Extry, Extry, Read All About It! Jobs Addresses the Masses!
So some of you may have heard that there were a few big announcements from Apple on Monday (June 6) at their Worldwide Developers Conference. The rumors are at least partly true, in that announcements were made, several of which some people may care about.
Now before you look at the length of this post and yell tl;dr and run off to troll 4chan, heres a quick rundown so you can glance over the parts that interest you, then run off to troll 4chan: first are updates to iOS, the operating system which powers the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Next is OSX version 10.7 (Lion), the operating system on the various Macs. Finally is iCloud, Apple’s latest attempt at cloud-based syncing and storage services.
This to me is probably what I’m most looking forward to. And the feature I’m most excited about is the revamped notification system. Up to now, notifications have sucked. If you’re doing something like playing a game or reading email and you get a text message, a lovely blue window pops up and interrupts whatever you were doing, with the only choices to dismiss the notification or attend to it right now. If you look at it immediately, you probably lose you place or at least concentration on the task you were doing, and if you dismiss it you’ll probably forget about it in a matter of seconds.
The brand-new, never before seen notifications system has a central notification drawer that you access by sliding your finger down from the top of the screen. when you get a new notification there is a mostly unobtrusive bubble that appears briefly at one edge of the screen, and you can tap it to access the notification drawer, or let it go away if you want to check it later. If your phone is asleep when you miss a message or something, you can also now view the notification on the unlock screen, and unlock directly into the app which sent the notification. Truly this is revolutionary, completely new, absolutely… *ahem* borrowed… from Android. Which brings me back to my own personal debate over whether to switch to Android after Apple releases some info on the next generation of iPhone.
Android has had this notification system for a while now. It has been proven to work, and so Apple has clearly seen some inspiration in it. The thing is, Apple only really rolls out major updates once, maybe twice a year. Android can update all the time, carrier permitting. So if Google sees something that Apple is doing better, they have tons of opportunities to leapfrog Apple, while Apple will be stuck with what they have for possibly an additional year. Things are definitely closer to even right now, or will be in the fall when iOS 5 is actually released. This will also be contingent on whether Google sits still with Android until then.
Another addition to the latest version of iOS is a cross-device messaging service. The new service, iMessages (go figure), will work across iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads, with delivered and sent receipts and indications when the person you’re talking with is typing. This is somewhat reminiscent of BlackBerry’s BBM service, which works seamlessly across all blackberry devices. It also reminds me of Kik Messenger, a fully cross-platform messaging service for iOS, Android and BlackBerry. Since iMessages will be integrated into the system, I’m sure it’ll work splendidly with other iOS devices, but it still leaves your friends on different operating systems out in the cold with the neat features.
Something I found interesting was their camera enhancements/changes. Most notable is the ability to use the volume up button to trigger the shutter, kind of like a real camera. Also kind of like an app that was pulled from the app store for doing the exact same thing. Camera+ was pulled from the app store for having the volume button shutter as a hidden feature. The reason behind the pull was that the non-standard use of the volume button could result in user confusion. So now that Apple is behind the feature, it’s no longer confusing, I guess.
In a not-so-dick move, Apple has also implemented a pretty cool feature that gets you into the camera straight from the unlock screen. As nearly the most popular camera on flickr, it makes sense for Apple to enhance the camera a bit, and especially to enable this quick access, for when an opportune moment might arise. Other new features in the camera include a 3×3 grid for fancy composition stuff, autofocus and autoexposure lock for if you want to actually keep the same subject while moving the camera a bit.
An additional feature that I’m excited about, but was barely even mentioned by Apple is wireless sync. I tend to be pretty terrible about remembering to sync my iPhone, so when I finally do it’s a long and tedious process. The new wireless sync is apparently automatic and occurs whenever you connect the phone to power, as long as you leave your computer on. Somewhat related to this will be over-the-air software updates, which will only update what has changed on the phone, as opposed to having to download a full new version of the operating system. Also, the next generations of iPhones will not need a base computer at all to set up, as opposed to in the past when the first step to activating the phone was connecting it to iTunes. To me these are all indications that Apple may very well be moving away from the full computer as a whole. iOS devices seem to be becoming more independent, and the desktop operating system is becoming more like the mobile system, which segues nicely into my next topic:
Mac OSX Version 10.7: Lion RAWR! (…sorry)
The next magical, wonderful, best-ever version of OSX is definitely a step in a direction. It’s been speculated for a while that iOS and OSX are set to merge, and the proof is in the pudding. The silicon pudding which is probably crunchy and not very tasty.
Anywho… As iOS becomes more sophisticated and can do more, OSX seems to be taking an almost backward step to become more like the mobile OS. A lot of people would likely argue that many of the new features of Lion are improvements, but to every point there is a counterpoint. It’s simple physics. Duh.
The first point I’ll bring up is the first any upgrading consumer will encounter: obtaining the software. In the past an upgrade was obtained on a DVD in a box at a store or from a fine web-based retailer. Apple has simplified it into one choice: the App store. It will be a $29.99, 4GB download. This is super convenient! Except for when it’s not. I have some experience with Apple retail and service, and while this seems great for those of us with some tech savvy, high-speed internet and no download caps, that description doesn’t apply to everyone.
Strange as it may seem, there are plenty of people who don’t have access to high-speed internet, or really any internet at all. Even so, they still have and use computers, and some are quite tech-savvy. They are going to want to upgrade their computers to the latest OS, and won’t have an easy way to do so. Apple will claim that this is a minority, and they won’t be wrong, but still, dick move. The step up from this is the set of people who do have high speed internet, but their ISP has a data cap which is expensive to increase. If you have a 5GB cap for data and you get the upgrade early or even in the middle of the month, what do you do for the rest of the month? Ration your internet? That sounds pretty awful too. And then what if you have more than one Mac? Only upgrade one machine a month? Werd, sounds fun.
In a different direction, what do you do if your hard drive crashes and you got rid of your old install disc after the upgrade (something that happens ALL the time)? If there’s no Apple store around you, what are the options? I’m hoping for some kind of direct download of the OS outside of the App store direct from the Apple website that can be saved on a flash drive or other external storage of some kind. I find this kind of doubtful, as that seems to go against the simple, centralized nature of the Mac App store.
*Deep breath* Getting back to my nice segue from the previous section, the next feature of Lion I’ll discuss is the gestures. Multitouch gestures is a feature of the current generation of Mac laptops that probably has limited success, as in relatively few people use it. I will readily admit that I love the gestures on my MacBook Pro and it’s one of my favorite features of the computer. If I was to get a desktop Mac I wouldn’t think twice about buying a Magic Trackpad. But the next generation of gestures in Lion looks to be about to step on the toes of what I’m used to. I’m sure I’ll adapt quickly enough, but right now I’d rather keep what I’m used to, or at least have very close analogs. I’m interested to see what kind of settings Apple will have for the new gestures, but knowing them, I expect the options will be sparse at best. Luckily, thats where the community typically shines, and I, and other people who just can’t just leave well enough alone, should have more control before long.
The gestures tie closely into two features, one new and one revamped. The revamped feature is called Mission Control, and it’s a combination of Spaces and Exposé. To those unfamiliar, Spaces is a system of setting up a number of virtual desktops that can hold different groupings of windows to help stay organized. I made much more use of it before I moved the majority of my applications into Chrome, but thats a different story for another time. Exposé is used primarily to show you open windows and applications and to show the desktop, which were accessed in Snow Leopard (OSX version 10.6) by swiping four fingers up and down respectively. Now swiping up with three fingers will activate Mission control, which has all of your open applications in the main area with your various virtual desktops and full-screen apps (which I think is kind of a silly “big feature”) and Dashboard (which has sometimes-useful “widgets”) along the top. This is fine, except that I currently use three-finger swiping gestures in Chrome, so something is going to have to give here. We’ll see what happens when that comes.
The other gesture-activated feature is called Launchpad. This feature also ties in closely to the eminent merge between OSX and iOS. Pinching in on the trackpad with several fingers (I can’t really tell from the video how many) calls up a full list of all the apps on the computer. I’m not certain whether this is only App Store apps or anything in the Applications folder, but it looks exactly like any home screen on any iOS device, from multiple pages and the organization to app folders and wiggling to rearrange the apps. This is a feature I will almost certainly never use. Unless Quicksilver no longer functions in Lion, I will assuredly stick to that.
Another, somewhat more subtle feature tweak in this newest version of the OS is the new lack of scroll bars. Doing away with scroll bars will save a little screen real estate and look nice. Other than that, theres no real reason for it and will probably confuse some people, most notably older people or those who are less inclined to use gestures. I’ve been using two-finger scrolling on my computer since I got it, but I am most certainly not in the majority on that one. I’ve seen many people my own age still dragging the scroll bar or clicking the up and down arrows to navigate a page. Most people tend to go with what they know, and most people know the scroll bar. I’d be shocked (but only slightly) if Apple doesn’t include an option to retain the scroll bars many people have come to know and utilize as their primary method of page navigation. What I think Apple need to do is have some sort of “Old Person” or “Classic” mode, which keeps things how many people are used to them. For a lot of people, this could very well simply mean sticking with 10.6, but others will be guided to third party tweaks. Others will simply have to learn to cope with this new system.
The other interesting feature is system-wide autosave and “versions.” The system will automatically save versions of whatever document you’re working on, allowing you to go back and pull preferred pieces of previous saves of your document into the present. This will undoubtedly be massively useful, but I can’t help but wonder what it does to disk usage, especially for larger documents.
If you’re still reading at this point I suppose I’ll reward you with another fantastic segue. Let’s see… It’s raining today, and rain comes from clouds.
From the people who brought you MobileMe comes iCloud, the next generation of cloud storage and syncing services. MobileMe was a $99/per year DOA essential failure. iCloud is free, more powerful and hopefully won’t suck right out of the starting gate.
iCloud will be integrated into iOS5 and OSX.7. One of its aims is to demote the PC into just another device, as opposed to the hub it serves as now. Your entire iDevice is backed up into Apple’s cloud, meaning that if you get a new one or have to reset it, you can restore it from Apple’s servers. That’s… kind of awesome. I’ll admit to not having researched such a feature for Android, but either way… neat.
Same as MobileMe, iCloud syncs your contacts and calendars across your devices and provides you with an email address. Contact sync is currently my biggest beef with MobileMe, with certain contacts disappearing and others replicating like an annoying replicating thing. If iCloud actually works it could actually be pretty big, like MobileMe was supposed to be.
So, yeah, not much to say about iCloud. Theres also Apple’s $25/month answer to Amazon and Google’s music locker services, iTunes in the cloud. It does pretty much the same stuff, only promises to do it faster and for the same price no matter how much music you have. That as well will have to be tried to be assessed.
If anyone would like to view the keynote for themselves, whether I didn’t explain something well or you just want to see what the deuce I’m talking about, check it here.
Overall, Apple revealed some pretty interesting nuggets of shiny new technology. Their battle for tech supremacy rages on, and starting next month with the release of Lion we’ll see how that battle is going. I’m certainly curious to see what Apple does after Lion, whether there’s another big cat in the works or its time for OS11 or iOS moves directly into the desktop space. Or Apple if gets out of the PC business entirely, which I don’t really see happening right now with their current sales. Right now I’m just waiting to see what the iPhone 5 holds for me.
TO THE FUTURE!