Apple WWDC Keynote 2011:

by PocketGoddess on June 8, 2011

Lots of great announcements here, though whether or not you’re particularly excited about anything depends on your viewpoint, of course.

OS X Lion

Since there wasn’t a live stream available, I wasn’t able to see any of the demos, but it sounds like OS X Lion will be a nice update. The new Mission Control aims to corral all of those unwieldy app windows at last, and multitouch gestures will be useful. Air Drop makes file sharing easier, and Mail is getting a major overhaul as well. Resume (for apps) and Auto Save (for documents) aren’t anywhere near as exciting, but they will certainly help even non-techie users to avoid major issues.

Even better, no CDs required–the Lion update will only be on the Mac App Store. It’s a 4GB download, but at least it won’t require you to reboot your Mac. It will be available in July for just $29, and will work with all of your authorized Macs; you won’t have to buy more than one copy of the upgrade.

iOS5

On the iOS side of things, iOS5 is the big news, and there’s a lot to be excited about–though we will have to wait until fall, when it will be available for iPhone 3GS/4, iPod Touch 3/4, and the original iPad and iPad 2. Apple focused on ten major features during the keynote:

  1. Notification Center–this looks more like the Android phones I’m used to, with less intrusive but easily accessible notifications. They’re at the top of the screen when you’re using the device, or on the lock screen if it’s off.
  2. Newsstand–automatic downloads for newspapers and magazines you’ve subscribed to on the App Store
  3. Twitter–much deeper integration than before; easily send photos, web pages, and locations to your friends
  4. Safari–finally gets tabbed browsing, plus the new Safari Reader button in the address bar that formats the article into a simpler reading view without all of the distracting extras. There’s also a new Reading List feature that saves articles you don’t have the time to read at the moment.
  5. Reminders–store lists with reminders and locations, and sync them across devices. It isn’t the full task list I would like to see, but it’s definitely a big improvement.
  6. Camera–now there’s a camera button on the lock screen, which I’m excited to see. I’ve missed plenty of shots because I couldn’t unlock my iPod Touch fast enough. You can use the volume button to take photos now, and pinch to zoom instead of using that awkward control on the edge of the screen. Photo editing is now included–basics like cropping, rotation, and red-eye reduction.
  7. Mail–rich text formatting, marking messages unread, search improvements. They also showed the dictionary, which is now integrated with the OS, instead of individual apps, so all apps can use it.
  8. Wireless Sync/OTA Updates–Apple finally cut the cord.
  9. Game Center Improvements–achievement points, friends of friends, game discovery and downloads from within the Game Center app.
  10. iMessage–an integrated messaging solution for all iOS users that includes photos and videos. Group messsaging, delivery and read receipts, with push. I’ve been using TextPlus on my iPod Touch, but this looks really nice.

iCloud

I’ll admit that I was one of the last folks to move to the cloud, but now that I have everything in Dropbox, life has gotten much easier–no more USB drives or emailing files back & forth, etc. Now Apple promises to do the same with calendar, mail, and contact sync, and it’s going to be free. Photo Stream will automatically upload all of your photos and share them among all your devices, keeping the last 1000 on your mobile devices and all of them on your Mac or PC. That will be a great timesaver for this tech writer, because I’ll no longer have to wait until I get back to my computer to sync, or go through the laborious process of emailing the screenshots for my app reviews one by one.

There will also be a new Documents in the Cloud service that works with Pages, Numbers, and Keynote–no more will we have to use that clunky interface in iTunes to add documents to our devices. Everything will be backed up to the cloud every day (via Wi-Fi only) so that if a device is lost or stolen, all of your data is safe, and you can still access it on your Mac or PC–or of course buy a new iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad and get right back to work.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the announcement for me is iTunes in the Cloud, with iTunes Match. In the “old days” you could only download a song once, but that restriction has finally been lifted. All music, apps, and iBooks purchases can be downloaded at any time, with the only restriction that they must still be available in the iTunes store. That service is already working, just go to the Updates tab in the App Store or the Purchased tab in the iTunes Store on your device. If you want the same functionality for your entire music library, including songs you’ve already ripped from your personal CD collection, the iTunes Match service will do the same thing for all of the music that is currently available in the iTunes Store.

While that won’t cover some of the most obscure bands in my collection, because they’re not all on the iTunes Store, it will certainly cover the vast majority of my music. That provides peace of mind (no more worries about hard drive failure, and juggling multiple backups) and the convenience of knowing that I’ve got access to my music even if I forget to sync a particular playlist or load a certain album before I head out the door.

If some of your music isn’t matched, such as those obscure bands I was just talking about, it will be uploaded to the cloud for you, so you’ll still have the benefit of always available music. All matched music will be upgraded to DRM-free 256Kbps AAC, and will be instantly available to you, no time-consuming upload required. That service will be $24.99, and well worth it for folks (like me) who have large libraries of music that weren’t originally purchased from iTunes.

At the moment, iOS5 and iCloud are currently running in beta, and will officially launch this fall. If you want a taste of what’s coming, go ahead and download iTunes 10.3, which adds the automatic download feature to sync purchases across all of your iOS devices.

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