Technology

The IT Guy: Blue skies ahead for Apple

On June 6, Apple held its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, where Steve Jobs and company traditionally show off their upcoming software. The crowd was mostly made up of software developers for the Mac and iOS platforms, so while they were definitely preaching to the choir, they nevertheless unveiled some pretty impressive stuff. Here are some of my favorites:

MAC OS X "LION"

The next release for OS X, "Lion" comes with more than 250 new features, including multi-touch gestures; full-screen applications; a feature called "Resume" which brings your apps back to the exact state you left them after rebooting your computer; and "AirDrop," which automatically finds other Macs in your vicinity and lets you share files via drag-and-drop -- no Wi-Fi base station required.

The biggest news, however, was the delivery method and price. Lion will only be available via the Mac App Store (no more physical media) and will cost only $29.99. When you consider how much Microsoft charges for major Windows system updates, it's clear Apple isn't really interested in making a ton of money off Lion, just getting as many Mac users on it as possible. Lion will be released sometime in July.

iOS 5

Next up was iOS 5, the latest update for the iPhone, iPad and the iPod Touch. The update will be available this fall and offers some interesting changes:

  • Notifications got a big update (thank goodness!).
  • "iMessage" will let you send free text messages to any other iOS device (AT&T and Verizon were rumored not to know about that one -- brings a smile to the face of anyone who has ever paid 25 cents for a text message).
  • A new feature called "Newsstand" will let you access your favorite newspapers and magazines in one spot instead of having individual apps for each publication.
  • The big iOS news was that your devices will no longer be required to sync to iTunes to be used. Calling this feature "PC Free," you will be able to activate and set up the device without a computer, which leads us to ...

    iCLOUD

    Apple's long-awaited cloud service, iCloud, finally saw the light of day and didn't disappoint. Using iCloud, all your music, photos, documents, apps, etc. are stored on Apple's servers (up to 5GB's worth -- you can buy more space if you need it) then automatically downloaded to your iOS device. For example, a picture you snap with your iPhone 4 will automatically show up on your iPad. Or if you edit an iWork document on your Mac, those edits will show up on your iPad, etc. Also, Apple unveiled a service called "iTunes Match" which, for $25 a year, will scan your iTunes library and replace any song you may have burned from a CD or downloaded from another service such as Amazon's MP3 store (or all those tracks you downloaded in your nefarious Napster days) with a 256 kbps iTunes Plus-quality version for use on all your devices.

    It's hard for this ol' Mac Systems Administrator to admit it, but it does seem as though the "Post-PC era," as Apple likes to call it, has truly begun. Lion sounds great, but Apple is clearly moving away from the desktop and focusing on mobile devices.

    Steve Jobs famously said, "I think PCs are going to be like trucks -- less people will need them. And this is going to make some people uneasy." Count me among them, but if the mobile devices keep evolving at this rate and solving one problem after another, it won't be long before we look back and wonder how we got along with those big boxes under our desks.

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