Apple unveils iCloud, shows off features of Lion, iOS 5

Steve Jobs takes the wraps off the long-awaited iCloud service, and company dishes details on iOS 5 and Mac OS X Lion.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
7 min read
Steve Jobs takes the stage at WWDC 2011.
Steve Jobs takes the stage at WWDC 2011. CNET Staff

With summer right around the corner, Apple held its annual Worldwide Developers Conference keynote presentation in San Francisco today.

As promised, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who's currently on a medical leave of absence from the company, hosted the event, which showcased Apple's long-awaited cloud-based service, iCloud.

The online service stores digital media on the Web and automatically pushes it to iOS-based devices, PCs, and Macs. According to Apple, the service is automatically integrated with a user's apps, allowing new content to be pushed to the cloud, and then shared with other devices, automatically. Jobs specifically pointed to Calendar, Mail, and Contacts, which have all been rewritten to accommodate iCloud's functionality. Users with @me.com e-mail accounts that use Mail, for example, will be able to sync their messages with iCloud and view them on any of their devices.

But Apple didn't stop there. iCloud will also work with the App Store, allowing users to put all their downloaded programs on their iOS-based devices. The service will also sync with purchased books, delivering a copy to linked devices once a title is bought. Each day, iCloud backs up iOS-based devices over Wi-Fi, allowing users to restore their exact settings and content onto a new iOS-based device.

Those who use Apple's iWork productivity suite will be able to create a document, spreadsheet, or presentation on one iOS-based device, and then, after it's stored to the cloud, access it with their other devices.

It's a similar story on the images side, with a new cloud feature called Photo Stream. Like documents, photos either taken with devices or synced to those platforms will be automatically uploaded to the cloud, and pushed to other devices. However, Apple said that the last 1,000 photos will be stored on iOS devices, and in the cloud, images will be kept for only 30 days. On the user's Mac or PC, all content will be stored locally.

Finally, Jobs turned his attention to iTunes in the cloud. The Apple CEO said that those who purchase tracks and albums from iTunes will be able to re-download them from the cloud to other iOS-based devices at no additional charge. Users can also turn on a feature that automatically downloads a copy of content to other devices.

Those looking for better sound quality will be able to take advantage of a new feature called iTunes Match. The service essentially scans the user's library and upgrades it to the 256kbps AAC file available in the iTunes store. iTunes Match will run customers $24.99 per year.

According to Jobs, iCloud, which is made up of a total of nine applications, is free. Up to 10 devices are allowed to be connected to a single iCloud account. Users will receive 5GB of free storage for e-mail, documents, and backups. Music, books, and apps are not included in that storage limit, Jobs said today.

The service will be made available with iOS 5 this fall.

Mac OS X Lion
But Apple didn't discuss only iCloud. Jobs turned the stage over to Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president for worldwide product marketing, who discussed the company's upcoming desktop operating system, Mac OS X Lion.

According to Schiller, Apple now has more than 54 million Mac users around the world, and sales have beaten the industry every quarter for five years. With Lion, Apple is hoping to build on that with the addition of more than 250 new features in the operating system.

When it launches later this year, Lion will come with support for multitouch gestures, including tap-to-zoom, two-finger swiping, and more. That functionality has helped Apple nix scroll bars, which will show up only when users scroll using the new gestures. Aside from that, the company unveiled full-screen application viewing from within the operating system, and the previously announced Mission Control, which offers a quick view of all the apps and documents the user is currently running. Resume, which will let users stop working with an application and then pick up in the exact spot where they left off, was demoed at the event. Resume will be available systemwide, Apple says.

Apple has also unveiled an auto-save feature for Mac OS X Lion. With it, users can opt to either automatically save documents, make a copy, or "lock" a copy, so auto save is turned off. With the help of Versions, users will be able to go back to an older snapshot of a particular file, see edits made throughout the process, and choose what to use as the final product.

Apple wasn't done there, however. The company also talked about a new Lion feature called AirDrop. With the new option, users will be able to see friends on their network and transfer files to them within the same pane. Apple said AirDrop should help replace the practice of people copying content onto a USB drive and bringing it over to another computer to transfer data onto that device.

Apple also showed off a completely redesigned version of Mac OS X's e-mail application, Mail. The offering will feature a two- or three-column view and the addition of conversation viewing to keep all e-mails between parties on a respective subject in-line. The platform will also boast improved search.

As expected, the Mac App Store, which first launched in January, made a showing during Apple's discussion on Mac OS X Lion. According to the company, the marketplace has become the top channel for buying software in just the few months since its launch, besting Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and other retail outlets. To make it more appealing to users, Apple said it will offer in-app purchasing in the marketplace, as well as push notifications.

Apple plans to launch Mac OS X Lion in July for $29.99. Surprisingly, it will be available only as a 4GB download in the Mac App Store; the company will not be selling disc versions of the platform.

Apple talks stats, iOS 5
Following the Mac OS X Lion details, Apple turned its attention to its mobile operating system, iOS. According to the company, 200 million iOS-based devices have been sold to date. Apple has also sold 25 million iPads since the tablet's launch last year, the company said.

The company's App Store now has more than 425,000 applications, including 90,000 built for the iPad. All told, 14 billion apps have been downloaded from Apple's App Store, and a whopping $2.5 billion has been paid out to app developers.

With iOS 5, users will find more than 200 new features, Apple said.

Arguably one of the most important updates is the addition of Notification Center. The service aggregates all updates into a single location for people to find out about new text messages, missed calls, and other notifications. The missed notifications will also be available on the device's lock screen. When users swipe across one of those notifications, they'll be brought to the respective app to see the update.

Those hoping to cut the cord between their iOS-based devices and iTunes will be happy to hear that iOS 5 delivers over-the-air software updates. In addition, iPhone buyers will no longer need to tether their smartphone to their computer to activate it; all that will be done on the device.

iOS-based devices are going PC-free.
iOS-based devices are going PC-free. CNET Staff

Apple has added a Newsstand feature to iOS 5 to help users manage purchased digital magazines and newspapers from their iOS-based device, and Twitter will be featured prominently in iOS 5, allowing users to input their credentials into the platform's "Settings" menu. Twitter will be integrated into Camera, Photos, and other apps, allowing users to quickly tweet from the native programs.

To help improve the Web-browsing experience, mobile Safari will come with a new Reader feature, letting users click the option on a poorly formatted site and see content in a stripped-down version for easy viewing. In addition, Apple has added the ability for users to e-mail an entire story from Safari, rather than a link as before. Users will also find full tabbed-browsing in the app.

Apple's iOS 5 will deliver camera improvements, including being able to snap photos with the volume-up button, and the ability to enhance exposure settings on a particular part of the frame before the picture is snapped. Apple has also added image-editing in the app. For added convenience, Apple has brought the Camera app to the lock screen to give users quick access when they want to take a shot.

With Mail in iOS 5, users will have indentation control, the ability to flag messages, and the option to search entire messages. Apple has also added a split-keyboard option, pushing half of the keyboard to either side of the screen, which should excite those who use their thumbs to type.

Finally, Apple showed off a new feature, called iMessage, allowing iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch users to send text messages, videos, photos, and more to each other. The offering will work on both Wi-Fi and 3G networks, and the new messages are sent to all the iOS devices a user owns.

Apple plans to make iOS 5 available to users this fall.