Apple today unveiled major upgrades to its desktop and mobile platforms, as well a new iCloud product, at its annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco. The company did not unveil a new iPhone as it did last year at WWDC.
In a keynote delivered by Steve Jobs and other Apple execs, the company showcased enhancements to the software that runs on its devices that begin to blur the line between mobile and desktop operating systems. When paired with its new iCloud offering, it shifts content storage and management to Apple’s backend servers at its massive North Carolina data storage facilities.
The company talked in terms of the desktop computer being “demoted” to just another device and moving the “hub” to the cloud, according to a live blog of the event posted on Engadget.com. Upgrades to Apple’s Mac software, OS X (Lion), which will be released later in July from the Mac App Store for $29.99, left the desktop OS looking suspiciously like iOS.
Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 5, saw some long-awaited feature additions that will come to the iPhone 3GS and higher, as well as third-generation iPod (or later) and the iPad 1 and 2, in a system update this fall. In that update, iPhone users will be treated to a new notifications system, email, camera, wireless syncing, newsstand and safari browser, which are among a promised 200 other upgrades when the final release goes live. Developers at WWDC were treated to a “seed” copy today.
Perhaps the most radical changes to the iOS included those pertaining to notifications, camera and UI, not to mention Apple’s deep integration of Twitter across the new OS.
The company devoted an entire app solely to notifications. As it stands, notifications from various apps, email and texts will interrupt whatever task a user happens to be doing. With iOS 5, a small tab descends from the top of the screen, allowing users to click on it and seamlessly check the notification and then return to the previous task. The notifications application also features a single place which combines for all of a user’s devices: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch.
Photographers will rejoice in a new feature added to the iPhone’s camera, which will allow users to employ one of the phone’s physical volume buttons to be used to snap a photo, as opposed to the current virtual on-screen button. Also, and much to the chagrin of Microsoft which has pitched the feature on Windows Phone 7, users will no longer have to unlock the phone to take a photo. Users will now be able to hit a shortcut button on the phone’s lock screen to go directly to the camera.
The Safari browser now features tabbed browsing, as well as a new “Reader” feature that will allow users to save stories from the Web in a stripped down version, as well as share them more easily.
Apple also unveiled a new messaging applications for iOS that will enable chat conversations, as well as the sharing of photos and video, between all iOS devices, including the iPad and iPod. RIM this week launched a similar feature for its BlackBerry devices.
But perhaps the biggest announcement today and the one that has been the most anticipated was iCloud. The new service will allow seamless syncing of everything from calendars and emails to videos and music via iCloud. The company completely did away with its failed MobileMe service, which mainly encompassed mail, iCal and contacts. Those portions of the iCloud service will now be free. Customers previously had been charged $99 annually to use MobileMe.
The cloud-based iTunes portion of iCloud will only wirelessly sync music tracks downloaded from Apple’s iTunes store. However, Jobs’ famous “one more thing” was a service called iTunes Match, which will automatically identify those “ripped” songs on a user’s hard drive and match them with the same song found in Apple’s 18-million-song catalog. Jobs said if the company can’t match a song in a user’s library, Apple will automatically upload it to the users account on iCloud for free. That service will cost $24.99 per year for up to 20,000 songs.
In case you were under the impression that Android’s rapid growth was somehow affecting Apple, the company gave its usual numbers rundown. Apple has sold 200 million iOS devices to date and according to the company is currently the No. 1 mobile operating system with 44 percent of the market when iPads are included in that total.
Speaking of iPad, the company said it has sold 25 million in the 14 months since its tablet launched.
As for content, Apple now counts 425,000 apps in the App Store catalog (90,000 for iPad), and users have downloaded more than 14 billion apps in the last three years. The company said it has paid out $2.5 billion to developers and counts 225 million accounts with credit cards and one-click purchasing.
Those are the kinds of numbers that the developers in the capacity crowd of 5,200 want to hear. Jobs quipped that he would like to bring more people to the event in the future. “We wished we could sell more tickets,” he said, according to Engadget, “but we don’t know where to have it if we do.”
Apple’s stock dipped slightly upon Jobs’ appearance on stage today, dropping almost three points as he addressed the crowd. Apple Stock was trading at $344 per share before the announcement and was at $338 at the time of this writing.