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WWDC: Why this year is different

Ryan Faas | June 3, 2011
For one thing, Apple's already announced what's coming: iCloud, Lion and iOS 5.

Whether the streaming features of iTunes/iCloud will eventually extend to movies and TV shows that are stored in your library isn't clear. Apple has licensed streaming rentals for the second-generation Apple TV, but streaming purchases is likely to be a rather different matter and will likely require Apple to get the kind of buy-in from networks and studios that it has from the recording labels.

Not just about music

All the iCloud hype has focused on music, but I'll bet money that it offers much broader features -- and not just because of the details listed in Apple's European trademark application for iCloud. It will almost certainly include the feature set of Apple's MobileMe service: push email and wireless sync of calendar and contacts for iOS devices, the ability to sync a large range of settings and data among multiple Macs, and Apple's existing iDisk storage feature.

Most of the value of MobileMe has been superseded by free services like Dropbox, Google Docs, contacts and calendar sync with GMail and Yahoo Mail, Flickr, Picasa, YouTube and even social networks like Facebook and Twitter. If Apple doesn't integrate and significantly improve on the MobileMe feature set, I'll be shocked.

Then there's the long-languishing Launched with iWork '09, the service allows you to publish iWork documents to the Web. It has the somewhat nifty feature of allowing others to view the files online or download them in iWork, Office or PDF formats, and it allows others to comment on documents. When I reviewed the service in 2009, I admired its ease of export and overall interface, but even then it seemed anemic as a cloud service because it didn't support online editing by the original author, let alone any real collaboration.

I think it's almost certain that Apple will bring MobileMe and together, merging them into an online storage and document collaboration service that supports multiple users and multiuser online editing.

The current version of the MobileMe website includes tools that are practically identical to Mail, iCal and Address Book on a Mac. It's easy to picture Apple doing the same thing with the iWork apps. The resulting service could offer a better user experience than Google Docs and integrate seamlessly with iWork on a Mac or iOS device. (This may be one reason Apple made the iWork apps compatible with the iPhone/iPod Touch this week.) And it would be useful for consumers and small businesses, Apple's core markets.


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