The huge popularity of Apple’s iPhone and iPad clearly point the way to an increasingly wireless and post-PC era and Monday’s keynote promised some welcome developments.
Wireless syncing for one was long overdue. As our home’s one-man IT department, syncing up the iPods, Touches and iPads that have proliferated in our household through my iMac-cum-media hub was becoming a chore. The ability to have all our apps, music, photos, calendars and contacts synced through iCloud will make managing our digital life so much easier and enjoyable. In fact, you will no longer need a Mac at all to activate and start using an iPhone or iPad.
If you have iTunes 10.3 installed, you can already see iCloud in action. New iTunes purchases are automatically synced to all your Apple devices and a new Purchased option shows all the apps or music you’ve ever bought from iTunes and indicates which ones are not on the device you’re using. On your iPad and desperately want to listen to that Lady Gaga album that’s on your iPhone? Just click and iCloud will download it to your iPad.
The full Fall release of iCloud will documents, books and other data between your iPad and desktop and in doing so will make the iPad a much more compelling work device for many people as well as an additional backup and sharing option.
iCloud will also offer iTunes Match – a $24.99 a year service that will mirror up to 20,000 tracks in your iTunes library (not just iTunes purchases) and allow you to stream it anywhere, anytime. Unlike Amazon’s Cloud Player or Google’s Music Beta, you do not have to spend days uploading your music library so all that data will not be counted against your free 5GB of iCloud storage. It remains to be seen if Apple’s service – like Amazon and Google – is US-only and not available to Bermuda users without using a proxy server.
Apple stopped short of offering a Rhapsody or Napster-style subscription service that would enable you to stream virtually any music, but I would not be surprised to see them roll out something along those lines at some point – especially if and when the hugely popular Spotify becomes available in the US.
Among the hundreds of other new iOS features that caught my eye were AirPlay Mirroring for iPad2 and Message. AirPlay will enable you to wirelessly mirror the content of your iPad onto an HDTV via Apple TV. It didn’t get much coverage at the keynote but it strikes me this has huge potential for schools as well as anyone giving presentations or product demos. It would also seem a short step from here to put apps on Apple TV. Again, it wouldn’t surprise me to see something announced within the next 12 months.
iMessage, which promises free, unlimited multimedia messaging between iOS devices, has been heralded as a Blackberry killer as it directly threatens the wildly popular Blackberry Messenger service. Maybe in other markets but I’m not so sure about Bermuda yet. Blackberry remains the communications weapon of choice for most business people here and I don’t see the legion of younger BBM users breaking their contracts at a $500 premium to rush out and buy iPhones – especially given the price of the devices here (still an eye-watering $799 for a 16GB iPhone4 with contract!).
Another interesting aspect of the keynote was just how many new iOS features – Reading List, photo editing, Newstand magazine subscriptions, Notifier – will impact integrated popular existing third-party apps like Instapaper, Remember the Milk and Camera+. If I was a developer I’d think twice about coming up with a killer app knowing that Apple was not only going to take a 30% revenue cut but then basically steal my idea. I’m sure more than a few consumers are also feeling a little cheated if they’ve spent a lot of money buying apps that will now be baked in free with iOS.
And one final thought. As we rely more and more on “the cloud” to host and serve up our apps, entertainment and so on, will Bermuda’s consumers finally get the message and demand better service from our ISPs and mobile carriers? Cloud computing depends on fast and reliable connections and Bermuda’s so-called broadband speeds are laughable by international standards while 3G data service is often mediocre at best. But carriers won’t provide faster services unless there is a demand and until there is, cloud computing may not have a silver lining for local users. And if and when those services are up to speed and increasing number of users start downloading movies and more, chances are those “unlimited data plans” will be replaced by data caps. Visit the excellent tech.rdis.bm for more on these issues.
Last but not least, Lion, the new Mac OSX operating system will be available in July as a $29.99 download from the Mac App store only. With features like Mission Control, Launchpad, and Multitouch gestures, it looks like an impressive leap forward. For a full review, see this Business Insider link.