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OS X "Lion" (10.7) will only be delivered via the Mac App Store (and pre-installed on new Macs), and will retail for $30.

IPhoto in full screen mode

ICloud Photo Stream keeps photos up to date across multiple devices
OS X is looking a lot more iOS-like these days

Today was the kickoff keynote at Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2011.  Apple doesn't do anything small, and WWDC is is no exception.  Every rumor and leak is scrutinized in painful detail for weeks leading up to the conference.  And every detail from the conference will certainly be scrutinized.  With a thirst for brevity, let's jump into the meat of this major event.

[For a companion piece on iOS 5, jump here.]

I. OS X Lion

i. Multi Touch Dominates UI Changes

After a brief introduction by an extremely gaunt Steve Jobs, apparently trying to maintain his CEO responsibilities despite being on medical leave, Apple's Senior VP Phil Schiller took the reins, presenting OS X 10.7 "Lion".

Mr. Schiller started with some metrics -- Apple claims Mac sales have grown 28 percent year-to-year for the last five years, on average, while the PC market contracted 1 percent a year.  Apple says that three quarters of its sales are now notebooks.

Without pause Mr. Schiller then jumped into the Lion introduction, commenting, "Next up in OS X is Lion, a major release with over 250 new features. If you'd like we can go over every one of them today."

As we've discussed in past posts, OS X Lion is shaping up to be a more major release than the standard short-cycle Apple operating system update.  One of the major reasons for this is that Apple is trying to introduce more iOS-like elements into OS X, much as Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is trying to introduce more Metro UI elements into Windows 8.

The first new feature unveiled for Lion-powered notebooks is multi-touch gestures.  Using the touch pad, Phil Schiller showed tap-to-zoom, pinching, two-finger swiping, and scrolling "all with an incredible, physical realism that's never been possible in a PC operating system before." 

(That's right, pay attention Apple fans, Apple's SVP called Macbooks "PCs"!)

The proprietary Safari browser is now equipped with touch-equipped "momentum scrolling" and page swipe animations for articles in a compatible web format (the presenter used a BBC article).

Apple showed off some of these touch gestures in action, which include windowing controls, that looked like a slightly more touch-driven version of Windows 7's various Windowing advances. A feature called "Mission Control" lays out your various app windows in a organized format for easy selection.  Apps go to the right, widgets go to the upper-left, and "spaces" are laid out up top. 

"Spaces" are a new creation in the OS, which act a Window storage site.  To make a new space you can hover over the upper right.  You can then drag as many Windows as you want into it to unclutter your desktop.  To delete a space, simply click the 'X' that appears when you hover over it, and the windows inside will fly out.

ii. Mac App Store

Aside from multi-touch Apple was also going hard at plugging its new Mac App Store, which it claims has become the "#1 channel for buying PC software".  With Lion the company will introduce several new features into the store, including in-app purchases, push notifications, and a new app sandboxing mode to boost security.

They showed off the "Launchpad" feature, which acts as a storehouse for your purchase apps, along the lines of the app pages in iOS.  

Apple dropped a bit of a bomb, announcing that Lion itself, as rumored, was going to sell exclusively through the Mac App Store.  It claims no physical media (e.g. DVDs) will be shipped to customers.

The App Store download weighs in at 4 GB.  Apple dropped the price of an OS upgrade from $129 with Snow Leopard to $29.  And once you buy Lion, you can install it on as many of your "authorized" Macs as you want.

iii. Odds and Ends

While apps and multi-touch were the big ticket items, there was other interesting features demoed.

Apple showed off an improved "Resume" function, which restarted the computer in its same configuration as before.  It also demoed a slightly creepy "Auto Save" feature, which now saves documents regularly -- even if you don't.  You can explicitly instruct programs not to do this via a menu option, but be vigilant -- Lion is watching you.

The feature has been integrated with slick version control that lets you copy and paste between versions of a document.  The feature was shown of with Apple's document editor "Pages", but expect these changes to be rolled into Microsoft Office for Mac, as well.

Apple also showed of "Air Drop", a peer-to-peer wireless file transfer technology, which includes auto discovery.  You can transfer documents to an OS X equipped cohort by searching for local users and then dropping files/folders into their Air Drop box.  The transfers are "fully encrypted", though Apple leaves the nitty gritty details of what encryption scheme it used unknown.

The company also showed off a new mail client, with built in search tokens, and new comment thread modes. The search tokens allow you to find emails much easier.

Aside from these odds and ends, Apple also teased at a host of other features, including Windows migration (transfers files from your Windows install), FileVault 2, FaceTime, and more.

iv. Release Date

OS X Lion will ship in July.  Apple has not specified an exact date. A developer preview is currently available, complete with 3,000 (!) new APIs, for your developing pleasure.

II. iCloud

i. Services

Steve Jobs was back to present iCloud.  He seemed in good spirits, quipping, "You like everything so far? I'll try not to blow it."

Mr. Jobs summarizes the new service, stating, "Some people think the cloud is just a big disk in the sky... We think it's way more than that. iCloud stores your content in the cloud and wirelessly pushes it to all your device. It automatically uploads it, stores it, and pushes it to all your devices. Everything happens automatically and there's nothing new to learn. It just all works."

The first round of features of iCloud, the pricey new Apple domain-cum-service will mimic Android's long-standing Sync services, and also transfer music, à la the new Google Music service from Google Inc. (GOOG).

Disparaging previous versions of his company's Mobile Me services ("not our finest hour"), Mr. Jobs doled out praise for the "new" iCloud-driven Mobile Me.

The new service will go from a $99 annual subscription to the much more attractive price of "free".  Apple says it will not vend ads via iCloud services.

It will push mail and notification via the platform to Macs, iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches, connected to your iCloud account.  Even non Macs PCs can access the service.  The cloud also allows for "automated daily backups" and plays host for your "camera roll" -- an online pictures account.

Apple has new iCloud Storage APIs that allow documents and more to be uploaded to its cloud, cross-platform.  Photo Stream-ing from your PC to your iCloud will give you an album that is then accessible inside your Apple TV box -- not bad (though not much of a reason to buy Apple TV, still).  Cloud photos will be stored for 30 days, automatically, though you can elect to save some longer.  Connected Macs and Windows PCs store all your photos (synced courtesy of the cloud), while iOS devices like your iPhone store the last 1,000 photos to save memory.

Apple also offers users 5 GB of free storage in their iCloud for "other stuff" besides music and photos (e.g. emails and documents).

ii. Music

And finally, we come to Apple's long await streaming music offers -- the meat of the iCloud.

iTunes will now sync purchased songs (stored as 256Kbps AAC) across the cloud, allowing multiple downloads of the same media at no extra charge.  Mr. Jobs makes the dubious claim, "This is the first time we've seen this in the music industry -- no charge for multiple downloads to different devices."

(*Cough*, Zune pass, anyone?)

So what about pre-existing songs?  Mr. Jobs comments, "With 15 billion songs, that's a lot of songs out there. But, you may have some that you ripped yourself. There's three ways you can deal with that."

Those three ways are:
1. Sync your iPhone/iPad etc. via wire or Wi-Fi.
2. You can rebuy the song (ha, nice try, Apple).
3. Use iTunes match to get copies of the ripped music in your library via iTunes.

iTunes Match?  Ah, so here we finally come to Apple's "subscription" service -- sort of, at least.  Apple is offering for $24.99 USD a year (as rumored) the ability to match any music you have in your iTunes on your PC/Mac (including items from *cough* questionable sources).  The new iTunes 4.3 automatically finds and matches your songs and generates legal, happy, magical Apple copies of them.  The advantage her is the sound quality will be upgraded to 256 kbps AAC (vs. your pirated 192 kbps mp3, likely, unless you're one of those audiophile torrent pirate types...).

Songs that don't match are uploaded, so your bootlegs are safe.  But Apple has 15 billion songs.

The company showed off a brief picture show of its new data center in North Carolina, which will be playing host to the iCloud service. States Mr. Jobs, "It's as eco-friendly as you can make a modern data center, and we're pretty proud of it."

III. Analysis

When Lion launches in June it will have arguably the most advanced PC user interface design of any major OS.  It will also have one of the busiest designs of any operating system UI-wise.  How these features balance out will ultimately largely come down to personal preference.  In other words, Lion could be the best thing sliced bread, or the biggest headache since your teenager started driving.

As for iCloud, the free part of the service largely matches Google's slick offerings from Android OS and the browser Chrome, in a slightly different, but equally slick package.  For Google fans there's nothing particularly compelling to switch, for Apple fans there surely will be.

When you come to streaming options, you arrive at arguably the most compelling argument to embrace Apple's new products.  Google Music is debuting with similar features, but it merely uploads your library, so sound quality and multiple copies remain a problem.  With Apple's service for a small premium $24.99, you'll get an ostensibly organized library (though it remains to be seen how well this works in practice).  If the process is well coded, that could make this a huge hit for Apple.

More importantly, access to Google Music is currently limited, as the service is in "beta".  Apple's service should be broadly available for the masses when it launches shortly.

Apple doesn't exactly suggest this, but its system essentially promotes a new kind of quasi-piracy.  Go, download a song via p2p/bittorrent, load in iTunes, and iTunes Match it.  Just like that you will have a "legal" copy.  Surely labels won't be entirely happy with this -- but hey, they're getting something.

The concept is attractive and it may "just work" when it comes to luring in customers.

Comments     Threshold

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So I have a big pile of dead crows here...
By Belegost on 6/6/2011 2:33:15 PM , Rating: 5
You know, when the Win8 video was posted with lots of touch interaction, the Apple fans seemed to think their holy company wouldn't go there, and mocked MS about gorilla arms, and greasy screens, etc.

Now, ummm, looks like Apple is copying MS here and bringing touch to OSX...

Do you want your crow hot, or iced?

RE: So I have a big pile of dead crows here...
By EnzoFX on 6/6/2011 2:45:44 PM , Rating: 2
You forget that Apple has always drawn attention to multitouch, but only for touchpads, and NOT directly on screens.

RE: So I have a big pile of dead crows here...
By Mitch101 on 6/6/2011 3:13:57 PM , Rating: 2
Wow Mac is finally getting Microsoft Surface?

Microsoft Surface was announced on May 29, 2007.

RE: So I have a big pile of dead crows here...
By aharris02 on 6/6/2011 4:24:35 PM , Rating: 2
Microsoft's Surface is cool and all (sans the name...), but it hasn't exactly caught on with the market yet. I mean really, how many homes do you know of that have one?

Don't forget they've been developing it since its inception back in.. 2001? In development for 10 years, and it's still not really turning a profit. I appreciate Microsoft, but they've had issues bringing genuinely new tech to the market for a while now.

Sure Apple is copying them, but at least they're using the technology in a way that helps to quickly progress the industry.

RE: So I have a big pile of dead crows here...
By Mitch101 on 6/6/2011 4:31:47 PM , Rating: 2
Its in there you just need the hardware. The problem lies with the hardware manufacturers producing monitors that use it.

RE: So I have a big pile of dead crows here...
By aharris02 on 6/6/2011 4:47:31 PM , Rating: 2
True, and that is an area Apple has spent the better part of the past 12 years figuring out.

Apple understands how to manage hardware/software integration, even if it includes pressuring vendors to perform to their standards. I'm not sure if Microsoft will figure that out anytime soon, but it's definitely not currently their area of expertise.

By Mitch101 on 6/6/2011 5:06:02 PM , Rating: 2
Windows Phone 7 and Windows Tablet have hardware specifics. I think they learned their lesson on the upgradable to Windows Vista stickers issue that didnt meet the level needed to run Vista properly.

I wouldn't boast much about Apple standards of quality. iPhone Antenna Condom, yellow monitors casing and screens, peeling laptops, countless screen flicker issues, non admission to NVIDIA chip separation, hard drive compatibility issue on certain notebooks etc. Were also on our second dead control pad iPod nano but yet Im still on my first Zune 30 that I leave in the car through winter trying to kill.

RE: So I have a big pile of dead crows here...
By borismkv on 6/6/2011 5:26:39 PM , Rating: 2
MS *can't* do the things that Apple does to its manufacturers because as soon as they do someone brings up an anti-trust lawsuit and fines them 5 billion dollars. Apple's been extremely lucky in the litigation front by keeping their anti-competitive practices on the down-low, and now they have enough cash in the bank to bludgeon anyone that tries to sue them.

By Smilin on 6/6/2011 6:22:50 PM , Rating: 2
The gloves came off just a few weeks ago. Expect MS to crack the whip on the junkware that OEMs load as well as their sub-par hardware specs. Windows 8 will be the first OS released since the anti-trust settlement expired.

By Reclaimer77 on 6/6/2011 6:20:25 PM , Rating: 1
Apple understands how to manage hardware/software integration,

By handcuffing everything to a closed box? By telling you what hardware you can use, what standards you can use (ie Flash) and by dictating every way that you get to use the thing you actually paid for?

By Smilin on 6/7/2011 3:10:18 PM , Rating: 2
When MS chooses to do this they seem to do well.

The ZuneHD, their whole line of mice, and Xbox peripherals are all excellent hardware.

Apple has done some great things in this area with the move to 100% aluminum chassis, and locking in production runs for IPS displays. They do blow it from time to time though. Overheating, yellow, and locking up Macbooks do happen.

RE: So I have a big pile of dead crows here...
By headbox on 6/6/2011 4:14:26 PM , Rating: 1
exactly- where does Apple say multi-touch means touching the screen? idiots.

By Smilin on 6/6/2011 6:24:48 PM , Rating: 3
Apples top selling products use multi-touch on the SCREEN.

No need to insult people.

RE: So I have a big pile of dead crows here...
By nafhan on 6/6/2011 2:52:31 PM , Rating: 5
While I always appreciate crazy Apple fans being wrong...
This isn't a case of Apple copying MS. Both companies have been working on (and innovating) in regards to "touch" interfaces for quite a while, and over the past several years Apple's been first to the party with successful products using touch screen interfaces. More importantly, MS had a press release Apple has a product release.

RE: So I have a big pile of dead crows here...
By Mitch101 on 6/6/2011 3:17:03 PM , Rating: 4
The product idea for Microsoft Surface was initially conceptualized in 2001 by Steven Bathiche of Microsoft Hardware and Andy Wilson of Microsoft Research.

A similar concept was used in the 2002 science fiction movie Minority Report. As noted in the DVD commentary, the director Steven Spielberg stated the concept of the device came from consultation with Microsoft during the making of the movie. One of the film's technology consultant's associates from MIT later joined Microsoft to work on the Surface project

RE: So I have a big pile of dead crows here...
By nafhan on 6/6/2011 5:07:46 PM , Rating: 2
And the iPad basically looks the same as those things on Star Trek... Just making the point that both companies are building off of and perfecting ideas that have been around for a while.

RE: So I have a big pile of dead crows here...
By Smilin on 6/6/2011 6:30:56 PM , Rating: 2
Don't confuse the Surface with Apple style multitouch.

Ignoring screen size, try to have two people use an iPad at the same time. iOS won't be able to tell them apart with capacitive touch alone.

There is some jaw dropping magic going on with the Surface but unfortunately it is priced out of the consumer budget. I'll be pretty tickled when it becomes affordable.

By Master Kenobi (blog) on 6/6/2011 7:33:29 PM , Rating: 2
Surface is actually quite affordable. I saw the original specs that were showcased back in 2007 and to be perfectly honest you could get one built for about a thousand USD. It is surprisingly lowtech given what it does.

By Smilin on 6/7/2011 8:56:21 AM , Rating: 2
Really? So you'll be able to buy the proprietary infrared sensors then? It is not merely capacitive multitouch.

By KoolAidMan1 on 6/6/2011 6:56:33 PM , Rating: 3
First, multitouch gestures have been a part of OS X for years.

Second, there is a HUGE difference between multitouch designed around large trackpads while maintaining the traditional windows/folder based desktop GUI, and an OS that revolves around touchscreens and a completely different UI.

You aren't getting gorilla arms or greasy screens on an OS X based desktop or desktop.

"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone

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