Software Put Back in Focus in WWDC 2011

I really liked the WWDC presentation this year. It has been a while since Apple put the focus on software instead of using the spotlight to announce their latest iPhone or hardware lineup. This year, however, it’s all about the software with an adamant declaration that the PC age is over.

The presentation was separated in three areas: Mac OS X Lion, iOS 5, and iCloud.

Mac OS X Lion

Mac OS X Lion

Out of the three segments, I was most impressed with Mac OS X Lion. I’ve been a big skeptic with how Apple was going to seemingly marry iOS components while throwing away years of what Mac OS X was built upon. I thought the move to full-screen apps means sacrificing the ease of use and the multi-window-working nature that separates Mac OS from Windows.

But what I had forgotten was the arrival of Multi-Touch gestures. More than Exposé, more than the Windows Start menu, and certainly more than using alt/cmd-tab, gesture-activated Mission Control gestures look like it’ll be the de-facto way to navigate between screens and applications in Mac OS X Lion. Mission Control looks like a mash-up of Exposé and Spaces, which I applaud Apple for combining two key features in the sea of has-beens pet projects. (Anyone still remembers Widgets or Sherlock?)

Mac OS X Lion will only be available via the Mac App Store, which is bad news for me since I’ve been looking forward to upgrading my MacBook from Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger to Lion. According to Apple’s site, it seems like the only way that’s going to happen is if I upgrade to Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopord first, before upgrading to Lion via the Mac App Store.

iOS 5

iOS 5

I have a feeling we haven’t seen the killer feature of iOS 5. Don’t get me wrong, the features covered are definitely welcomed, if not necessary. But showcased features like the Notification Center, camera, calendar, and PC-free setup seem so reactive instead of proactive. Specifically speaking, these features are all reactive to what Android is already doing. What ever happened to “Others are busy just to catch up to this version, and we’re going so much farther in our next version”?

That said, iMessage and Newsstand is what I’m most interested in. What will iMessage do to Texting plans as we know it? What will eventually happen to the concept of email if we can now send text, videos, contacts, locations and more instantaneously?

Newsstand is important because this can take Apple where the iBooks Store hasn’t. Amazon Kindle is great for reading books thanks to its e-ink technology, but magazines are designed to be flipped, skimmed, and tossed, and the color-richness nature of magazines is where the iPad will shine.

iCloud

iCloud logo

Apple made a huge deal about this, but I just can’t seem to care all that much. Steve Jobs revised his analogy of a digital hub he once used for the iMac years ago and is now applying it iCloud, declaring this “the post-PC age.” I understand what Steve is saying, but I just don’t find his presentation to be anything new.

Maybe it’s because I’ve already have all my information living “in the cloud.” I’ve been a MobileMe customer for years and already have all sorts of information pushed to me automatically. On top of that I also use Dropbox for my documents, Amazon Cloud Player for music, and Gmail as my primary email.

What’s missing for me is how iCloud is different from anything I just mentioned. Unlike the original iPod or iPhone in that even though they were not the first products introduced in their respective markets, those devices also offered groundbreaking features that we hadn’t seen before: a 4GB hard drive for the original iPod, multi-touch display and revolutionary music app for the iPhone. Instead, iCloud looks like a me-too product. The only thing interesting I saw in iCloud is that it is ad-free and free; certainly a jab to Google.

iTunes Match

Steve’s “One More Thing”. Too bad I just don’t get it. Basically it’s $24.99/year to convert all my non-iTunes purchased songs to DRM-free 256kbps AACs. But why is it on a per year basis? Does that mean the second I stop paying, all my songs will revert back to non-iTunes status? If not, can’t I just pay for one year to convert all my songs to paid status and have it pushed to my devices from that point on?

Also, does the $24.99/year price tag means I can now pirate unlimited songs since iTunes Match will change to legal, iTunes status anyways? Is that why they’re charging iTunes Match on a yearly basis, because piracy will never go away? The concept of iTunes Match just doesn’t seem very well thought out.

What did you think of this year’s WWDC? What are you most looking forward: Mac OS X Lion, iOS 5, or iCloud? What are your thoughts on iTunes Match?

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