There may be no new iPhone at next week’s Apple WWDC but there’ll be more important things to set the heart racing, says Seb Janacek.
On 6 June, two things are relatively certain. First, Steve Jobs will take the wraps off the future of Mac OS X and iOS. The company has also revealed that Jobs will be introducing something called iCloud, which could either be the new version of the recently withdrawn MobileMe web services, some kind of digital media-streaming service, both or neither.
Secondly, in a break from tradition, or at least a three-year-old trend, the company won’t be taking the wraps off a new iPhone as it has in every WWDC since 2008.
Lion, iOS 5 and iCloud launches
Apple has already stated that Jobs is returning from his temporary sick leave to unveil Lion – the eighth major release of Mac OS X, iOS 5 – the next version of Apple’s advanced mobile operating system, and iCloud.
The host of new features for Lion already revealed by Apple at last year’s Back to the Mac event make it the most significant overhaul of Mac OS X for years.
The Back to the Mac idea was an intriguing concept for the conference. Rather than announce shiny new stuff, they unveiled a shiny new philosophy: greater integration between old and new by taking some of the interface and presentational innovations of the iOS devices back to the Mac OS. I’d expect to see more of this at WWDC.
Likewise, with iOS 5, the expectation is that there’ll be a host of new features and enhancements that will make an already usable and refreshing mobile platform more so. Notifications could receive an update, as could integration between native apps and social media APIs, as well as improvements to multitasking.
All worthy stuff that will no doubt improve the user experience considerably, but evolution rather than revolution you have to suspect.
The arrival of the iCloud
It’s iCloud, the third item on the list of announcements, that’s most interesting. It’s also intriguing that Apple chose to announce the name of a currently unreleased or unannounced product – if anyone can think of a previous example in Jobsian times then please leave a comment below.
The arrival of the iCloud, the existence of Apple’s vast North Carolina datacentre and Apple’s half-hearted attempt at cloud computing has long been the chief grist to the rumour mill for the Apple faithful in recent years.
I’ve owned MobileMe, or .Mac as it was previously known, since it was launched and by and large I’ve stuck with it.
It wasn’t ever that reliable. The file storage and synchronisation of the free Dropbox is more reliable and quicker than…
…the bundled iDisk and it’s arguable that Gmail is more fully featured than Apple’s own webmail application.
Yet there was some sort of coherence to the whole suite that made it easier to work in a largely integrated way with your media, devices and contacts but it wasn’t quite good enough. There was always a lot of room for improvement and I’m hoping to see that room filled on 6 June.
So what of the lack of iPhone? Some reports have claimed the terrible earthquake in Japan in March resulted in component supply problems.
No need to stick to iPhone launch cycle
Others have suggested the company may have simply chosen to break with the summer release-date cycle.
Alternatively, the stuff due for the big reveal on Monday may simply be strong enough to stand by itself without needing to be launched in conjunction with a handheld slab of metal and glass.
In a recent column, silicon.com senior reporter Natasha Lomas wrote that the so-called iPhone 5 rumours had failed to excite. There may be a theoretical point beyond which even Apple and top manufacturers can continue to produce devices that thrill on a hardware level.
“More DPI, you say? And more megapixels in the camera, too? What are we up to – 14 megapixels? Well, well. Fancy that.”
I’m certainly not the first to suggest Apple has a software announcement that’s set to thrill. If it’s the case, then this keynote may prove one of the most exciting for years for owners of various Apple products. Perhaps those hardware devices are not so different after all if they can be linked seamlessly through software and web and made more useful.
Apple’s future software integration
At a time when Microsoft is having to retract statements its CEO Steve Ballmer has made about Windows 8, Apple is poised to reveal the future of software and integration across its whole suite of products.
Shiny software is sexier than shiny hardware in my book. Expect to see a coherent roadmap with greater support for the increasing developer community gathering behind Apple.
Apple is a company that already boasts superior user experience through seamless hardware and software on each device. It may be about to break down the barriers across multiple devices and platforms and increase the opportunity to do more useful, clever and unspeakably neat things across those devices.
Cloud-based storage, cloud-based media, cloud-based integration, greater integration between iOS and Mac OS X – towards an integrated platform for all Apple devices. No new iPhone you say? Who cares?