customers. iMessage will handle text, photos, contacts, group chats, and more, and even offer new features like delivery receipts and read receipts so users know whether their message has been viewed. (Of course, even iOS can’t promise a message has been understood.) iMessages will be shared across all devices (users will be able to transition conversations between an iPhone and an iPad, for instance) and the service will transition seamlessly between Wi-Fi and 3G services so users don’t have to worry about missing stuff on the go.

Apple says iOS 5 will ship to customers “this fall,” and will support the same range of devices as iOS 4: the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad 1 and 2, and the second- through fourth generation of the iPod touch. As before, the original iPhone and the iPhone 3G will be left out in the cold.


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