Yesterday’s WWDC keynote was full of surprises. It was notable not only for what it contained (updates to both iOS and OS X) but also for what it didn’t contain (no new hardware). And while most of the commentary thus far has centred around the new features of Apple’s two platforms, I think it’s worth looking a little closer at what these features mean, especially as it relates to the competition.
Blurring the lines between desktop and mobile
Have you noticed that as we’ve embraced mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, we seem to be living in an increasingly fractured world? Yes, it’s true that you can get to social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter easily from any device and there’s no noticeable difference when switching other than screen size, but what about other tasks? We’ve been forced to find workarounds to overcome the fact that our so-called desktop machines (which more and more are laptops, not true desktops) and our mobile devices don’t talk to one another. Evernote. Dropbox. Google Drive and Google Docs. Office 365. Gmail. As good and useful as these products are, they’re band-aids. They exist because mobile operating systems and their desktop equivalents have never really known how to help users transition seamlessly between them.
What’s peculiar is how accepting we users have become of this situation. Signing up for and managing a raft of products, services, accounts and passwords, all so we can keep our digital lives within easy access from whichever device we’re working on.
Well, what if all of that went away?
It starts with iCloud Drive
If I were the CEO of Dropbox, yesterday’s keynote would have sent a cold chill down my spine. That’s because Apple’s announcement of an extension to iCloud called iCloud Drive, is a direct competitor. Dropbox is great because it’s simple. It is nothing more than a place in the cloud where you can store your files, retrieve them from anywhere and share them with anyone. The problem with simple though, is that it’s easily duplicated and improved upon. Because iCloud Drive will offer the exact same feature set, but will also be a native component of both OS X and iOS, it will be easier to use than Dropbox. Especially if you work a lot in Apple’s own suite of productivity tools: Keynote, Pages and Numbers (collectively known as iWork). And while Apple’s pricing of iCloud Drive makes it more expensive on a per MB basis that Google Drive, it’s cheaper than Dropbox. Can you guess which company Apple has targeted with this move?
It continues with Handoff
Of course, simply embedding a Dropbox knock-off into the OS isn’t going to change anyone’s world overnight (well, unless you’re Dropbox’s CEO), because being able to store files in the cloud isn’t new and it wasn’t hard to do prior to iCloud Drive. It’s best to look at iCloud Drive as a highway or rail system. You need it to help people get from A to B, but without a car or train, it’s only half of the solution.
The other half is breaking down the barriers between devices. If you’re working on a proposal on your Mac using Pages and you’ve got to leave the office or home to make a meeting in an hour, why should you have to save your work and email it to yourself (if you haven’t embraced the cloud yet) or save it to Dropbox (or even iCloud) and then retrieve that document on your iPad when you’ve boarded the subway? Or what about that detailed email you were in the middle of composing but weren’t quite ready to send yet?
With Handoff—a feature that you will forget about almost as soon as you start using it—as long as you’re signed in with your Apple ID, all of these activities will follow you from one device to another, as though you had never switched at all. At launch, Handoff will work with Apple’s core apps like Mail, Safari, iWork etc., but developers will be able to add Handoff to their apps too.
Multiple, smart environments
Have you noticed the way that Microsoft put such a huge emphasis on making all of their versions of Windows 8 look and work similarly regardless whether you were using a full PC, tablet or smartphone? On the one hand, it creates a familiar environment on all of your devices. On the other hand, it completely misses the point. When it comes to smart devices, we need smart operating systems. That doesn’t mean making all of these machines operate the same way, it means designing operating systems that make using these devices as easy and simple as possible. To achieve this, function must follow form, not vice versa.
Apple clearly gets this. Instead of doing a full revamp of OS X to make it a desktop version of iOS, or trying to cram a full version of OS X onto an iPad (ahem, Microsoft Surface), it’s letting the devices themselves dictate the right user experience, while silently and invisibly connecting these disparate device in the background.
Continuity is one more reason to buy a Mac
While I absolutely believe that Apple has made these enhancements to help their customers further simplify their lives and eliminate some of the pesky irritations that our multi-device world has created, they’ve significantly strengthened the Apple ecosystem at the same time.
Because while iCloud Drive will offer easy access to cloud-stored documents for Windows users too, in order to benefit from the full package that Handoff offers, you’ll need to own Apple hardware.
And while it’s true that more and more people are beginning to work exclusively on tablets and smartphones, there’s still plenty more who want a full PC. If that’s you, and you don’t yet own a Mac, Apple’s Continuity (the name they’ve given the suite of products and services that enable this seamless switching process) is a compelling reason to buy one.
One more thing
There’s a quote attributed to Steve Jobs that “a lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” It’s been true of Apple’s products more often than not. The iPod, iPhone, iPad… few of these were products that customers had been shouting for ahead of their debut, and yet, once they got their hands on them, they realized they were the products they wanted. Apple’s new direction for software, in the form of Continuity, is another example of something that few people realized they needed or wanted (because we’ve all become so used to the band-aids). But I think that once people start using it, they’ll wonder how they ever got along without it.
Have you noticed that, for the first time in recent memory, Apple seems to have pulled back on its blistering rate of new, innovative product launches?
Consider the fact that although the company refreshed virtually every product in their line-up this year, and even introduced a new, smaller iPad, not one of these products is an innovation in the market. They are evolutionary, not revolutionary.
This innovation “lull” comes at a dangerous time for Apple. Its core product lines: the iPhone, the iPad and the Mac (including desktop and laptop models) are under the kind of competitive pressure that hasn’t been seen in years. Android as a mobile OS has finally come in to its own, and is seeing huge success, especially in its Samsung Galaxy SIII guise which, for the first time since the iPhone’s debut in 2007, has outsold Apple’s flagship.
At the same time, Microsoft is taking the enormous gamble of leap-frogging Apple in the desktop OS market with Windows 8 – an OS that fuses touch-based computing and classic mouse-and-keyboard computing into a single experience.
Some might say that this situation is a natural part of the technology life-cycle. Product innovation happens in waves, especially at the hardware level. Perhaps we’re simply in the trough of a hardware innovation wave.
That being the case, the obvious place for Apple to try differentiating itself (until its next revolutionary product) is with software. The company already enjoys an enviable ecosystem where hardware and software are designed in lock-step, ensuring that the one always complements the other. But it’s time to do more.
Apple seems to have overlooked one of the most promising areas of mobile computing: contextual task automation. In some ways, it’s hard to believe that they’ve missed this boat. After all, Mac OS X has some of the most powerful automation tools of any OS: AppleScript and Automator.
Between these two tools, users can exercise almost any level of control they desire over the functions of their Macs. Automator provides a graphical way of doing so, and requires no programming knowledge whatsoever. AppleScript can fill in the blanks, giving power-users even greater control.
If you’ve never heard of these tools, or you have but have never used them, there’s a good reason: task automation on computers is largely used by professionals to speed up workflows by having the computer complete certain repetitive tasks. But its power is limited by the number of contexts users find themselves in. Given that the average PC, whether desktop or laptop, has no GPS, accelerometer, compass, barometer, phone or proximity sensors, it’s almost deaf, dumb and blind compared to a smartphone (bad analogy given that all PCs have webcams, mics and speakers, but bear with me).
But mobile devices are a different story. They’re with us wherever we go and connect us to every type of information imaginable. Best of all, they have a high degree of contextual awareness thanks to the various sensors mentioned above. This fact has not been lost on the Android camp.
Recently, two examples of contextual automation have caught my attention. The first is the Motorola ATRIX HD LTE, an Android smartphone that Motorola has customized with various options including something they call Smart Actions. At their core, Smart Actions are simply a way for a user to create “if/then” conditions for just about any situation s/he can think of. One fabulous example: IF I’m driving and someone texts me THEN send the following automatic reply “Thanks for your text. I’m currently driving and will respond when it’s safe to do so.”
There are dozens of such useful conditions that users can customize (the phone ships with several pre-programmed options).
The other example was demo’d for me last week: Sony’s new “Bond Phone”, the Xperia T, comes with Smart Connect, a free Sony app that can be installed on any Android 4.0 device. Much like Smart Actions, Smart Connect lets you script trigger events in addition to managing certain external devices like Bluetooth headsets.
So why then, has Apple ignored such a fantastic opportunity to be the dominant player in contextual automation?
Not only does the Cupertino juggernaut have a wealth of experience in this area, they have a uniquely synchronized set of hardware, software and services. Imagine the possibilities for a customer who is fully committed to Apple’s ecosystem and owns an iPhone, iPad, iMac, Apple TV and several AirPlay-compatible speaker systems.
Here’s just one scenario…
Our happy-go-lucky Apple user is strolling home after getting off the bus/streetcar/subway, while listening to her favourite podcast on her iPhone. But as she arrives at her front door, the podcast still has 10 minutes left. As soon as she unplugs her EarPods, her iPhone automatically routes the podcast over AirPlay to her speakers in the living room. A text message is sent to her boyfriend who is working abroad, letting him know she’s home if he wants to FaceTime before he turns in for the night. Because the time is now 5:30 p.m., her notifications preferences switch so that new emails from work no longer trigger sounds or vibrations, but personal emails still do.
Needless to say, that was the best I could do off the top of my head, but clearly the possibilities are endless. But there’s no reason why Automator for iOS shouldn’t be social too. I could see an entire scene developing around such an app, with users sharing their favourite scripted events and even in-app purchases, so that developers with a knack for AppleScript could sell advanced Automator processes designed for professionals of all stripes.
So readers, what say you? Would Automator for iOS be the kind of thing you’d like to play with? Or are you content with the existing automatic processes within iOS? Or does Siri do all of your bidding?
Let us know!
Earlier this year, a new company known simply as “Nest” announced their first product: the Nest Learning Thermostat. Now available in Canada, its distinctive round shape is a design throwback to the non-programmable thermostats of a few decades ago.
That simple, elegant exterior which immediately drew praise for the way it complemented nearly every decor masked a highly sophisticated internal design that is more smartphone than thermostat. The Nest’s central selling feature (other than a design which sets it apart from every other thermostat on the market) is simplicity. It is designed to be a thermostat that never needs to be programmed because it has the ability to “learn” your needs and then program itself accordingly thus saving you time and hopefully, money too.
How much money? Up to 20% savings on your energy bill according to the company’s claims.
Nest achieves this savings by doing something automatically that people, it seems, don’t do by themselves: actually program a programmable thermostat. The company quotes a study which claims that 90% of programmable thermostats are rarely or never programmed.
How does it work?
After installing the Nest in place of your existing thermostat (see video below) and walking through a simple set-up procedure, you simply rotate the Nest’s outer ring to the desired temperature and walk away. The Nest will keep your home at that temperature until you change it – which is something you should do as often as possible during the first week. This is the Nest’s break-in period in which it learns your needs but also your habits. Thanks to a collection of on-board sensors, the Nest can determine when you are at home, when you are sleeping and when you are away. It uses this information combined with the temperatures that you physically set to come up with its own set of program parameters.
At any time you can view this self-programmed schedule (for an entire week) and make adjustments if you feel the Nest hasn’t chosen optimal settings.
In theory, this whole process should be very straightforward and not at all time-consuming – after all, this is supposed to be far easier than programming a regular thermostat. In practice however, I found that it wasn’t so simple.
What is the temperature?
One of the big differences between a standard thermostat and the Nest, is the way temperature is determined. You might think that 20 degrees is a standard measurement of temperature but the Nest has a different opinion. Nest has a range of sensors that measure temperature, humidity, and ambient light levels so when the Nest tells you it’s 20 degrees indoors, it can often feel colder, when compared to what 20 degrees felt like when your older thermostat said it was that temperature. As an explanation for this discrepancy, the company says, “Not all thermostats are created equal. Different manufacturers use different sensors and different methods of calculating the ambient temperature. The thermostats can sometimes arrive at different ambient temperature measurements as a result.”
Control freaks, beware
The Nest’s fully-automated setting, known as Auto-Schedule learning, is the feature that will have the greatest effect on your energy costs if you’ve never bothered to program your thermostat. It does this by combining the temperature settings you provide via the outer ring, with what it can detect of your at-home vs. away behaviour. After a few days, if you take a look at the schedule screen, you can see the results of this process. It may surprise you. I found that the Nest had decided on several temperature settings throughout the 24-hour cycle that seemed counter-intuitive. On Mondays, for instance, it included several temperature points that we colder than any temperatures we had ever input manually.
Upon closer inspection I found many of these seemingly random settings thrown in throughout the week (the Nest lets you program as many temperature settings over the course of a 7-day cycle as you wish) and became frustrated by the system’s decisions.
Again, if you never program your thermostat, the Nest’s Auto-Schedule is bound to save you money. But for someone like myself, who has always been very picky about programming the hell out of my thermostat, it seemed to be kicking on the air conditioner more than I would like.
Why it needs Wi-Fi
The Nest is truly a thermostat for the internet era. Its on-board Wi-Fi connects to your home network (no wired option exists) so that you can leverage some of the Nest’s features from the road. Using a PC with a web browser or the free Nest app for iOS and Android, you can set the temperature directly or access and change the schedule. This is handy for those situations where you depart from your normally schedule comings and goings, and want to get the house warmed up or cooled down before you come back. I’d like to see Nest add another feature to this app: send you an alert if it is taking an unusually long time to reach your set temperature – something that could indicate a serious problem with your air conditioner or furnace. N.B.: The Nest takes its power from your furnace/AC’s existing wiring. There is enough voltage to keep the Nest operational. However, it may not be quite enough to keep the Wi-Fi portion of the Nest’s functionality going all of the time. In my installation, I’ve noticed that if I keep the Nest’s display lit for longer than about five minutes, the battery depletes to the point where it can’t maintain the Wi-Fi connection. Typically, it regains the charge necessary to re-connect within a few hours. The company does mention in the install manual that this can happen, and if it becomes a constant problem, you can have a professional installer do some extra work to provide the Nest with the voltage it needs to be fully charged all of the time. For me, it hasn’t been worth going this extra step.
Home or Away?
We mentioned before that the Nest can tell if you’re around or not. Those on-board sensors can detect movement up to 20 feet away. When it thinks you’re not home, it enters into an “Auto Away” mode, where it suspends all heating and cooling functions in order to save energy. But it does so within parameters that you set. These so-called “safe temperatures” are the minimum and maximum temperatures that you are comfortable with when away from home. I set mine at 65F minimum, 80F maximum (yeah, I know those are Fahrenheit, but for some reason I’m incapable of thinking in Celsius when it comes to indoor temperatures. Weird, right?) which seemed prudent given that we have cats. If the house was truly empty when we’re not there, I might have set these even farther apart.
See the savings
The Nest has two ways of showing you how much energy you’ve saved, should you care to look. On the Nest itself, you can enter the Energy option to view your energy history, day by day and get a sense both visually and via text of your energy usage. There’s no dollar value attached to the number, simply an indication of how long your AC (or furnace) was actively cooling or heating your home.
But if you really want to do a deep dive on your energy consumption, the iOS or Android app is the way to go – especially on a tablet. The Nest app’s detailed breakdown of energy use by day not only shows you precisely when and for how long you heated or cooled your home, it also shows you why any particular day was above or below average. Sometimes weather is the cause. Other times your own intervention will be the reason. Or the Nest will have saved you energy via AutoAway – all of these explanations are displayed on the energy tab.
Does it actually save money?
It depends. If you never bother to program your thermostat, the Nest will save you money for sure. Even if you don’t bother to try teaching the Nest, its Auto Away feature will at least keep unnecessary heating/cooling while you’re away to a minimum. If you opt for manual programming and essentially use the Nest the same way you would a conventional programmable thermostat, it can still save you a bit of cash – mostly in the summer. The Nest has a feature called AirWave, which takes advantage of the fact that when your air conditioner’s compressor turns off, the cooling elements that reside inside your furnace tend to stay cold for several minutes. During that time, the Nest keeps the fan going. Because the compressor is the part of the AC system that uses most of the electricity, the Nest can keep cooling your home at a much reduced expense – at least for a few minutes. It’s a neat trick that few if any other thermostats can do.
But to really see the financial benefit of the Nest, you need to a) have never programmed a thermostat before and b) be diligent in training the Nest during that key 1-2 week break-in period. Even though I have had the Nest installed for a month, it’s still too early to tell just how much money it may have saved me. Only a detailed analysis of my utility bills from the same period a year ago will reveal any useful numbers, and even then, with the incredibly hot summer Ontario has had this year, a meaningful comparison may be impossible.
Can the average homeowner justify a $250 thermostat? If you’re genuinely too intimidated by your existing programmable thermostat to actually program it, or your thermostat is so old it can’t be programmed, then yes, the Nest – even at $250 will likely pay for itself within a year, maybe two at the outside. After that, you’ll be saving money. Though the initial set-up may seem a bit daunting, the Nest, in day to day use is as straightforward as you could ask.
For the folks like myself who have always paid close attention to their heating and cooling settings, the savings may be harder to achieve. But even if it takes several years for the Nest to help your bottom line, the product does have other features which may help you justify the steep price of admission.
Being able to remotely control your home’s heating and cooling from anywhere in the world is pretty awesome. Add to that a detailed overview of your energy usage and the ability to program a nearly unlimited number of temperature control points on a 7-day schedule, and you might just find $250 a small price to pay for that level of control and information.
Finally, if you’re really looking for a reason to buy a Nest, there’s always the cool factor (and I don’t mean AC) – the Nest will look better on your wall than any other thermostat I can think of, and I guarantee it will be a conversation piece for the foreseeable future!
If you’ve been waiting to buy an iPad, Apple had some good news for you today: their new model – which now simply goes by the handle “new iPad” (think New Beetle) – packs a bunch of upgrades over the previous two models without any bump in price. Yes, it looks like the iPad’s reign as king of the tablets will continue for the foreseeable future, even if there is nothing bleeding edge on offer. It’s – wait for it – “resolutionary” according to the Apple.com website homepage.
Here’s what was announced:
iPad 3rd generation ($519/$619/$719 CAD for 16/32/64GB WiFi only – add $120 per model for 3G/4G) Available March 16
- Retina display
- A5X quad-core GPU
- iSight Camera in the Rear: 5MP, backside illuminated, 1080p video recording, Image stabilization
- Voice dictation, but no Siri
- 4G LTE, backward compatible with dual-band HSPA+
- Personal Hotspot feature added
- 10 hours of battery life, 9 if on a 4G LTE connection
- 9.4mm thin, weighing 1.4lbs
From an exterior point of view, the new iPad is nearly indistinguishable from the iPad 2.
The New iPad (yup, that’s the official name) will be supported by all three major carriers (Bell, TELUS, Rogers) for those who want to grab the 4G LTE version.
We’re a little surprised that Apple chose not to give the new iPad the same photo capabilities as the iPhone 4S, which has an 8MP rear camera, and that the front-facing FaceTime camera remains the same as the previous model instead of being upgraded to the FaceTime HD standard that adorns all new iMacs.
In case you’re wondering, yes you can now pick up older iPad 2’s for $100 less than they were selling for yesterday. Apple will continue to make these.
Apple also treated us to an unexpected surprise: A version of the company’s extremely popular photo software for the iMac, iPhoto – built for the iPad. It has a suite of touch-based editing tools but perhaps the coolest feature is the ability to ‘beam’ photos between devices – presumably between iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches and iMacs. $4.99 is the price in the App store and you can download it today. GarageBand, iMovie and iWork apps have all been updated for the new iPad.
Also announced was an update to the Apple TV set-top box:
Apple TV (3rd Generation) $99 USD, $109 CAD, available March 16
- 1080p streaming
- new UI with cleaner look and feel
Finally, today marks the release iOS 5.1, which mostly sports some minor enhancements such as Siri support for Japanese consumers. Also, iTunes in the cloud now has movie support.
The good news for folks who recently bought an iPhone 4 and were dreading today’s announcement: you don’t need to feel foolish.
Today, Apple CEO Tim Cook and his team unveiled the iPhone 4s. It’s a phone that looks outwardly exactly like the iPhone 4 (see image above). All of the changes are on the inside.
Those changes are all incremental improvements to an already very successful formula. Improved are the CPU, the data speeds, the graphics performance and the camera. The phone also gets an innovative interactive voice-controlled assistant known simply as “Siri.”
But as welcome as these enhancements are, they are barely enough to keep the iPhone ahead of an increasingly competitive field of smartphones, most of which are running Google’s Android OS.
iPhone 4S announced:
- body remains the same as iPhone 4, gets A5 chip which gives 7x faster graphics performance, 2x faster CPU performance (Dual core processor/dual core graphics)
- it Supports HSDPA at up to 14Mbps downlink
- Supports GSM and CDMA – giving it world-roaming capabilities
- Gets an 8MP rear camera 3264×2448, with improved backside illumination. Photo lag has been reduced and sharpness increased thanks to a 5-element lens design. Macro settings for extreme close-ups. Face detection.
- Video recording at 1080p, with image stabilization
- AirPlay mirroring: anything you can see on the iPhone’s screen you’ll be able to see via AirPlay on an Apple TV
- Voice-activated personal assistant “Siri” – ask a real question, get a real answer. Deep integration into iOS, settings, maps, calendars, reminders. You can ask it to define a word and it will scour the web for the answer. It can do voice dictation, but only where data connectivity is available.
- New iPhone line-up: iPhone 3GS (8GB, free on contract) iPhone 4 (8GB, $99 on contract), iPhone 4S (16GB, $199 32GB, $299 64GB, $399 – all contract prices) N.B.: All prices in $USD
- Sprint added as a U.S. carrier
- The iPhone 4S will be available for pre-order October 7th and ship October 14th in U.S. and Canada and in 70 other countries by December. Bell, TELUS and Rogers are all confirming they will carry the iPhone 4S.
Of these features, the biggest reason to buy an iPhone 4S – especially if you still own an iPhone 3GS – is the camera. Phil Schiller, SVP of Product Marketing at Apple made it clear that with the iPhone 4S, Apple isn’t going after other camera-equipped phones, they’re targeting the point-and-shoot category of cameras. They seem to be on the right track.
The iPhone 4S has a remarkably better camera than the 4 – it now shoots 8MP stills with macro capability and full 1080p video with image stabilization. With these specs, the only thing the iPhone 4S can’t do is optical zoom.
People who spend a lot of time commuting in private cars, or folks who have trouble navigating their phones with their fingers, will appreciate Siri. From all accounts, the demo Schiller gave of Siri’s abilities was impressive. Siri can understand natural language questions and respond in kind. It also understands context, so certain activities will feel more intuitive. Finally, Siri can even act as your personal dictation servant, though this feature requires data connectivity and there’s no word yet on just how much of your data will be consumed when connected via
Frequent travelers will appreciate the fact that with CDMA on top of HSPA, the iPhone 4S can literally go anywhere and keep you connected.
But none of these features are going to cause current iPhone 4 owners to gaze mournfully at their phones and wish they had waited for Apple’s next product. They’re good. But they aren’t must-haves.
What Apple didn’t deliver were any next-generation features such as LTE, NFC or a larger display. Rumours of a thinner, wider body and re-designed home button failed to materialize.
What we see here is Apple once again mastering the art of the leap-frog. True-to-form, the iPhone 4S gives 3GS owners a strong incentive to upgrade. iPhone 4 owners can now sit back, relax and calmly tell themselves that they’ll wait for the “next one.”
The iPhone event, which took place at Apple’s headquarters at 4 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California also included updates on some of Apple’s other products, including some small tweaks to their iPod line of portable music players:
- OS X Lion update: six million copies sold to-date
- MacBook Pro and iMac are the best selling laptops and desktops in the U.S. respectively
- There are 60 million Mac users worldwide
- iPods are still 70% of the portable music market. Over 300 million have been sold
- 16 billion songs have been sold via iTunes
- iPhone ranks #1 in customer satisfaction according to JD Power but is only 5% of worldwide market share
- Every state in the U.S. has pilot programs for the iPad in educational settings
- 92% of Fortune 500 is testing or deploying iPads
- 3 out of 4 tablets sold in the U.S. are iPads
- With 250 Million iOS device, iOS is the #1 mobile OS worldwide
- 61% of mobile browsers are using iOS
- 1 billion apps are downloaded a month
- Apple has created a new app called “Cards” that let you create greeting cards on iOS and Apple prints them for you. App is free, each card costs $2.99 including trackable postage in the U.S.
- a re-cap of iOS 5 features
- iOS 5 will be a free update October 12th
- new feature: “Find my friends” – Like a highly customizable 4Square with better privacy controls
- iCloud launch October 12th – Free
- iPod nano gets an update: improved fitness features, navigation, 16 new clock faces, new pricing: $129/8GB
- iPod Touch now comes in white, $199/8GB
Wow. This will take some time to get our heads around, and believe me, they are spinning!
Here’s the super-high-level summary of what was announced today at the WWDC keynote presentation:
OSX Lion (much of this was previewed before now, but today it’s official)
$30 upgrade from OS X Snow Leopard – available in July, only from the Mac App Store (no physical disc option)
– A strong focus on full screen apps
– Deep multi-touch support for MacBook users or iMac users who have the Magic Trackpad
– App store, which BTW is now the most popular place for PC software purchases, beating bricks and mortar stores too, is now embedded into the OS
– When you buy new apps, they automatically appear in the Launchpad, which is essentially the iPad home screen interface – with apps displayed as icons on a grid
– Resume function brings an app right back to where you left off working – even if you quit the app completely
– AutoSave (the OS saves docs in the background for you, regardless of which app you’re working in)
– “Versions” lets you go back to previous document states to see older versions and even cut & paste between them
– AirDrop: peer to peer Wi-Fi sharing of documents (if you ever used IR sending to move files between two laptops, you already know how this works)
– Mail has new conversation and message preview modes, with better search
– Open windows can now be resized from any edge, not just the bottom right corner
– Safari has a “reading list” option which lets you send web pages to your other devices for reading at a later date/place
available this fall, for free, for iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad 1 and 2, iPod Touch 3 & 4
200 new features including:
– Notification Center app now puts all notifications in one place
– available from within any app by swiping down from the top of the screen (Android users will find this VERY familiar)
– includes weather and stock displays
– Notifications will no longer interrupt what you’re doing
– The lock screen has been enhanced, with notifications listed and direct access to apps that sent the note
– one location in the appstore for all subscriptions (newspapers, magazines)
– single sign-on
– integrated into apps like camera, photos, contacts so you can tweet directly from any of these apps without switching to a dedicated twitter app
– Reader integration (from OS X)
– Email whole stories not just links
– reading list – sync’d across all devices
– tabbed browsing
– basically a very smart to-do lists
– syncs with Exchange
– auto-remind with geofencing
– Shortcut to camera from lock screen using an icon or a volume button, even if the iPhone is locked
– Grid lines option for easier composition
– Pinch to zoom instead of slider
– New Auto Focus settings
– Photo adjustments on the device (red eye, crop, rotate – 1 click enhancements)
– Volume-up button acts as a shutter button
– Rich text formatting
– Search entire message
– S/MIME support
– Encrypted email option
– Dictionary service throughout OS – any app can use it
– Address dragging from field to field e.g. move a recipient from the To: field to the BCC: field
– Enhanced keyboard with a thumb-oriented split-keyboard option (presumably intended for the iPad in portrait mode)
– iOS updates over the air (no need for iTunes on a PC or Mac)
– “Delta updates” download just what has changed
– Addition of photos, achievement points, recommendations
– Buy games from within GC
– Turn based games support
– Unified message service across all iOS 5 devices, not just iPhone
– delivery and read receipts, typing indicators, encryption
– iMessages appear at the top of the screen so visible, but doesn’t interrupt your current activity
– Embed photos, video
– Works over Wi-fi and 3G
Airplay mirroring lets you view your full iPad 2 /iPhone screen on your TV via Apple TV (not just select apps)
WiFi syncing to iTunes
Custom vibration patterns
Free, Available with iOS 5 in the fall
Steve Jobs basically kicked MobileMe, insulted it, killed it and announced its successor: iCloud
The idea behind iCloud is the three core apps of MobileMe (iCal, Mail and Contacts) are now joined by 6 new apps, and all of them keep your digital content automatically (and wirelessly) synchronized across all of your iDevices and your computer (be it a Mac or PC)
Every time you take a photo using the camera app, send an email, update a calendar or a contact, the iCloud service grabs those updates and then pushes them back to any other device that shares your Apple ID (the account you use for iTunes).
The 6 new apps are:
– App Store gives you access to your full app history (any app that you have previously purchased or downloaded) so you can re-download it with one click instead of searching the app store, and going through the existing re-download process)
– iBookstore is the same concept as the App Store, but with the addition of bookmarks, so your books are now truly synced across devices the same way Amazon and Kobo work.
– iCloud Backup backs up all of your major content. In the event you lose your iDevice, you can bring all of that information back to your new device instantly. Backups happen automatically over Wi-Fi when your device is charging.
– iCloud Storage is a service that is essentially trying to do away with the file system that all computers use. Instead, any document created in any app, will be “owned” by that app. Changes to those documents get automatically sent to iCloud and then pushed back down to any other device that is running the same app. At launch, the iWork suite will take advantage of the service, but other apps will be able to use it too. Users get 5GB of free Storage space, which doesn’t include photos or music or apps. Extra space will be available for purchase.
– iCloud PhotoStream creates an automated and synchronized way of sharing your photos between devices. Any photo taken with the camera app is automatically streamed to your Mac, or your iPad or other compatible device. Works with PCs too. You can also do this with imported pics. PhotoStream will keep your most recent 1,000 photos for 30 days from upload and you can permanently keep any of them by moving them into albums.
– iTunes in the cloud is the first time you will be able to re-download purchased music from iTunes to up to 10 of your devices. One more thing: iTunes Match will look at all of your ripped music in iTunes, find the same tracks in the iTunes store and give you access to the iTunes versions on any of your devices for $24.99 USD per year.
Oh, and if you’re really curious about iTunes in the cloud, you can try it right now. iOS 4.3 only.
So what does all this mean?
OS X Lion:
Apple takes the desktop operating system to the next level by cleaning up a bunch of things that needed improvement e.g. any-edge window resizing and then layering on top of that some new features that make you say “why doesn’t every OS do that?” such as remembering what you were working on when you quit an app, and bringing you right back again when you open it the next time. Lion also shows that when it comes to touch interfaces, it’s all about the track pad, not the screen. So many Windows machines are trying to emulate the iPad experience on the PC, and yet fail to understand that touching a vertical screen is a horrible user experience. PCs – and Macs for that matter – are not tablets. So Apple is doing the next best (and logical) thing: importing the components of the iOS experience that *do* work on a PC, namely multi-touch and app stores. Lion represents the first really fundamental shift in the Mac OS paradigm since OS X debuted over 10 years ago, and these latest changes are arguably the most profound.
If you’re an iOS developer you’ve got reason to celebrate: there are over 1,500 new way to make your apps work with Apple’s mobile OS. You’ve also got reason for insecurity: iOS 5 shows that Apple isn’t afraid to take some of the most popular features from the 3rd party apps and embed those directly into the OS. There are dozens of great camera apps out there, but they’ll have less of shine on them in the fall once you can re-touch and perform other edits right in the existing camera app.
If you’re an Android user, you don’t get to snicker about the iPhone’s terrible notifications – in fact, they look a LOT like Android’s notifications now.
If you’re a Blackberry user who has clung to their device because nothing really beats BBM (BlackBerry Messenger), you’re now one reason shorter for staying: iMessage will likely eclipse BBM as the worldwide favourite mobile messaging app as it appears to do all that BBM does and then some.
If you own an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch you will want to download this update as fast as you can get your hands on it. It’s easily the most feature-rich iOS release since the first version.
iCloud seems like both more and less than we had expected. The suite of 9 services is easily the most compelling of the cloud services to-date, including the products from Google and Amazon (plus you can bet it will work in Canada as soon as it launches which is more than we can say for the other companies). The “free” adjective works on several levels: The cost (it’s free), it’s worry-free and it’s restriction-free (pretty much). And while it looks like it’s going to do a great job wirelessly and automatically syncing data from device to device, there was no mention of movies or TV shows, which are both central to Google and Amazon’s cloud services. Perhaps Apple’s research indicates that while these would be nice, they aren’t as high on consumers’ wish lists as photos and music. They’re probably right. And if they’re wrong, I’m guessing that their brand-new eco-friendly and downright monstrous data centre in North Carolina will be able to tackle movies and TV shows without breaking a sweat.
If you have an extra 2 hours and you’d like to sit through the entire keynote, here’s the video from Apple.
Confirming months of speculation, Apple has announced that it will be debuting its “iCloud” service along with the next releases of iOS and Mac OS at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference next Monday, June 6, in California.
Also confirmed is that Steve Jobs will be delivering the keynote for the conference. Jobs has been on a greatly reduced work regimen lately as he focuses on his health.
While Apple isn’t saying anything about iCloud other than to reference it as Apple’s “upcoming cloud services offering,” the consensus is that it will offer some sort of music locker service tied to the company’s wildly popular iTunes product.
It could also feature access to TV shows and movies, which would put Apple and Google on a closer competitive footing than they have ever been before. Google announced it’s own cloud-based services earlier this month, promising access to music and movies on any internet-connected device.
Update: Well it seems Apple just can’t contain its excitement around new products. Instead of waiting for the WWDC – mere days away – the company has chosen to release the iPhone/iPod Touch versions of the iWork suite of apps today. Keynote, Pages and Numbers are the three apps that comprise the iWork suite and are all now compatible with the smaller-screen iDevices.
Given that WWDC is primarily focused on iOS and MacOS, you would think this update of the iWork apps might have made ideal fodder for Steve Jobs’ keynote speech. This advance release suggests that he will have a substantial amount to say on the larger operating systems and iCloud, and likely felt that this announcement would make the presentation too long.