Recent Apple Announcements – Summary and Reaction

Below is a way overdue summary of Apple’s Announcements from their June 11, 2012 World Wide Developer’s Conference and my take on them.

First (since many people won’t want to read the long summary below), my takeaways:

  • For those wondering when the new iPhone will be released, I have no specific info, but the common thinking is still September/October.
  • It seems that Apple will continue to make their Mac operating system (OSX) and mobile operating system (iOS) more similar until eventually they merge into one. This is good for users that like the simplicity and usability of iOS but also means that Apple will exert more control over the Mac in terms of customization and developers (which is not good IMHO).
  • Especially in light of the above, Apple will continue to face a challenge regarding its native apps and how they allow for competition with other similar apps.Currently, in Mac OSX,one can reset the primary app for many categories to one that competes with Apple’s native app – e.g. Apple Mail vs. Microsoft Outlook or Safari vs. Google Chrome. While Apple has started to allow more competitors to their native apps in iOS (e.g. Sparrow for Mail and Chrome for browser), they cripple these apps in various ways:
    •  Competitive mail apps can’t take advantage of push technology or become the default app for mailto links.
    • Competitive browsers can’t be the default that opens when a link is clicked from another app.
    • Competitive map applications can’t be opened when an address is clicked.
  • Personally I think the native app treatment will hinder the progress of iOS and the iPhone going forward. Imagine if Mac users were more or less forced to use Apple Mail, Safari and iCal instead of GMAIL, Chrome and Google Calendar. I think you’d have a lot less Mac users.
  • Noticeably absent were any real updates to the MacPro (almost an irrelevant update announced after the keynote) and the iMac/Mac Mini. Perhaps these will be upgraded at a different date/different event. Or, it’s possible that Apple is now laser focused on their notebooks and mobile devices and won’t be rushing to upgrade their other hardware products. Maybe there’s a good reason for this (focus?), but there are still a lot of folks who buy and want to buy these other products.
  • Many of the most significant iOS6 updates will only be available to the latest devices. This will both be an incentive to get people to upgrade but also will irritate both users and developers.
  • I think that the Passbook app (described below) for the iPhone could be a pre-cursor to the release of an NFC chip for the new iPhone.  To me, this would be a huge deal.  I wrote more about NFC here.
  • Features that I continue to hope for in iOS that weren’t announced:
    • Profiles so different family members can share the same iPad in a more reasonable way (like accounts on a Mac/PC)
    • Offline maps (like Google announced for Android)

Ok, here’s the summary of the Apple announcements:

  • New Macbooks: Apple announced updated Macbook Airs and Macbook Pros. As usual – faster speeds and similar or lower prices. They also announced a new type of Macbook Pro that has a retina display and flash memory making it much lighter than a normal Macbook pro.
  • OSX Mountain Lion: Apple announced some more details about the new version of the Mac Operating System. Most of these announcements had to do with features that make OSX more similar to iOS and increase synchronization with iOS.
  • iPhone/iPad Operating System – iOS 6– will be released in the Fall:
    • Siri – Siri will expand to the iPad (only the newest iPad 3). Siri will also add the capability to search for restuarants (using Yelp) and sports scores/info. It will also allow you to send a Tweet. Lastly, Apple announced partenrships with some auto companies to include Siri in their cars.
    • Facebook – Apple announced a partnership with Facebook that will function like the current integration with Twitter. Users will be able to post to Facebook from many different applications. They will be able to “like” apps, songs and more. Facebook events and birthdays will be integrated in the iPhone calendar and Facebook friends’ photos and birthdays will be integrated into iPhone contacts.
    • Phone – Apple announced some interesting updates to the iPhone’s phone calling application. (yup, it still makes calls! 🙂 ). For incoming calls, one will now see 2 additional options besides accepting or declining. One can “reply with message”, sending a text message back to the caller with either a canned or specific message, e.g. “I’m in a meeting, will call you later.” or they can select an option to “remind me to call back later”. These reminders can be based on time or place (e.g. when I get home). The second feature for phone is a “do not disturb” mode. This can be set for nightime hours, for example with allowance given for specified favorites and for if someone tries to call repeatedly.
    • Facetime over cellular – Apple announced that Facetime will no longer be restricted to Wifi only. This will only be for iPhone 4S and above or iPad3 with cellular connection. Some have mentioned this could consume significant bandwidth/data and possibly cause issues for most users who are now on metered data plans.
    • iCloud photo sharing – As a substitute for the photo sharing that was a part of MobileMe, iOS6 will let users create and share albums from their phone or iPad using iCloud as the host. This will only work with iPhone 4S or greater or iPad 3 or greater.
    • Mail – i0S 6 will have some feature improvements for the native e-mail application including the ability to upload attachments from any e-mail and the ability to designate “VIP” e-mail senders.
    • Maps – As I wrote about before, this was widely anticipated. The new Maps app looks significatnly different. Here’s the summary:
      • no more Google
      • turn by turn directions! (only with iPhone 4S, iPad 3)
      • 3D Flyover mode (only with iPhone 4S, iPad 3)
      • Live traffic (this will rely both on some partner sources like Waze but mostly on data sourced from iPhone users once the app is public.
      • Some big differences with the current app from a negative standpoint (see this great Gizmodo post for screenshots):
    • Safari – Safari was updated to include tab synchroniztion (tabs from the Mac will optionally synch to the iPhone/iPad and vice-versa). Also, the Safari reading list will be available offline (like Instapaper and Pocket)
    • Passbook – This is a new native app from Apple that will manage gift cards, airplane passes, concert tickets, etc. App developers will be able to leverage this app to store these dynamic “passes”
    • App Store (more here)  The iOS App Store will have a brand new interface included updated iOS app pages with a lot more data. Also, users will no longer be taken to home screen when downloading new apps. As mentioned in the Facebook section, users will be able to like an App from within the appstore.
    • Restrictions– As I mentioned in each section, many of these new features will only be available to the newest devices – i.e. the iPhone 4S, iPad 3rd generation and the new iPhone which will likely be announced around the same time as the release of iOS6. Summary of restrictions:
      •  Flyover and turn-by-turn in Maps – iPhone 4S or later
      • Siri – iPad 3rd generation and iPhone4 S
      • Shared Photo Streams – iPhone4 or later or iPad2 or later
      • Facetime over cellular – iPhone4S or later or iPad3 with Cellular
      • VIP list and VIP and Flagged smart mailboxes – iPhone4 and iPad2 or later
      • Offline Reading lists – iPhone 4 and iPad2 or later

For those that made it this far, what do you think?

Some more links:

http://www.businessinsider.com/ios-6-key-features-2012-6?op=1
http://techcrunch.com/2012/06/11/ios-6-top-features/
http://arstechnica.com/apple/2012/06/maps-in-ios-6-will-require-a5-processor-for-3d-flyover-navigation/
http://www.apple.com/ios/ios6/

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