Jun 062011
 

The aftermath of an Apple keynote is always one of my favorite times. People who were left to livestreams for their real-time fix get to go to apple.com to watch the keynote in its entirety and comb through everything that was announced. And this year, it was a lot.

The keynote was broken into Lion, iOS 5 and iCloud sections, with most of the intrigue involving the final two. Here is my list of major surprises from those last two sections, categorized very scientifically by how far I think Cupertino pushed the envelope.

Meh

Reminders

Maybe I’m spoiled because I rock OmniFocus on all my OS’s, but the iOS to-do list announcement is a yawner when compared to the top 10 3rd party to-do apps. I do like the option to notify you either when you enter or leave a specific location, but that’s a trifling variation on OmniGroup’s current offering. It’s not a bad app, but by no means close best in class.

 

Catching Up
Apple appears to play catch-up with some of it’s offerings because it doesn’t rush them into existence to respond to another platform’s feature set. If the clamor is loud enough that the feature is implemented, it’s a good bet that their offerings will be roundly better than their competitors’.

-Wireless sync & update

Wipe those smirks off your faces, Fandroids: Apple has implemented OTA syncing and updates. As you’d expect, its implementation is superior to anything out there. Syncs now take place wirelessly. Better still, if you take a virgin iOS device, input your iTunes Store credentials and you’ll have all your apps and accounts restored from its most recent backup – all wirelessly.  Oh – and they’ll be available the same day they’re released, not 6 months later or whenever your carrier and/or manufacturer feels like getting off its ass.

Notification Center

While the iOS notification system does bear a passing resemblance to Android’s (pull down to access), you can rest assured that it will be more smoothly integrated into the OS. For one thing, it won’t have to compete with manufacturer UIs like “Blur” and “Sense”. Regardless of what Andy Rubin wants you to think about Google seizing in the reins of the Android experience, manufacturers still get their way with the OS. Apple’s implementations of Notifications exemplify the advantages of having such a vertically integrated platform.

Safari

Tabs are a welcome addition that puts the default browser on par with the best of the 3rd party options. The iOS implementation of Reader and the Instapaper-like Reading List finally push Safari ahead of the pack.

Camera access

A feature that has become to a basic piece of smartphone functionality. Now if they could get the camera to take better action shots, there would be more of a reason to use it.

 

Taking Names
Taking the notion of “catching up” to the next level, Apple usually has some announcements that thoroughly bury something analogous on a competing platform. This WWDC was no exception.

iMessage

If you were listening closely when Scott Forstall announced the iOS messaging service that will not only allow users to send encrypted text, pictures and videos for free, but will sync their messaging status across all iOS devices, you could hear RIM’s co-CEOs soiling themselves as their BBM advantage evaporated.

iTunes in the Cloud

Anyone who had been following Apple for the last month knew that when the rumors of label negotiation were filling the intertubes, it meant their music offering would be superior to Amazon’s or Google’s. As we heard from Jobs today, iTunes in the Cloud will not only sync all of your iTunes-purchased music across your Mac and iOS devices, for $25 a year it’ll provide you with superiorly-encoded versions of all the music you own, regardless of where you got it from. My only potential beef – based on the fact that I haven’t seen it explicitly confirmed or denied – is with iTunes Match. I can see the logic of appeasing the labels by only allowing an initial pass through your music collection otherwise you could just steal…errr..”rip” all your music in the future and have the legit copy provided by Apple. It does take away the appeal of such a service, however, especially one you have to pay for annually.

 

Breaking Ground
Apple usually keeps the best for last. These are the things that have no current equal on other platforms and will give Apple a huge advantage over the competition indefinitely.

iCloud

TMA once had a dream of “ubiquitous content” – having media available on any Apple device regardless of your location. While it’s not the full-blown nerdgasm of my dreams, Apple’s announcements today come damn close. With iOS 5, Lion and iCloud, Music, Photos, Apps, Documents, Books, Contacts, Mail, and Calendars stay synced (to the degree you want them) across all of the Macs and iOS devices under your account. All for free. It will be a tectonic shift in the way we manage our information and media.

Newsstand

While it didn’t initially jump out at me as a major feature, this is another app that really doesn’t have an equal. Amazon has Kindle, but its magazine availability is constrained by its eInk medium. The closest thing currently available on iOS, Zinio, is basically a static run-off of their paper counterparts. Although not the biggest of Apple’s announcements, Newsstand represents the most comprehensive opportunity for magazine publishers to migrate their offerings.

Apple’s announcements at this year’s WWDC were the most important in recent memory, setting the stage for the company to maintain their mobile device dominance while significantly advancing the usability and iOS integration of OS X.

 Posted by at 8:39 pm
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