Monday, June 06, 2011

Apple's WWDC Keynote

Apple started their World Wide Developer's Conference today and in the Keynote announced new features. It was split into three parts, Mac, iOS and iCloud.

OS X Lion

We knew 10.7 will be called Lion and most of the features shown. Most of them seem to be solving problems I don't have. The one thing I saw that I have been wanting is a double tap gesture to auto-zoom on a page. iOS has gotten me used to that. And I see OS X finally gets a Windows feature, "You can now resize a window from any side or corner."

I'm good with using a lot of apps and switching between them effectively (I hide apps with Command-H and several Quicksilver triggers), so Mission Control isn't that interesting to me. I think I have too many apps for Launchpad though maybe that's a problem in and of itself. I also don't particularly care about full screen app support. I tend to like having multiple things up and like being able to share stuff between apps easily (something iOS is not yet good at). Though this is probably more important to notebook users with small screens.

The resume feature for apps sounds nice at first, and it might be nice for system reboots to bring everything back the way it was. But now I'll have to remember to close a document before quitting the app if I don't want to see it when I reopen the app (for a new document). A new version of Mail I can't get particularly excited about, even though it's an app I use all the time. I didn't find the search dialog box particularly difficult to use. One thing I think I will miss is scroll bars. I like some on-screen indication of where in a document I am.

AirDrop is cute way to share files with others, but it's limited to mac-to-mac only and only if they are nearby. There are other working solutions for this already. Auto-save is a good addition, but hasn't been a problem for me. I'm curious as to how various apps will integrate versioning. What does it mean for say iPhoto or Garage Band? And how does it differ from and integrate with Time Machine? I'm guess, much like MS Office apps, they are now storing deltas of previous versions in the doc file and the UI is just borrowed from Time Machine. Not bad but highlighting diffs would be a nice addition. They say "When you share a document — through email, iChat, or AirDrop, for instance — only the current version is sent; all other versions remain on your Mac." This is good to avoid the publishing a document with old edits problem that seems to all to often affect government officials. But how does this work? What if I ftp the file via Cyberduck, are the versions stripped out?

The Mac App Store additions seem nice but they haven't solved the problem of making me rebuy all the apps I have. They described iTunes Match in the iCloud section and if they can do that for music, they should be able to do that for my apps. Also they say Lion will be available from the App Store exclusively. My sister is still running Leopard, which doesn't have the app store, how is she supposed to upgrade?

Still $30 for Lion is crazy cheap. Apple seems to be devaluing software, even as they create some of the best around.

iOS 5

I'm a bit more interested in the changes in iOS 5. The notification center is a nice update as the current notification system is annoying.

The Safari changes look very nice. I've missed Reader on the iPad and it will be great on the iPhone.
I think tabs will be much easier than the thumbnail model that exists now. Reading List looks pretty nice and it might supplant Instapaper (at least for mac users). I have been looking for an easy way to move stuff from the desktop to the iPad and back again (it's nicer to read something long on the iPad sitting in a comfy chair). Instapaper can mostly do this but I tend to put stuff in there and forget about it. Reading List (particularly with the iCloud stuff might be easier.

The Camera additions are very welcome. I've been annoyed at how long it takes me to get the camera ready for a picture, and I have it on my bottom apps tray. The Camera button on the lock screen is great. I'm also glad they stole using the volume up button as a shutter from a Camera app they previously banned from the app store for doing so. Between grid lines, focus and exposure settings, and simple editing features, it looks like there's no need for Camera+ now (though I suspect Camera+ is a little nicer on all of these features).

iMessage is a new messaging system that lets you send messages to other iOS users. iPads and iPod Touches aren't phones so they can't send SMS messages and this lets them do so. Though it's not really sms, it just arrives in the same Messages app, so you have to know what device your recipient has.

Reminders is either going to be very good or another Notes app (which is to say very bad). There are lots of task managers (aka todo list apps) in the app store though none is really great. The Hit List is one that's about to come out that I'm very interested in (I've been beta testing it). Reminders could kill this market segment but I'm guessing not. Todo's look limited. There are no mentions of repeats, priorities, due dates, or attachments. The locations feature sounds cool, but I'm not sure how useful it will be in real life.

Twitter integration is kinda interesting. On the one hand, since many different apps allow ubiquitous features like "send email" or "view in safari" so "tweet this" seems like a similarly useful thing. Though I'd think share on Facebook would be more useful for more people. I'd really want it to support multiple accounts and I suspect every reviewer would want to as well (since they probably tweet to both work and personal accounts).

I suspect the PC Free stuff for the iPad will be a big deal. The iPad can now really be the computer for your grandparents. Since I do have a computer, Wi-Fi sync will be really nice.

The system-wide built-in dictionary looks quite nice as does the new split keyboard for thumb typing on the iPad.

I know publishers are very excited about Newsstand. I don't know if people will browse it the same way they do physical ones, but maybe it will help.


The big new announcement was iCloud. This is their new cloud service that replaces MobileMe. Most of it is expected but there are a few details I'm not sure of. First off it syncs contacts, mail and calendar events, between all your devices. It also syncs your apps, books, and device settings. Apparently there's real wireless backup to the cloud of your whole device. There are APIs available so third party apps can make use of this.

It also syncs your photos. Take a picture with an iPhone and it's automatically (and immediately) uploaded and pushed to your other devices. It will probably be on your iPad when you pick it up. That's pretty slick. They will store in the cloud the the last 1,000 photos for up to 30 days. They display in iPhoto or the iOS Photos app as just another stream, like albums and camera roll and events. If you want to keep them longer, just drag them to a new album. Apple TV can even display photos in iCloud. Slick. So they do appear on the devices easily but you do have to remember to copy them to some place if you want them for more than 30 days.

For music, it's a little easier. Buy a song from iTunes on any device and it's pushed to iTunes on all your devices. I assume this is configurable so you don't run out of space on your iPhone. But the "one more thing" is for songs you've ripped from CD or obtained some other way. Since the iTunes Store has 18 million songs, they can just compare the metadata of the songs you have in iTunes, find out what you have and push those songs to your other devices. Unlike with photos (or Amazon's and Google's music cloud service), there's no need to upload the original. That's a big win, though it is subject to piracy. If people have illegal copies this could launder them into legal ones, so this costs $25/year. It's not clear what happens after a year. Do versions you've downloaded get deleted from all your devices? Their wording is a little cagy. I think what happens is you don't download copies of the songs (which would be amnesty) but you get to stream your music from iTunes Match. So after a year you no longer can stream. Thats not so bad. I already copy via wired sync any songs I want to my device (I have about 6000 songs I've ripped from my CDs legally) so once they're there, they're there. Now (for $25/year) I can listen to any song I own even if I forgot to sync it from wherever I am, provided I have an Apple device with me, which is likely and have an Internet connection which is less likely but still reasonable.

The last service is Documents in the cloud which solves the problem of getting Pages, Numbers and Keynote documents to and from your iOS device. They just sync wirelessly as they autosave every change you make. What's not clear to me is if it makes it to the mac. Jobs said between all iOS devices but then said the APIs work to macs and PC too. But I'm not sure if that's for files or just key-value data. If it's with files, where on the file system are the files stored? Is there a new iCloud folder like with Dropbox? The iCloud web page isn't explicit about it. It also doesn't mention PDFs which typically goes to iBooks and not Pages.

They also didn't mention anything about the service. I'm sure some people won't be happy with another online store of all their data. Do they encrypt it? After the recent breakins and congressional hearings I hope so. Is the traffic encrypted? I suspect not. Will Anthony Weiner be happy with the 1000 pictures he's taken being automatically sent to and saved in the cloud?

Perhaps the most amazing thing about iCloud is that it's free (aside from iTunes Match). I suppose there are limits. They say you get 5GB of storage but they don't count music, books and apps(reasonable since they're for the most part just storing metadata) or photos (ok, that's pretty impressive). Still 5GB isn't that much for some people's email. They'll probably offer more storage for a fee.


First off, it was good to Steve Jobs on stage as he's still on medical leave. He did look frailer than I've seen him before.

The twitter integration seems a little odd to me. I don't see the big benefit in having it in the OS, not when virtually any app that would make use of it already has some integration. They mentioned getting profile images from an online twitter account, it would seem to me that Facebook would have been the more logical thing to bake into the system. I suspect they couldn't come to agreement.

Mail's new preview feature is still mentioning getting photos from Address Book. Since it now syncs with iCloud and Game Center is getting improved, and they have Facetime and now Messaging between Apple devices, how long until Apple does a real social network system?

Jobs also said about iCloud that there are no ads. He said we also use the apps we write and we don't like ads. Nice shot at Google, though one wonders what a pure software vender, who doesn't make money from hardware margins is supposed to do, particularly when Apple is only charging $10 for a word processor and $30 for an operating system.

I'm amazed at the deals Apple makes with media companies. They manage to convince them to be nice to their customers (which should be obvious but isn't). I assume it's Steve that does this and if Apple were to lose him I think that would be a bigger loss than his design ideals.

In the last six years I've been Apple products, I'm consistently amazed at how well the build off of what they've built before. They make mistakes, Jobs even joked about MobileMe today. But their APIs are pretty clean and grow more useful each year. They added Spotlight and now Mail is getting really interesting search features that makes suggestions based on parts of what you type and guesses the types of terms. Type "Pa" and it starts guessing Paul knows that's a contact and you'd be looking for that in a From or To field. Type "Mar" and it guess March 2011 and knowns that a date. I wonder if this is exposed in APIs for other apps to make use of. The CoreData API is used for storage by apps (and is an object-relational mapping) but the Time Machine added backup features to it and now their versioning and autosave features are built into it for all apps to benefit from. It's really nice and consistent evolution of the whole system.

Furthermore, they do a great job learning from and borrowing ideas from all their products. As more mac features make it to iOS, some of the touch and UI stuff from iOS is making it back to the Mac now. Apple usually likes trying things out before standardizing and making them public for developers so now they're doing so across all their products. As opposed to Microsoft where I suspect Windows, Windows Mobile, and Xbox folks never talk to each other, let alone with the folks who develop their apps for OS X (well is it more than Office yet?).

There were two things I was kind of expecting that got no mention. There were no new voice recognition features. I do notice their new Apple Care support line has a very use voice recognition system. You just talk to it and it understand. It's faster than any voice menu system I've used but I hope the Siri acquisition makes it to the products and not just the support center. Also there were rumors of an update to Time Capsule so that it acted like a cache to the cloud service. I'm not sure that makes sense yet and I suspect there will still be an update to it (there were product shortages which usually indicates such) but I doubt there will be iCloud integration. Maybe Time Machine will store some backup data in the cloud which would be great for off-site backups but would need more than 5GB.

So what did you think? What did I miss?


The Dad said...

As I mentioned to you earlier today I'm suddenly intrigued by the full mirroring of the iPad screen onto the TV via the AppleTV. I actually already use AirPlay quite a bit, to display YouTubes and photos. But this extends it to Games, and before too long I bet will turn the iPhone into a Wii like controller.

I'm also curious to know if iMessage will allow me to message between my own devices somehow. Our house has 2 iPads, one iPhone 3GS, and one iTouch. They are all registered under my iTunes account although one Pad belongs to my wife and the Touch is my daughter's. Will I be able to message her?

And lastly, will ios5 allow me to customize the keyboard? I hate not having then apostrophe on the main set of keys. Although as I say this I just experimented and discovered if I click and hold the exclamation point I get an apostrophe in the popup. Nice.

Howard said...

Messaging should work, provided it's a newer iTouch. They should all be registered under their own iTunes accounts. Because when you want to talk to your wife, you don't want to talk to your kid. I'm pretty sure they have special accounts for kids so you can monitor it.

The Dad said...

Maybe I'm thinking about it the wrong way, but having separate iTunes accountsmseems likemitmgoes against the whole cloud concept. It might make sense for the kid to have her own, but if I take a photo I want it on my devices and my wife's. Same is true for music and docs. Can't do that with separate iTunes accounts can you?

I'm not familiar with having an itms account you can monitor, except that youmcan make it "gift card only" and not tied to a credit card.