Moscone West adorned with Apple logos for WWDC 2011

Moscone West adorned with Apple logos for WWDC 2011 | Photo: kiel

It’s that time in the Apple calendar again, the biggest event of the year is upon us and this years looks set to be one of the best for many years. Worldwide Developers Conference 2011 kicks off on Monday June 6 and will run through until Friday for the 5,000 developers in attendance. Held at the Moscone West building in San Francisco Apple has in the past used the stage for unveiling new iPhone hardware—but not this year.

2011 has been something of a special year for Apple so far, over the past couple of years it looked like the company had settled into a routine which went something like: iOS preview in March followed by iPhone hardware release in June and public release of iOS a week or so later. Other hardware had reasonably set release dates and iPod hardware was always refreshed in September—to be fair this will probably still be the case but likely overshadowed by iPhone hardware.

What we know about this years WWDC is that it’ll be primarily a software show, in fact if Apple’s press release is to be believed then it’ll be a completely hardware free zone. Apple is playing a PR game; due to the previous release cycle of the iPhone the general media and consumer are expecting new iPhone hardware but with this not happening until September at the earliest they’ll be left disappointed so Apple has been careful to outline exactly what it’ll use the stage at WWDC for.

In Apple’s press release the company said that it will discuss Mac OS X Lion, the next major iOS release and a new service called iCloud. That was the first time Apple has revealed the name of an unreleased product in a press release in the company’s history, some might say they’re desperate to calm expectations.

iOS 5

World of Apple has already written an extensive piece on the fifth major update to iOS as part of our Fast Forward series, here’s what to expect in iOS 5:

  • Totally overhauled notification system, removing intrusiveness and adding functionality.
  • A departure from the current look of iOS, exact details unknown.
  • Extensive integration with Apple’s iCloud. Whilst details are very slim expect streaming music from iTunes, over-the-air delivery of Apps and possibly their data. Same goes for contacts, calendars and bookmarks.
  • Ability to auto-download App updates.
  • Media streaming feature where media is synced to iCloud and propagated to devices sharing the same stream.
  • Twitter integrated at a system level with the ability to send photos and video straight to the third-party service. No word on Facebook but don’t be surprised if its in too.

Based on historic evidence, Apple will put iOS 5 into developer testing. The first build will presumably be in developers hands immediately after the keynote on Monday, Apple will test iOS 5 in the developer community until September when we’re expecting the next iPhone hardware refresh.

iCloud

Next up is Apple’s iCloud. World of Apple has also penned an exhaustive look at what iCloud could consist of as part of our Fast Forward series. As mentioned above this is the first time that a product name as been released ahead of it being unveiled and with little clue as to what it is. Whilst this is evidently a move by Apple’s PR team to try and deflect some attention away from a lack of iPhone hardware it looks like iCloud could be impressive enough to absorb the fall.

As described by many in the Apple rumour field iCloud is one of Apple’s best kept secrets in years but is the key to bringing Mac OS and iOS together. Here’s the lowdown on iCloud:

  • iTunes locker is a feature of iCloud but not the whole of iCloud.
  • iTunes locker will scan libraries for storage in the cloud so no uploading. New purchases will go to the locker rather than be downloaded to a particular library.
  • Music will be streamed from the cloud to iOS devices and iTunes.
  • iTunes locker will be free initially with a $25/year charge in the future.
  • MobileMe will be merged into iCloud and turn completely free, at least for those purchasing Mac OS X or an iOS device.
  • Apple will offer Dropbox like file storage and syncing, replacing iDisk.
  • Media streaming feature on iOS devices allowing instant sharing of photos and movies.

In addition to the scant information above about iCloud, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber has written a short piece on what he expects Apple to unveil during the WWDC keynote. Staring the post by saying, “The big picture regarding iOS 5 and iCloud […] is an utter mystery to me.” Gruber goes onto highlight that iCloud is not a music storage service, “Music storage is a feature of iCloud; iCloud is not a music service.”

The most revealing bit of information released by the often very accurate Gruber reads:

Don’t think of iCloud as the new MobileMe; think of iCloud as the new iTunes.

The point Gruber is making is that currently iTunes is a single point of contact for device syncing and storage, this will become iCloud. iOS devices will receive data and sync from iCloud, purchased media will go to iCloud rather than iTunes and will be accessible from all devices.

Mac OS X Lion

Apple’s next major update to Mac OS X feels somewhat overshadowed by all this talk of iCloud and iOS 5 but Apple is making it quite clear that all three products will interrelate with each other whilst not relying on each other. Apple’s aim is to create environments that interact seamlessly with each other.

There’s a lot we already know about Mac OS X Lion as it was first previewed by Apple in February this year alongside the release of the MacBook Air. At the time the new features were touted as:

  • a new version of Mail, with an elegant, widescreen layout inspired by the iPad; Conversations, which automatically groups related messages into one easy to read timeline; more powerful search; and support for Microsoft Exchange 2010;
  • AirDrop, a remarkably simple way to copy files wirelessly from one Mac to another with no setup;
  • Versions, which automatically saves successive versions of your document as you create it, and gives you an easy way to browse, edit and even revert to previous versions;
  • Resume, which conveniently brings your apps back exactly how you left them when you restart your Mac or quit and relaunch an app;
  • Auto Save, which automatically saves your documents as you work;
  • the all new FileVault, that provides high performance full disk encryption for local and external drives, and the ability to wipe data from your Mac instantaneously; and
  • Mac OS X Lion Server, which makes setting up a server easier than ever and adds support for managing Mac OS X Lion, iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices.

Since the original preview Apple has been giving developers numerous builds for testing purposes, the builds show no significant changes and more importantly show no significant signs of iCloud integration.

Apple has promised a summer release for Mac OS X Lion giving them plenty of time to release a GM developer build with a release expected in mid to late July.

Hardware

Despite Apple’s attempts to convince otherwise, it does look like Apple will unveil some hardware at WWDC this year. But it won’t be a new iPhone. Key to Apple’s iCloud strategy appears to be hosting your own mini-cloud on hardware in your house.

Rumours have this week consistently pointed to a major refresh of Apple’s Time Capsule router/hard drive. According to sources Apple’s Time Capsule will act as the cloud with data saved being backed up immediately to the Time Capsule and then accessible from iOS devices and other Macs. This description is offered from a Cult of Mac article:

Our source didn’t have any information about the hardware, but detailed how the Home Folder access system works. Files saved on your computer are backed up instantly to Time Capsule, which makes them available to remote Macs and iOS devices.

If you make any changes on any computer, those changes are updated through iCloud and stored on your Time Capsule. The Time Capsule archives and serves up your files even when your computers are off. When you get home and fire up your desktop computer or laptop, the files are automatically synced across your devices.

This service will also allow you to upload photos and videos from your iPhone or iPad to your Time Capsule. The media will be stored on the device and be made available for other devices to sync. iCloud is the “conduit” through which everything moves, the source said.

“Your computer gets backed up to Time Capsule anyways,” said the source. “Now it’ll serve up your content when you want it, where you want it, right there on your iOS device.”

This of course does not cover Apple’s iTunes in the cloud service that will presumably actually operate from the cloud and not local storage.

WWDC 2011 Coverage

On Monday, June 6 Apple will kick off its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. WWDC 2011 will run from June 6-10 and the opening keynote will be hosted by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The company has already outlined that it will discuss iOS 5, iCloud and Mac OS X Lion. World of Apple will provide full coverage from San Francisco during WWDC 2011.

The keynote will begin at the following times on Monday, June 6:

10:00AM – Pacific
11:00AM – Mountain
12:00PM – Central
01:00PM – Eastern
06:00PM – London
07:00PM – Paris
09:00PM – Moscow
02:00AM – Tokyo (Tuesday 7th)
04:00AM – Sydney (Tuesday 7th)