That’s an upgrade of sorts for iOS devices and, as part of Apple’s iCloud launch, the personal computer, whether it’s a Mac or not, has been downgraded. We used to sync all of our content to our PCs, Jobs told WWDC attendees yesterday, but in a world where numerous devices contain all kinds of content that we want to keep in sync, that’s no longer viable.
So the PC becomes another device, rather than the media hub, and the cloud takes over as the place where all of our content lives.
As with most of the things that Apple does, this is not a new concept. Google’s Chromebooks operate on a similar basis; login with your Google account and all of your files and personal information are delivered from the cloud. What Apple has done is what they always do: to take an existing product or service and deliver it in a way that’s simpler and better designed.
It’s clear that Apple had Google in mind with some of its announcements yesterday. Improvements to Mail – in Lion for the Mac and iOS 5 on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch – were notable for including improved search and, on the Mac, a better conversation view. Both of those features address weaknesses in Apple’s Mail compared with Google’s Gmail.
Another target of the improvements announced yesterday was RIM, the makers of BlackBerry. One of the most popular apps on the BlackBerry is BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) – a messaging client that allows people to chat without sending an SMS. Apple’s iMessage provides an iOS version of the service, which will probably prove to be a valuable asset. However, iMessage will work only between iOS users and RIM is rumoured to be producing a multi-platform version of its own app.
It was notable that many of the improvements Apple chose to focus on in the iOS 5 announcement directly challenge existing third-party apps. Reading List, the Safari feature for saving articles to read later, is a threat to apps such as Instapaper and Read It Later; Reminders undermines apps such as Remember The Milk and Things; and the new embedded photo editing features will make an app such as Photoshop Express unnecessary for a great many users.
The Mac, meanwhile, is becoming more iOS-like, with easy to use app menus, a reduced dependence on file management systems and a more touch-driven interface that might soon make the mouse obsolete.
One relatively small feature addition is auto-save, which ensures that what you’re working on is always being backed up. It removes one of the major annoyances of using a computer and, as analyst Michael Gartenberg wrote, is “reason alone to be a Mac”.