This fall Apple will do battle in the cloud with Google, move further into the so-called post-PC world, and take a shot at one of Research In Motion's most prized BlackBerry features. Apple unveiled its software plans for the future with its introduction of the next versions of OS X, iOS and its new online sync service, iCloud. The three new products will work together to store your data online and make it available to your iOS devices and your PC for free, with the exception of non-iTunes music downloads. But that's not all Apple introduced, the company also took a shot at some popular iOS apps and made an interesting choice for baked in social networking integration in iOS 5.
If you want to catch up and find out what's new from Apple, check out PCWorld's rundown of OS X 10.7 "Lion," iOS 5 and iCloud. But here's a look at five interesting things off the top of my mind about Apple's iOS 5 and iCloud.
Battle for the cloud
Both Apple and Google now have online storage strategies in place to duke it out in the mobile device space with Android and Chrome OS taking on iOS devices. But as blogger John Gruber pointed out, each company has a slightly different approach to the so-called "cloud." Android has a native app solution, but Google wants to push the Web as the primary development platform with tools such as Chrome OS and the Chrome Web store. Apple, meanwhile, is focused on downloadable apps that connect to the Web individually, although iOS also supports Web apps. Which strategy do you prefer?
Was Twitter supposed to be Facebook?
Apple is integrating Twitter functionality into iOS 5, but I can't help wondering if Twitter was Apple's second choice. The Twitter contacts integration feature in iOS 5 left me wondering. With iOS 5 you can integrate your friends' Twitter handles into their contact information for quick access to their Twitter ID. That's a nice feature, but Twitter is really more about connecting with like-minded people you don't know as opposed to connecting with friends. Facebook, however, is an ideal social network for storing contact information in your address book since you're more likely to have a personal relationship with Facebook friends compared with Twitter followers. In fact, the Facebook iPhone app already offers functionality that integrates your Facebook friends with your iOS contacts.
There were rumors in April 2010 about Facebook integration coming to iOS 4, but that didn't pan out. We also know Apple had problems dealing with Facebook over Ping, the music-based social network in iTunes Apple introduced in late 2010. So I have to wonder if Apple originally hoped to integrate Facebook into iOS, but went with Twitter after talks with Facebook soured. That's just speculation, but with about 600 million Facebook users in the world, wouldn't Facebook integration have made more sense?
Are we post-PC yet?
When Apple introduced the iPad 2 the company kept calling its slate a "post-PC device." But that didn't make much sense since you needed a PC to activate the iPad in the first place. Now, however, Apple has cut the cord between iOS and your PC. This means you could actually buy an iPad and forego getting a PC, right? Maybe, but the iPad still isn't that great at switching between tasks such as moving between a word processing document and a Web page. The iPad is closer than before to being a PC replacement, but I doubt the iPad is ready to become most users' full-time device.
Apple eats apps
Apple is also sending an interesting message to developers with iOS 5: if your app becomes popular, we might try to kill you by integrating similar functionality into the OS. With iOS 5's Reminders app, the company is going after popular To Do list apps such as Remember the Milk, 2DO and Priorities. Safari Reader and Reading List could upend Instapaper and Readability. The new camera could mean the end of Camera+ and QuickPix. Apple's iCloud goes after Dropbox and iMessage could replace apps such as Whatsapp and GroupMe.
To be fair, many of these features make a lot of sense integrated into the OS such as improving the camera, iCloud storage and iMessage. But Safari's Reader and Reminders, I'm not so sure about. Will these new features upset developers? It's hard to say, but some are taking the news in stride. Marco Arment, the developer of Instapaper, believes Reading List could actually help his business. "If Reading List gets widely adopted," Arment said on his blog. "...A portion of those people will be interested in upgrading to a dedicated, deluxe app...And they'll quickly find Instapaper in the App Store."
Another stab at RIM
Whenever I ask BlackBerry users why they still stick with RIM devices over an Android device or iPhone, they usually point to one reason for sticking with RIM: BlackBerry Messenger. BBM is a messaging client that allows you to communicate with any other Blackberry user around the world, similar to Apple's recently announced iMessage. Some critics are pointing to iMessage as a possible BBM killer that may push BlackBerry even further into obsolescence, at least for the consumer market. But then again apps such as Whatsapp already bring BBM-like functionality to non-BlackBerry smartphones and that hasn't killed BBM. However, none of those apps have been built into the OS like iMessage, which may make it easier for BlackBerry users to switch.
Apple's new features for iOS 5 and iCloud are due out in the fall, but the company has yet to announce an official launch date.