Lion, iOS 5, iCloud: This Changes Everything

| Ted Landau's User Friendly View

Apple was firing on all cylinders today. It revealed more details about Mac OS X Lion (coming in July) and introduced iOS 5 and iCloud (both due this fall, probably coinciding with the release of a new iPhone). It would be hard to over-hype the significance of these announcements. These are not just minor revisions to the rulebook. It’s more like “It’s time to throw out the old rulebook and start over.”

Change

I’m not going to review every announced new feature here. If you don’t already know them, you can read more details on virtually any Mac website, including the numerous articles posted at The Mac Observer today. Instead, I’m going to focus on the three over-riding themes that emerged from today’s presentation. These are what make today’s announcements a major game-changer.

iOS invades Mac OS X Lion

As far as I can tell, Apple did not reveal any significant new features in Mac OS X Lion today beyond what it already let out of the bag back in February — although it did offer more specifics about how they will all work. Still, as I pondered the implications of what is coming, I was struck anew by how much Lion is moving in the direction of iOS. I know Apple has already stated this as their policy. Even so, it was impressive to see how virtually every new feature is an “import” from iOS.

Multi-touch gestures on a Mac trackpad come close to creating a touch-screen environment for the Mac. Apple is on the verge of doing away with interface elements such as scrollbars, asking the user to depend on swiping instead. Get ready to dump your mouse in the not-too-distant future.

Lion’s push toward full-screen viewing of apps is akin to iOS, where there is no option except for full screen apps. 

The Mac App Store is a derivative of iOS’s App Store.

Launchpad is an extension of iOS Home screens.

Lion’s AutoSave and Resume is how iOS already works in most cases.

Lion’s redesigned Mail app looks like an import of the iOS version. 

Even the delivery of Lion is more iOS-like. The new version will be available for download from the Mac App Store, rather than as a disc purchase.

This is clearly a one-direction convergence. I don’t recall one example of a new iOS 5 feature that represents an existing Mac OS X option that was moved over to the iPhone. Apple’s apparent ultimate goal is to eliminate the user awareness of the existence of a “file system” on the Mac, in much the same way this has been from Day 1 on iOS devices. There is no “Finder” for iOS. I strongly suspect that one day, the Mac OS X Finder will either similarly vanish or be a much simplified version of what we now have.

Mac OS X Lion represents only the first few chapters of this story. The final chapters will arrive in Mac OS X 10.8 and beyond. Still, Mac OS X Lion is the most significant upgrade of OS X since its initial release a decade ago. I’m not sure I view all of these changes as positive ones. I’ll know better after Lion is released. Regardless, this is where Apple is headed.

iOS 5 undercuts third-party apps

When an operating system has weaknesses and omissions (as all do), third-party apps arrive to fill in the gaps. These can become a huge success. Yet, danger lurks for developers of excellent apps. There is the ever-present blade over their heads, threatening to fall at any moment. That blade is the possibility that the OS developer (Apple in this case) may someday add the functionality of the third-party app to the OS itself. For many developers, that blade fell today with the announcement of iOS 5.

Safari’s new Reader and Reading List take the wind out of the sails of apps and services such as Instapaper and Readability. These apps (especially Instapaper) may offer enough added-value that they can continue to survive. But their value has clearly diminished.

The new Reminders app will likely put an end to most apps in the “To do list” category.

iOS 5’s spectacular-looking Notification Center will likely eliminate the need for Boxcar and similar apps.

Many third-party camera-related apps will have trouble competing with the new options in iOS 5. You’ll now be able to access the camera directly from the Lock screen and use the Volume button to snap a picture. Plus, the Photos app offers new editing features for cropping and enhancing photos.

Some people (beyond the obvious ones who develop the perhaps so-to-be extinct apps) are critical of Apple for being callous to its third-party developers via this encroachment. Personally, I don’t see it that way. I would almost always rather have useful general features included in the iOS rather than depend upon third-parties. The only exception would be if Apple’s approach was distinctly inferior. That does not appear to be the case here. Developers know that the sword is always there. When it gets ready to fall, they either have to move out of the way (e.g., find a way to remain relevant) or die. That’s the risk one takes when deciding to compete in this business.

iOS 5 cuts the cord

I saved the best for last. Apple has finally addressed several of the most notable shortcomings of iOS. They relate to the dependence of iOS devices on wired connections to a Mac. This is all about to change. Big time. Especially so with the arrival of iCloud.

PC Free and iCloud Backup

Back in February, I wrote “Before the iPad can serve as a complete alternative to a Mac or PC, Apple will need to free the iPad from its iTunes syncing requirement. Such a shift would allow the iPad to function as a true stand-alone computer.” Apple apparently heard me (or at least listened to its own good sense).

Say hello to PC Free in iOS 5. This allows iOS 5 users to “activate and set up their iOS device right out of the box with no computer required.” Further, iOS software updates will delivered wirelessly.

With iCloud Backup, you have a backup drive in the sky: “iCloud Backup automatically and securely backs up your iOS devices to iCloud daily over Wi-Fi when you charge your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Backed up content includes purchased music, apps and books, Camera Roll (photos and videos), device settings and app data.”

PC Free and iCloud Backup open the door to a much wider-acceptance of iOS devices, especially the iPad. For the first time, people can have an iPad as their only “computer” — without requiring any hook-up to a Mac.

iCloud Storage (Documents in the Cloud)

Back when the iWork for iPad apps were first released, I lamented that “file sharing via iWork apps on the iPad is a major kludge.” I explained in gory detail just how frustrating it was to deal with an inscrutable and annoying file sharing interface — especially the need to use the File Sharing section in iTunes to shuttle documents between the iPad and your Mac.

With iCloud Storage (Documents in the Cloud) these hassles are almost completely eliminated. As Apple states: “When you change a document on any device, iCloud automatically pushes the changes to all your devices.” I (hopefully) believe this includes Macs, not just other iOS devices. As a result, the file system concept almost vanishes and file sharing just happens.

I still see room for improvement here. I would especially like to be able to access a single document on an iOS device across multiple apps. But iCloud Storage is a gigantic positive move forward. I don’t dwell on the negatives.  

iTunes in the Cloud

iCloud further adds the ability to sync your music library to iCloud, even (for a $25/year fee) music you ripped yourself rather than purchased from iTunes! You can then download it to other devices. It’s not quite as versatile as being able to stream your entire library from the cloud. But, once again, it’s much better than what we have had thus far.

Wireless Mirroring

Although not highlighted in the Keynote, iOS 5 will apparently support wireless mirroring (over AirPlay) of an iOS device display. Previously you could only do this via a cable (which itself is a feature added only in the last year) or via jailbreaking. The new mirroring option removes a long standing item from my wish list, one I have covered as far back as 2009.

Bottom line

Taken together, these new features represent a huge change. Hell, each item would be huge all by itself.

I’m still absorbing the fallout from these and other new features I haven’t even mentioned. [OK, I’ll give a special shout-out to rtf support, addressing yet another item on my rapidly diminishing wish list.]

Numerous questions have begun to sprout (these Apple keynotes rarely make the messy details clear). Two examples: Can Lion’s Mac App Store upgrading adequately handle all of the situations that now depend on a disc/drive based version of the iOS? What happens to music that you store in iCloud via iTunes Matching if you don’t renew your subscription?

But these concerns are all a subject for another time, another day. For now, I am content to get in line at the Apple Store and wait for my copy of the new rulebook. Everything’s about to change. I’m ready.

Some images made with help from iStockPhoto.

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27 Comments Leave Your Own

VaughnSC

I don?t recall one example of a new iOS 5 feature that represents an existing Mac OS X option that was moved over to the iPhone.

Er, dragging addresses in Mail? Tabbed browsing? Reader? Non-modal alerts? Seems to me those count smile

Ted Landau

dragging addresses in Mail? Tabbed browsing? Reader? Non-modal alerts? Seems to me those count

Non-modal alerts would count. Good call.

The others are maybes. And certainly less significant overall than the features going in the other direction. At least to me.

geoduck

Still, Mac OS X Lion is the most significant upgrade of OS X since its initial release a decade ago.

Been hittin’ the ol’ hyperbole stash today?
I just don’t see it. I just don’t agree. It’s a nice update but most of the changes are not something that impact me. I’d even call some of them ‘cosmetic’. A few will be **nice** but I don’t see any compelling reason to fork over $30 for this one. I suspect I will just to keep my on line service (MobileMe/iCloud) free but 10.8 itself is IMO a bit of a yawner.

See my comments on this earlier article. Maybe the demo in the keynote was more exciting. But the descriptions in articles here and elsewhere left me unimpressed.

Similarly I will need a LOT more details about iCloud before I’ll be enthusiastic. Free is good but there’s no mention of web hosting. If that’s discontinued I won’t be happy.

With iCloud Backup, you have a backup drive in the sky

Some may but I don’t trust my critical stuff to the vagaries of connection. My music is on my machine and backed up to my NAS. Same with my records, my business documents, my writing, and my artwork. That’s one thing about the drop in storage space. Mostly I don’t need that much space but does the new 5Gb limit include e-mail? I have ~8Gb of e-mail going back to the beginning of mac.com. If I need to move that offline for storage they’d better tell me. Other than e-mail and a web site I don’t store much on my iDisk and can’t see storing much more on my iCloud.

Ted Landau

I just don?t see it. I just don?t agree. It?s a nice update but most of the changes are not something that impact me.

Regardless on the impact they may have on you or any other user, I still believe that Lion represents the most significant change of direction of OS X since it began. Using Lion will feel more different in everyday use than prior updates. As I said, this may not always be a good thing. But it’s a thing. smile

mlvezie

My biggest fear in the apparent MacOS / iOS convergence is the day that Apple decides to go the final step and disallow unapproved apps on MacOS. I hope that day never comes, of course, but it may.

Sooner, I think, will be when Apple allows iOS apps to run on MacOS (full screen, naturally). It’s not much of a leap. The apps and data will already be in the iCloud. Downloading and running an iOS app on MacOS is not much of a leap. I don’t think Lion will do it yet (at least not out of the box—make that app store), but that day is certainly coming.

What was amazing to me was how many of the jailbreak hacks are now mirrored in iOS 5. It’s close to making me consider not jailbreaking (however, I didn’t hear anyone mention sshd support in iOS smile).

Wireless syncing is just one more of the jailbreak hacks that Apple is adopting. True, they’re doing it right (no need for complicated configurations, it just works, and the backups don’t go to the computer, they go to the cloud).

Lancashire-Witch

“For the first time, people can have an iPad as their only ?computer? ? without requiring any hook-up to a Mac.”

To be truly “PC Free” I’m gonna need a way to set up my ADSL modem and WiFi network on my Airport Express (or other router) using my new iOS 5 iPad.

Or maybe I’ve missed something in all the reports this morning.

Ted Landau

To be truly ?PC Free? I?m gonna need a way to set up my ADSL modem and WiFi network on my Airport Express (or other router) using my new iOS 5 iPad.

Excellent point. I hadn’t thought of that. Yes, ultimately there will need to be an AirPort Utility for the iPad. I doubt that is coming in iOS 5. But I would be it is in Apple’s Reminders list.

VaughnSC

I?m gonna need a way to set up my ADSL modem and WiFi network on my Airport Express (or other router) using my new iOS 5 iPad.

Apple kit excepted, most routers can be administered and set up up with a web browser. However, this might explain reports of diminishing stock of Airports although I don’t recall it was dropping ‘across the board’ e.g ABX/AEBS/TC. Perhaps a http interface is in the cards, and an ‘Airport Utility’ for iOS is certainly doable.

geoduck

As someone pointed out on another site, all of this iCloud stuff is fantastic IF you have good broadband in your area, IF you have lots of accessible WiFi where you are, IF your Cell Provider does charge an arm and a leg for your 3G/4G data connection. For me I have WiFi everywhere I go (I put them in) but for the cell users, the cost of all this data transfer may quickly become prohibitive.

mlvezie

As someone pointed out on another site, all of this iCloud stuff is fantastic IF you have good broadband in your area,

That’s my problem. Many times when I try speedtest on my iPhone, it’s faster with 3G than wifi. But maybe that’s more to AT&T’s credit than Verizon’s blame.

webjprgm

@geoduck The only concern I would have is if iOS updates download automatically whenever they feel like it on a 3G connection.  I’m not very likely to be buying music/apps anywhere I don’t have a wifi connection, so if I do so on rare occasion my bandwidth won’t be killed by the syncing.

Most likely I’d buy some app in an airport on 3G and it would sync to other devices that are sitting at home in wifi range.  It wouldn’t sync to my laptop until I hooked up wifi at a hotel (or in airports that provide it free).  So there’d be no extra data usage at all.

Unless you have a case where family at home use the iPad and keep taking pictures that sync to your iPhone’s “Photo Stream” while you are running around town in 3G-only places.  I guess that could be a problem ... but I don’t think Apple has really dealt with multi-user situations yet, they seem to think if you need things separated you buy multiple devices and use separate Apple IDs.

Ted Landau

My biggest fear in the apparent MacOS / iOS convergence is the day that Apple decides to go the final step and disallow unapproved apps on MacOS.

We’ve all had that same fear…some less so than others. Personally, I don’t believe day will ever come. It will be sufficient for App Store to be so dominant that only very few will ever want to venture out of it.

Robbo

good broadband/cheap data plans will make this a haves/have not situation. Already in the UK my provider is going from unlimited to 20GB per month. I don’t see how Apple can make this a universally sweet experience when data caps and broadband speeds are so variable around the world. Plus the extra cost per month to get out of data caps. It all adds up….

mlvezie

Data caps (especially with 3G) can be a problem. But data speeds are only noticeable if you’re waiting for whatever it is to be uploaded/downloaded.I expect the way Apple will handle it is that as much as possible will be handled quietly in the background. So when you take a picture, in the background it’ll be quietly uploading, but won’t impact you directly. And with syncing and backups happening when you’re sleeping, that won’t impact you either.

The question then would be one of priorities. What happens if you are uploading (or downloading, for that matter) a picture in the background while you’re trying to use the net for a live purpose (like streaming a video)? If Apple does it right, then any automatic thing like uploading/downloading pictures are at a lower priority so get suspended if you really need your internet access for something.

Jamie

No doubt. I’m sure there will be issues to hammer out as we move forward, but I have to say, a lot of my own skepticism regarding iCloud and Lion was smashed to pieces. The most interesting thing to me in the keynote, though, was the larger number of women in the audience! wink If that’s not indicative of a shift, I don’t know what is, and I think it’s terrific. smile

Randy

I live in the country and have HughesNet satellite Internet. I have a Meg limit and must be very careful what and when I download. These new syncing options will put me over my limit very quickly.

mjuarez

I live in the country and have HughesNet satellite Internet. I have a Meg limit and must be very careful what and when I download. These new syncing options will put me over my limit very quickly.

Ok.  Then don’t use iCloud.  Just disable it.  It sucks that your Internet connection is capped by the MB (seriously, wow), but that’s not Apple’s problem.

VaughnSC

I’m pretty sure they’ll still ship a USB data cable in the box and you will still be able to manage your data the ‘old-fangled way.’

Lee Dronick

Similarly I will need a LOT more details about iCloud before I?ll be enthusiastic. Free is good but there?s no mention of web hosting. If that?s discontinued I won?t be happy.

I am willing to bet that there will be something in iCloud for that, but we will have to wait and see. If I remember correctly MobileMe was $99 a year for a single user and we have a family pack. I also have some websites hosted elsewhere and that costs $8 a month, the host also has $6 and $3 plans; I think that the later versions of iWeb let you up load to someplace other than MobileMe, but I may wrong about that and you may have to FTP the files.

I gotta go to bed soon, 4:00 AM comes early.

archimedes

I don?t recall one example of a new iOS 5 feature that represents an existing Mac OS X option that was moved over to the iPhone.

Er, dragging addresses in Mail? Tabbed browsing? Reader? Non-modal alerts? Seems to me those count

Don’t forget the biggest one - actually being able to create (and delete) new mail folders! (And calendars, for that matter.)

Ted, what are the major features of OS X that you would like to see on iOS?

anovelli

By far the biggest news and immediate usability is the autosave system wide in Lion (and to a lesser extent, the version control). No longer tethered to the astonishing losses of data that still occur with MS products. Bravo.

archimedes

The most interesting thing to me in the keynote, though, was the larger number of women in the audience!  If that?s not indicative of a shift, I don?t know what is, and I think it?s terrific.

Hopefully they were developers and not press people. Last time I went to WWDC it was so mobbed with press (who got to go in while everyone else was waiting in line) that most actual developers had to watch the keynote on video from overflow rooms. This was quite different from just a few years ago, when it was mostly developers in the room.

It’s Apple’s fault, of course, for turning WWDC into such a large media event. On the other hand, the more press Apple gets, the more people buy Macs, iOS devices and Apps, so I guess it works out OK in the end. But I saw a lot of unhappy developers who had gotten in line early in the morning hoping to see the keynote in person. Fortunately the actual technical sessions were generally easy to get into, and featured microphones so you could ask questions directly to the presenters.

toefats

I assume there is a mistake the comment about “full screen”. How could “full screen” viewing of apps make sense on a 27 inch screen.  Or two screens? Perhaps I misunderstand the comment.

wab95

Ted:

Nice roundup, many thanks.

The take on Apple’s keynote from Europe has, overall, been positive to the extent that I have seen, with one notable exception.

BBC in it’s business roundup the day following the keynote covered the iCloud service, but rather dismissed it as nothing really new, and essentially Apple just catching up to the likes of Amazon and Google for fear of being left behind. I don’t know who does their tech reviews, but they could use some context.

Given that Apple’s user base, globally, is heavily slanted towards the iOS, it makes strategic sense for them to port iOs-like features to the Mac, as the majority of users will already have some familiarity and comfort with these, which in turn can’t hurt Mac sales.

Geoduck: as sub-novel as some of these features might appear at first blush, I think the shift has been deceptively techtonic. The real effects, not unlike those of the iPad, will have to be experienced to be appreciated.

Ted Landau

Ted, what are the major features of OS X that you would like to see on iOS?

It’s not so much what I want, as recognizing Apple’s “philosophical” position and how it is being implemented.

In some alternate universe, it would be possible to read the following PR:

“Apple continues to stretch the boundaries of iOS, transitioning more and more OS X-like features. In iOS 5, there will be a new Finder app. It will allow you to access the full file system on the iPhone, including the System and Library files.

Also for the first time, there will be a central location where documents can be stored for sharing. No longer will you have to assign a document to a specific app and have it be sandboxed just within that app.

We are also adding a Dashboard feature that will allow users to run widget apps without exiting the main app. Developers will have a new set of APIs for creating these widgets.

...”

And so on and so on. I’m not saying all of these changes would be for the better. I’m just saying that this is a philosophical direction that Apple could have chosen to go. Instead, it chose to go the other way. Not a surprise. Apple clearly prefers the tighter control iOS affords them.

My guess is that it will work out well. But the Macs of old are on their way out. It’s all part of the Post-PC era transition.

Kmann

I wish I could find more clarity on iCloud syncing… is there any certainty—beyond the blanket statement that a file in the cloud is the same as a file on the device—that we will be able to work back and forth with the cloud copy, rather than a local copy that has to be manually replaced at each revision—as is the case with current Apple cloud offerings?

Ted Landau

To be truly ?PC Free? I?m gonna need a way to set up my ADSL modem and WiFi network on my Airport Express (or other router) using my new iOS 5 iPad.

Great news. As noted on ars technica, AirPort setup is included as part of iOS 5.

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