Apple is hosting its World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2011 show this week in San Francisco, and with ailing CEO Steve Jobs leading the keynote procession on Monday, the company announced new versions of Mac OS X and iOS 5, both of which will ship soon. Most interesting, perhaps, was the introduction of a new cloud services offering called iCloud.
With its usual flair for hyperbole, Apple described Lion as "the best version of OS X yet" and reported that it will supply "250 new features" but cost just $29.99 when it ships next month via electronic download only. New features include systemwide support for full screen apps, a window manager called Mission Control, the Mac App Store, a new iOS-style application launcher called Launchpad, and a completely redesigned Mail app.
Apple will update its popular iOS devices—the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch—with iOS 5, which brings "200 new features" to the table. According to Apple, the top 10 new features include notifications, Newsstand (for electronic periodic subscriptions), Twitter integration, three new Safari features (Reader, Reading List, and tabbed browsing), Reminders, major Camera improvements, major Mail improvements, PC free (no more computers required for iOS device setup and use), Game Center improvements, and iMessage, an Apple ripoff of the BlackBerry Messaging Service. No word yet on pricing, but Apple said iOS 5 would ship in the fall.
But the big announcement, of course, was for iCloud, Apple's cloud computing service. This service combines the Contacts, Calendar, and Mail components of MobileMe (Apple's previous and ill-fated cloud service) with App Store purchases storage and management, wireless cloud backup and syncing of important data files (like Windows Live Mesh on the PC) on both Macs and iOS devices, and deep integration with Apple's key apps, including those in iLife and iWork, and, of course, iTunes.
That last piece has been widely expected, given the success and ubiquity of iTunes. According to Apple, any iTunes purchases you make can automatically be downloaded to any or all of your iOS devices, Macs, and PCs (the latter two of which must be running the local iTunes app). This service will also match songs you've ripped to an online database and provide high-quality versions in the cloud via a paid feature called Tunes Match that costs $24.99 a year.
Otherwise, iCloud will be free. This is sure to draw cheers from Apple's many fans, but it provides only 5GB of storage. Apple's previous cloud service, MobileMe, cost $99 a year.
What Apple didn't discuss is any replacement for its buggy iPhone 4. Rumor has it that Apple won't ship an iPhone 5—or iPhone 4S, or whatever it's called—until this fall, failing for the first time to meet a mid-summer ship date for a new iPhone. Those rumors now appear to be borne out, so it's likely that Apple will now have to schedule a special event for the next iPhone or perhaps add it to the normally scheduled September event for new iPods.