Grading my WWDC guesses
Tuesday, Jun 07, 2011
Last weekend I made a list of technologies and features I hypothesized Apple is working on and would announce at Monday's WWDC keynote. As I mentioned, it wasn't based on any inside info and was admittedly far-reaching. In truth I only expected a handful of these things to be announced this week. So enough with the equivocation. How'd I do? Here's my self-graded assessment in light of Steve's keynote announcements. First, the stuff I got right:
  • Seamless remote access to any data kept in your Documents folder, and synchronization across machines. 100% CORRECT - Apple's iCloud offers a free 5 gigs of space for automatic cloud storage and file synchronization across not only Macs, but also iOS devices.
  • Realtime, continuous syncing of iOS devices will mean never having to plug your iPhone or iPad in to your computer again, or even the need for a computer for syncing at all. 100% CORRECT - iOS 5 and iCloud let users completely cut the cord between their iOS devices and Mac/PCs.
  • Task-level integration between iOS and Mac OS. If you have a spreadsheet open in Numbers on your Mac and you open Numbers on your iPad, the document you were working on will open up. Realtime synchronization will be integrated as an OS-level service available to developers. 100% CORRECT - The demo on stage used Keynote and Pages, but the feature has already been built in to the full iWork suite, with APIs so any Mac or iOS developer can add it to their applications.
  • Your canonical music library exists in the cloud. Your Mac, Windows, or iOS device can sync with all or part of it in the same way that your iOS devices sync with your computer's iTunes library today. 100% CORRECT - Not only spot-on, but I really like how Apple achieved this. I don't mind paying $25 a year in exchange for better quality tracks than the ones I ripped from my CDs 10 years ago, especially if it means that the labels are on board instead of trying to sue a service to oblivion. Also, not having to upload 35 gigs of music to a music locker is a nice plus.
  • A major theme will be the concept that a task doesn't reside with any particular device, but instead with the person, so shifting devices doesn't mean you have to shift or restart tasks. Devices will simply be windows into what tasks you're currently doing. MOSTLY CORRECT - A ton of the new functionality throughout iOS, Lion and iCloud is there to remove the mental tax of adding another device to your life. Not having to keep track of what you were working on where, because it's all available in all devices, is a huge move toward device independence. Incidentally, it also means people have less of a mental barrier to buy just one more iOS device.
  • Universal login using your Apple account: Walk up to any Mac, sign in as a guest using your Apple account credentials and you'll be brought to the same desktop you get on your personal machine. Files will be downloaded from the cloud (or your home network) on demand, and you'll have access to all the apps you've purchased via the Mac App Store, downloaded and installed on-demand, and removed securely, along with your data, upon logout. HALFWAY THERE - While universal login to any MacOS device apparently isn't in the cards for 10.7, the ability to download both files and previously-purchased applications from the cloud to any machine you authorize is part of iCloud, and the ability to completely provision and restore an iOS device by entering your Apple account info is part of iOS 5. I'd expect universal login to make its way into Mac OS well before 10.8 rolls around, since most of the necessary ground work has already been done.
  • AppleTV + App Store updates probably aren't there yet, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear announcements in order to get developers building apps. CORRECTISH - With the exception of an update to enable a few iCloud features like Photo Stream, AppleTV was noticeably absent from the Keynote. (I'm not counting this one in my right/wrong tally, since the way I wrote the guess I could count a win if they announced or if they didn't.)
And then there's stuff that didn't happen:
  • Apple will announce that by early 2012 every screen they make will be touch-enabled, including the entire Mac line, and while it will be several years before OS X apps require touch, there will be universal gestures that will be useful in today's apps from day one, and more gestures that tomorrows apps can choose to support to augment the pointer-and-keyboard model. WRONGISH - A lot of emphasis was placed on multi-touch gestures and controls in Lion, but nothing was said about touchscreen displays. At the same time, Apple said nothing about hardware advances throughout the keynote, so it may be that touchscreen displays are coming, but aren't being pre-announced. I'd still bet we see our first touchscreen Mac in the first quarter of 2012, but this may take a bit longer to come about.
  • iOS runtime within Mac OS to allow iPhone apps to run as Dashboard widgets and iPad apps as first-class desktop apps. 100% WRONG - As several people have said to me since I write this list, too many apps rely on specific iOS hardware capabilities like accelerometers and on-screen multi-touch gestures for this to work. I think it still may happen at some point, but it doesn't seem to be in the cards any time soon.
  • Built-in screen sharing of Mac OS to the iPad, to do lightweight actions on your Mac from your iPad. WRONG - It's not exactly pivotal or elegant to try and make an iOS device something it wasn't designed to be. Chalk this one up with the iOS apps on the Mac as a cool idea, but maybe not a mainstream enough one to clutter the OS with.
  • Unification of the App Store to encompass Mac, iPhone, iPod, AppleTV and iPad apps. Ability to make a single purchase for all the environments the app supports. Also, stripping out the App store from iTunes. iTunes will be the media storefront and the App Store will be the resource storefront. WRONG - So far as I can tell, there's no unification of app stores yet. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
  • Continuous media play across devices: Play music on your mac, then with a tap shift the music to your iPhone when you're on the go. A sizable portion of the playlist will quickly transfer over so there's no reliance on continued wi-fi access or 3G streaming. MOSTLY WRONG - There's still some hope though, since your iPhone will be able to grab the music from the iCloud.
  • The only new devices announced at WWDC will be updates to facilitate the new software functionality. Some have speculated on new Airport base stations built around iOS to make VPN easy and mainstream. This seems very likely. It will be important to have one device that is always on and available, and Airport is a sensical bet. NOT YET - No new hardware or hardware updates were announced during the keynote. An iOS-based Airport Extreme may be on the way, but the keynote's comprehensive overview of iCloud casts doubt on the Airport being positioned as part of the iCloud solution.
All in all my predictions ran 50/50, which I'm very happy with since the things that did come to pass were the larger, more ambitious items on my list. Now, if you'll excuse me I've got some beta software to download and install.
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Hi, I'm Kevin Fox.
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