Well, that was a good keynote. No, Apple didn’t use today’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco to announce the iPhone 5, an Apple TV with 62in screen or a laser-firing iPod, but it announced some very solid – and, dare we say, exciting? – operating system upgrades for Macs and iOS devices. And its MobileMe cloud service is being replaced with a bells-and-whistles replacement. See our News section for the full details.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs is on sick leave, but he managed to make it on stage to kick the event off and to introduce iCloud, but really, he shouldn’t have. He’s not looking or sounding at all well, and I’m not sure that doing this stuff will hasten his recovery.
But, hell, it was good to see him doing his bit and showing how important the day’s three announcements are to him.
As usual, he got standing ovations both before and after the keynote, both from the assembled hacks and from the masses of developers who’d managed to get a seat in the Moscone West centre by queuing up patiently outside – some from the previous afternoon.
There are 5200 attendees at WWDC, being helped through the week’s presentations and workshops by 1000 Apple engineers – and Jobs and his crew gave them plenty to think about during the keynote.
Mostly, their future.
Apple introduced so many cool features and apps (250 features in Lion, 200 in iOS 5 plus iCloud) that it’s effectively consigned a number of third-party apps to the rubbish tip.
Just a few of those developers hitting the pub instead of Starbucks at the moment must be Dropbox, the Icon Factory (Twitterific) and Instapaper, due to iCloud’s document sharing, Twitter integration with iOS 5 and mobile Safari’s Reading List feature. And there are plenty more Mac and iOS apps that either won’t survive these upgrades or, at best, just won’t sell as well because they no longer fill a hole in the market.
But, you know, while I feel sorry for those guys, I love the way Apple responds to its users’ needs and wants. I’m sure we’ll find things about Lion, iOS 5 and iCloud that we don’t like or are missing once we start using them, but for the moment I have to say I love everything Apple’s announced.
Here are my Top 10 announcements, in no specific order:
1. iTunes in the cloud. Simultaneous downloads to all your devices, and no charge for multiple downloads. You’ll love this if you’ve ever wanted to download a song for a second time, either on to a second device or because of hard drive failure, but couldn’t.
2. Launchpad. OS X meets iOS in a big way in this feature, which presents your Mac apps the same way you see them on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. You get to it by pinching, which bring us to:
3. Multi-Touch on OS X. We’re used to actions such as swiping, pinching and flicking on iOS, and now we have them on the Mac. How? Well, you have to have one of the newer Mac notebooks (which make up 73 percent of current Mac sales, by the way) or a Magic Trackpad. Expect sales of the latter to boom. Multi-Touch also means window scrollbars are a thing of the past. Or nearly … they hide until your cursor goes over them, so those users sticking to mice can rest easy.
4. Full-screen mode. This is another way in which many Mac apps will behave iOS-like. You’ll page through your open apps by using one swipe gesture, and navigate back to the (old-fashioned!) Desktop using another.
5. Autosave and Versions. Hallelujah! The first feature automatically or manually saves anything you’re working on in OS X, and the second lets you page through all the saved versions – it’s like Time Machine for the Finder.
6. AirDrop on OS X. Want to share a file with someone? Just drag and drop it onto a picture of any users on your Wi-Fi network. It sounds brilliant.
7. Improved iOS notifications. Notifications arrear unobtrusively at the top of the screen, and the new Notification Center combines all your notifications in one place, which you get to by swiping down. A right-swipe on a notification takes you directly to the app that issued it.
8. Free iCloud. Store your calendars, mailboxes, contacts, documents and more on the internet, and have them all sync in real-time. Make a change on a Pages document on your iPad? It’ll be updated almost instantly on your Mac as well.
9. Migration Assistant for Windows users. Anything that helps people switch from PC to Mac has to be a good thing!
10. Location-aware reminders. This is so cool. If you leave yourself a reminder to buy milk on the way home from work, it will set a ‘geo-fence’ around your office and pop up when you leave.
My personal jury is out on iPad Mail’s split keyboard, which allows you to hold your iPad on the sides and type with both thumbs, and Newsstand. The latter consolidates your newspapers and magazines in one place, which is great, but they have to be publications which support in-app subscriptions, which isn’t.