Apple pulled back the curtain on day one of the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) to share details of the upcoming iOS 5 update and new iCloud service. If they deliver as promised, iOS 5 and iCloud will change mobile computing, and replace RIM as the de facto mobile platform for business.
What's the big deal? Well, users already get more done on the go with smartphones and tablets than they do sitting at their desk, and the iPhone and iPad have already been embraced by many users and IT departments, but it has still often felt like swimming upstream, or trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
The updates announced today for iOS 5, and the new features that will be offered by iCloud change all that, and will make iOS the preferred mobile platform for business.
The new features of iOS 5 are a quantum leap forward in terms of productivity. There are too many changes and new features to cover them all, but here are some of the key features that will help users work more effectively and efficiently on the go:
• iMessage - Apple's iMessage provides a more functional and secure replacement for text messaging--more like instant messaging. Coworkers will be able to message each other--including group messaging for teams or departments. They will be able to track messages, see when the other party is typing, or pick up the conversation from another device.
• Notification Center - The new Notification Center will make it more efficient to view and manage notifications. Incoming notifications are less obtrusive so they won't get in the way of productivity, but the Notification Center is just a swipe-down away no matter what app you are using.
• Improved Browser - The new Safari browser in iOS 5 will have tabbed browsing, which will make it simpler to navigate between sites. It also includes a new feature called Reading List that lets you save interesting articles or Websites to read later.
• Mail - E-mail gets an overhaul in iOS 5 as well. You will be able to use bold, italic, and underlined text, indent the content of the message, and flag messages. iOS 5 Mail will also be able to search for content within the body of messages.
• Post-PC Era - With iOS 5 the real "post-PC era" begins. iOS devices will be able to activate, stay up to date with the latest iOS releases wirelessly--without needing to be synced with a PC. iOS 5 also cuts the cord in other ways, allowing you to wirelessly sync data between your PC and your iOS device over a shared Wi-Fi connection.
Those are just a few of the features of iOS 5 that will change the way businesses use the iPhone and iPad. Now, let's look at what iCloud brings to the table.
Keeping files, e-mails, contacts, and calendars in sync across devices is easier said than done. If you update a calendar event on your iPhone, you might need to sync your iPhone to your PC, then the iPad to the PC just to get all of the devices on the same page. If you use Linux, there is no native iTunes client and syncing the iPhone with the data on the PC at all is a monumental challenge.
iCloud changes all of that. iCloud will sync your contacts, calendar, and mail between you iOS devices and your PC (although--Linux will probably still not be supported), and iCloud will also seamlessly back up your apps and data.
Of course, this is based on what Apple announced, and we'll have to wait and see how it all plays out in real life. Apple told us MobileMe was going to be revolutionary too, and that didn't turn out so well, and there could be some security concerns to consider with having all of this data flying around. But, the combination of the new and improved features of iOS 5, and the automatic syncing and backups with iCloud make iOS the platform to beat for mobile business productivity.