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Apple's WWDC Announcements
Tuesday, 2011 June 7 - 8:11 am
Steve Jobs took the stage yesterday to deliver the keynote address at Apple's World-Wide Developer Conference. The main topics: Mac OS X Lion, iOS 5, and iCloud.

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion
Perhaps the biggest new information about Lion is that it will be a $30 Mac App Store download. It's not clear how 10.5 Leopard users will upgrade unless they upgrade to 10.6 Snow Leopard first; and will it even be possible to buy Snow Leopard once Lion is out? If not, the Apple Store Genius Bar will be lined with confused and irate owners of older hardware. Also unclear is how users are expected to perform a reinstallation of the software; I wonder if there'll be some built-in "reset my Mac" function (similar to the reset function on phones), or a way to create a reinstaller on an external drive. If not, I'll certainly be sure to create a disk image of a clean installation for safekeeping.

Otherwise, the notable features include new application navigation schemes (full screen modes, multi-touch gestures, "Mission Control"), auto-saving and versioning (this is very cool; it minimizes lost work if you forgot to save before a power failure or something); application resume (re-opens apps and documents after a restart); and AirDrop (allows zero-configuration sharing of files with nearby computers; the convenience of a jump drive without any physical devices).

Also interesting: Lion Server will be a $49 App Store download. This is quite a change from the $999 price that Mac OS X Server used to carry. I'm not sure if this means Apple is becoming more serious about Server by trying to make it as widely available as possible, or less serious about it by cheapening it and making it just another app.

Widely rumored from the developer releases was the news that Rosetta, the program for running older PowerPC applications, would be dropped from Lion. There's been no official word from Apple on this yet. Losing Rosetta means no more support for applications like Office 2004 or Photoshop CS1.

iOS 5
iOS 5 seems like a collection of fixes for all the known annoyances and deficiencies in iOS 4... Apple has clearly been listening to feedback here. First on this list: "PC-free". You no longer need a desktop computer at all in order to use an iOS device. If you want to make the iPad your only computer, now you can (thanks partly to iCloud; see below). Even iOS updates can be done over the air. Some things will be limited to Wi-Fi only, in order to conserve the bandwidth for capped 3G data plans. Oh, but speaking of Wi-Fi: will there finally be an AirPort Utility app for iOS?

iOS 5 finally fixes the dreadful pop-up notification system from iOS 4, replacing it with a less intrusive notification system that rolls in at the top of the screen (and goes away after a few seconds), along with a separate screen that can show multiple notifications. iOS was behind Android and WebOS in this department, and it's nice to see this corrected.

Reminders is a new pretty-looking to-do app. It's a bit astonishing that it's taken this long for Apple to create this app. It'll be something I use every day when it comes out.

There are several changes to the Camera app; most notable is the ability finally to use the volume-up key as a shutter. I think people will find this much more natural and comfortable than the on-screen trigger.

A surprise addition is iMessage, a new iOS-specific text messaging service. It's interesting that this is bypassing the carriers entirely (the rumble you hear is the sound of thousands of iPhone users dropping their unlimited text messaging plans). It's also interesting that this is divorced from iChat on the Mac... but like Facetime, I expect to see that discrepancy resolved in the future.

iCloud
This is the long-awaited replacement for MobileMe, a service that Steve Jobs reportedly despised for its clunkiness.

First: iCloud is free, like the original Mac.com service. No more $99 annual subscriptions. I'm glad I didn't let the Apple Store guy talk me into pre-purchasing my renewal. Anyone holding on to an unused renewal code is likely to be screwed; I doubt those things are returnable.

Much like MobileMe, the new service includes free email; Internet-based storage of photos, video, books, music, and iWork documents; and, automatic synchronization of purchased content (including apps).

You can put any or all of your photos in the cloud, but iOS automatically stores your last 1000 photos in a Photo Stream. Photos are automatically synchronized to iPhoto on your Mac, or to your Pictures folder on your PC (presumably through some yet-to-be-announced Windows application).

Music storage in iCloud is automatic for any purchased content. But a key distinguishing feature is the new $25/year iTunes Match service, which lets iTunes scan your library for any ripped or downloaded content; if iTunes recognizes the song and it's available in the iTunes Store, it'll be made available in iCloud without the need to upload the song. The reason this is different from Amazon's service and Google's upcoming service is that Apple has secured the rights from the music labels to do this scan-and-match thing; with the competition, you'll have to spend days or weeks uploading your music to their servers.

It's also very interesting that this will work for MP3 files and perhaps even recordings made from analog media; iTunes Match will "upgrade" the files to 256 kbps AAC, with no DRM. It brings the very real possibility that I'll be able to take a scratchy vinyl LP rip and get a pristine digital copy in return... it finally justifies the fact that I've been hoarding a few hundred vinyl records in my closet for the last twenty years. I wonder: if I record a song off YouTube (using Audio Hijack or something), will that work too? Or what about a DRM-protected song in Windows Media (ugh) that I burn and re-rip? This seems the record labels are finally waking up to the fact that music sharing happens, and instead of suing their customers, it might be better to try to get a piece of the action.

iCloud gives you 5GB of storage, but your Photo Stream doesn't count against that limit, nor does any purchased content or anything from iTunes Match. I'm not sure if I'll still be able to get at my storage using iDisk... Apple says they'll send me more information on the migration process in the fall.

Hardware?
Alas: no hardware announcements. Most had already predicted that there'd been no new iPhone announced until the fall, but some were still holding out hope. I think we'll see a few minor announcements over the next few weeks (a new Macbook Air chief among them), with the new iPhone coming in August or September along with iOS 5.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

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