WWDC Keynote

I didn’t predict so much as wish for stuff this year. Here’s how Apple did:

  • Using Twitter integration to afford a unified message interface. No. While Twitter integration is nice, all they’ve done is made doing stuff with Twitter a little bit slicker. In fact, Apple has actually made things worse in some respects.
  • iCloud digital locker for content purchased from iTunes moving forward. Yes.
  • iCloud streams to all Macs and iOS devices. Yes. (But no video.)
  • AppleTV allows purchases which become available immediately via iCloud. No.
  • iCloud digital locker for content purchased from iTunes in the past (or with a small added fee). Yes.
  • iCloud digital locker that (say) identifies tracks you’ve ripped, or your CD or DVD, and offers to sell you a digital/streaming version at a discount. Yes. ($25/year, music only.)
  • iCloud as an alternative to DropBox. Yes, unless you need Windows support.
  • iCloud to provide streaming backups for Time Machine. Yes, but not exactly.
  • iCloud as a replacement for MobileMe. Yes.
  • Gaming on TVs via AirPlay and AppleTV using iOS devices as controllers. Yes on iPad2 and presumably an as-yet-unannounced A5-based iPhone.
  • Apps on AppleTV (or its successor) via iOS5. No, keep dreaming.
  • Gaming on AppleTV using iOS devices as controllers. No, keep dreaming.
  • From left field: iCloud acts as virtual DVR based on content Apple can establish you have access to — actually that sounds like a really great idea; e.g. if you can prove you have basic cable and thus receive CBS, Apple gives you access to a streamable version of the Mentalist the day after it airs. Even better, Apple simply negotiates TV rights as if it were a new cable provider and makes everything available on demand. No, but I still think it’s a brilliant idea for a third party.

I should note that iCloud is free to iOS5 and 10.7 users for 5GB of online storage, $25/year for unlimited music storage via iTunes match. No word on pricing for added data not for music. And, again, no word on video.

Of course Apple delivered a ton of stuff I didn’t get to, especially on iOS. (Making predictions about Lion would have been easy and a violation of the NDA we’re all subject to.)

  • Improved notifications. Obvious, but also a two-edged sword. (The problem with having a “good notification system” is that everyone overuses it and it becomes noise.)
  • Reminders with geotagging (so you can remind yourself to buy milk when you go to the store vs. at 5pm when you won’t necessarily be at the store). Very, very cool.
  • Over-the-air-everything. Activate your device in the store, sync to iCloud, wireless sync to desktop.
  • Newstand. So that maybe I won’t rely on every damn magazine to implement a decent download interface.
  • iMessage. Noooooooooooo!!! Great, so now there’s yet another freaking place to check messages. This is the opposite of what Apple should be doing. Oh yeah, and it’s iOS-specific.
  • Mail inbox in portrait mode (iPad only).
  • Instant Camera Access with volume button as shutter release.

Unified Messaging. Not.

You could argue that the improved notification system will act as a unified messaging system but in fact it won’t for two important reasons.

First, all kinds of things will generate noise in it (Game Center?) and unless you set your preferences carefully it will probably become Just Another Annoying Thing. I hope that it will be great but the proof will be in the pudding.

Second, at best it only unifies incoming messages. What about outgoing? What if I want to phone someone who just texted me? Or text someone who just left me voicemail (“In a meeting, ttyl”)?

Meanwhile Apple has added iMessage, a new proprietary messaging app that’s kind of like Twitter and SMS and IM but not and different and iOS specific. WTF? Is this the next product from the Ping team? (On The Talk Show, Gruber seemed to think that iMessage is great because it will help create vendor lock-in the way BBM has for Blackberry. Ugh.)

Even so, iOS5 looks like an incredible update. If it’s available for preview by developers it will definitely be the first prerelease version of iOS that goes on my iPhone and iPad.

tl;dr

10.7 is as expected. iCloud looks both awesome and free, but not a replacement for Dropbox if you need to share files with Windows users (who may be you). But then it’s free, so who cares? iOS5 hits all the right notes except for unified messaging which is a case on two steps forward (Twitter integration and improved notifications) and a small step back (iMessage probably won’t matter because I expect that no-one will use it).

Wild Guess: Mac OS X Lion will “run on” iPads with iOS5

So, 10.7 turns out to have true multiuser support — as in it turns your Mac into a time-shared system. And it has Mac OS X Server’s functionality built-in. And it has a bunch of convenient file-sharing functionality tailored to iOS users (iPad users in particular).

Hmm. What’s something that Apple does that none of the Android crowd (HTC, Samsung, LG, etc.) do that would provide huge synergy with iOS products? Apple makes Macs. (Note that while Google certainly knows a lot about servers, Google’s one major foray into the consumer OS market is the “browser as OS” — not something that will naturally extend to a time-shared home-server.)

Right now, the best remote-controlled media device in our house is a Mac Pro (with Netflix and Hulu). Why? Because we can use any iOS or Mac OS X device in the house to screen share it (VNC for non-Apple folks) and we never lose them (as of this moment, one of our two TiVo remotes is missing and we just found our Roku remote after losing track of it for nearly a year — and TiVo support among third-party remotes sucks, while Roku support is non-existent). There are many really nice screen-sharing clients for iOS, some special purpose (such as TouchPad) and others general-purpose (such as my current favorite, Remoter, currently on sale for $0.99 — and no I am not getting paid anything to link to either product).

Just yesterday I was trying to set a new profile picture in Facebook using my iPad in the living room and I realized that Facebook’s cropping UI isn’t usable on a touch-screen. So I logged onto the Mac upstairs and made the change from my iPad in a couple of minutes. It was a little clumsy — the Mac is running at 1920×1080 so there’s a fair bit of pinching involved, and I had to figure out how “click and drag” works on my screen sharing app (since it was the first time I’d needed it). But screen sharing onto a machine with a much larger display is always fiddly.

So, suppose this kind of thing gets built into iOS5 at a deeper level. Now, your iPad is, among its many virtues, a Mac OS X tablet running at native resolution. (But but but… scream the Linux/Android fans, we can VNC onto Ubuntu… yeah.)

Oh, out of curiosity, I wonder how well the new OSX gestures and UI elements work when used entirely by screen sharing from a touch-based device?

This also dovetails nicely with rumored improvements to MobileMe and making the “back to my mac” feature from MobileMe free. (Oh yeah, and I guess you can use Flash conveniently on your iPad if you really want to.)

But wait, there’s more!

What might a future device that supports iOS and Mac OS X device look like (or to put it another way, what does OS X look like when it becomes “legacy”)? Two different login shells on the same OS core. Now you can boot up your Macbook Touch (MacPad? TouchBook?) and launch into iOS by default. Or you can log into OSX by default. Either way, you can get to “the other side” either by “fast switching” or by “screen sharing”.

So in summary, perhaps what 10.7 is really about, from a UI perspective, isn’t copying iOS UI elements back to Mac OS X for its own sake so much as making 10.7 offer deep usability from touch-based devices so that you can enjoy OS X while logged into your Mac from your iPad 2.