This evening I spent two hours watching Steve Jobs along with other employees of Apple Inc. share a presentation about Mac OS 10.7 “Lion,” iOS 5 and the new iCloud service which was shared earlier in the day in San Francisco at the 2011 Worldwide Developer’s Conference. Appropriately, I watched this on an iPad.
In the entire 1 hour and 50 minute presentation, the most notable thing I heard Steve say was this: “The truth is in the cloud!”
Steve wasn’t making a theological statement, he was referring to the new “center” of the Apple digital world. In the past, Apple’s strategy has placed the PC (personal computer) as the media hub in the center of our lives. With the proliferation of mobile devices as well as the power of cloud computing, Apple has now embraced a “evolved” center for digital computing. This not only includes media consumption, but also media creation and sharing. It’s a huge shift with big benefits for us as consumers, media creators and media sharers.
To obtain a more comprehensive update on the WWDC2011 announcements today, I recommend you check out Chris Rawson’s article for TUAW, “What Mac owners need to know after today’s WWDC announcements” as well as Richard Gaywood’s article, “Seven things iPhone users should know about today’s announcement.” This second article actually has a typo in the headline… I share this not to embarrass or put down Richard, but rather so you can share this with your students and talk about the importance of both careful spelling AND careful proofreading! I know this is easy to do when writing quickly and publishing immediately. Let your students know even “the pros” make mistakes like these sometimes.
Here are some of the things I thought were particularly significant and/or noteworthy from today’s keynote.
iCloud is MobileMe and More
Steve got some laughs today when he rhetorically asked why developers should trust Apple when they announced the exciting features of iCloud, since this was the same company that brought the world MobileMe. This was a reference to numerous sync and other issues which have challenged MobileMe users. Steve’s next comment, however, was the most telling one. He said, “But we learned A LOT.” He didn’t say, “We failed and we learned from our mistakes,” but that was the context of his message. Great companies, just like great learners, never allow themselves to be defined by their failures. Rather, they always look at a failure as an opportunity to learn and get better. That is what Apple is doing, and Steve was modeling this attitude / approach as he introduced us all to iCloud in his presentation. This is a VERY important approach to life, problem solving and success which we need to share with our students as well as keep in mind ourselves.
MobileMe used to be a $99 per year paid service. Now iCloud is free, and everyone gets 5 GB of storage NOT including media files purchased from iTunes or the last 1000 photos you take on your iOS devices which will sync on up to 10 devices you own, automatically. This is HUGE. Our family has already been using the MobileMe sync option for contacts and calendars for over a year, and it’s been great. While we still maintain some offline backups, it’s great to have our data in the cloud where we can access it from multiple locations AND with multiple devices. I haven’t paid for my wife or kids to have their own MobileMe accounts, it was too expensive. We just shared mine. Now, if we want everyone can have their own iCloud accounts to manage their own calendars. I think we may still use a common account (at least at first) because of media sync issues. The option to have separate accounts is a good one, however, and FREE is definitely a better price!
Cloud Computing is our Future and Present
It’s been interesting (to say the least) to be both an Apple Distinguished Educator as well as a Google Certified Teacher the past few years. Apple and Google complement each other with their products in some ways, but they also definitely compete in the mobile space. I’ve admittedly “drank the Google kool-aid” about cloud computing, and it’s exciting to see Apple getting on board as well. Steve said in his keynote, Apple has changed their framework for the center of the digital media experience. It’s no longer the PC, it’s in the cloud. That’s part of what he was referencing when he said, “The truth is in the cloud!” Where is your school NOW with respect to cloud computing? Are your teachers using a cloud-based content management system to share assignments and facilitate student work? Publishing on wikis and blogs? Using a variety of tools as “digital sandboxes” to publish and share media projects? If not, this is the direction you need to head. Our present and future, when it comes to digital work and collaboration, is and will be increasingly cloud-based. Apple is a big company and changing their focus like this is a BIG deal. Your school needs to change its focus for where a LOT of student and teacher work takes place, is archived, and can be showcased. That location is the CLOUD.
iCloud offers (among other things) the ability to re-download purchased music just like Apple customers have been able to do with apps since they were first offered for iOS. I’m really looking forward to the ability to see past purchase lists. One specific reason is that I bought a Juan Luis Guerra album several years ago, but had to restore my iPhone before I’d synced it back to my iTunes Library at home. As a result, I lost those songs. Now, since they should be in my purchase history I’m thinking I can re-download them when iCloud goes live. Woo hoo!
Twitter Integration in iOS 5
I love to use Twitter, both for learning as well as sharing. The announced iOS 5 integration of Twitter should be great, allowing more apps the ability to share to Twitter with ease. This will avoid the need to separately authenticate different apps for use with Twitter. In the preso, it was mentioned there are now over 1 billion tweets shared worldwide per day. Are you using Twitter yet? If not, when are you going to start? Twitter is a major platform for collaboration, learning, and just-in-time support. It’s often not an easy platform to explain and help people understand, but when that “light bulb” comes on it can be VERY significant for long term learning. Twitter is one of the most important tools I use on a daily basis to learn and share, so its tight integration with iOS sounds like a great thing to me.
iOS 5 will include some great improvements for iPhone photographers, or iPhoneographers. This year is my first to do a “Photo 365 Project,” and I really enjoy the opportunity and encouragement that provides to regularly take as well as share iPhone pics. iOS 5 will have the ability to edit iPhone photos right within the default photos app, including iPhoto-like “one touch” magic editing to improve image quality. It will be nice (I’m thinking) to be able to crop, rotate, and do other minor editing without using a 3rd party app as I do presently. (I use Adobe Photoshop Express for iOS now, it’s free.) I also REALLY like how a quick double click on an iPhone will let users go DIRECTLY to the camera app. This is something a good friend of mine has done on his iPhone for over a year, but it required him to jailbreak. Now that jailbroken functionality is coming to mainstream iPhone users. That’s a great thing in this case!
Offline, Instapaper-like Webpage Reading
My son really enjoyed using the free version of the Instapaper app before he inherited my old iPhone and was using an iPod Touch. He was offline all day long at school, but with Instapaper he could have access to FanFiction stories and other webpages (like articles from Wookipedia) which were cached/saved offline to his Touch. Now that functionality has been adopted by Apple in its Reader application. I’m guessing this won’t make the Instapaper developers happy (unless they received a payout from Apple for this) but it should be great for us as consumers and users.
iBooks eBook Sync Across Devices
I love how eBooks on Kindle devices and on the free iOS Kindle app sync across platforms, letting you immediately go to your last-read page when you switch devices. That same function is coming to iBooks on multiple iOS devices, and that’s a great thing.
iTunes Match Sounds Awesome
The “one more thing” Steve discussed at the end of his WWDC11 keynote was “iTunes Match.” For those of us with sizable music libraries of songs we did NOT purchase from iTunes but instead “ripped” from CDs we’d owned for years, this is a BIG deal. Currently with Amazon’s cloud-based music service, you have to upload all your music to their servers to back it up. iTunes Match is a commercial service that costs $24.99 per year. With it, iTunes will scan your iTunes library and identify what songs it has available for download which you already own. Then, instead of uploading YOUR versions (which could be at a low kilobit rate, incidentally) Apple will essentially “credit your account” with that song and let you download it as needed, on up to ten iOS devices, in enhanced 256 kbps AAC DRM free versions. This is a HUGE deal. I have over 30 GB of music currently, so I definitely wouldn’t want to upload all that non-iTunes music to the cloud. iTunes Music Match should not only let me download any of the songs I own but didn’t purchase from iTunes, it should also let me “upgrade” the quality of most of those songs since I encoded many of them “back in the day” (early 2000s) at 128 kbps. This is unexpected “good news” from the iCloud / WWDC11 announcements today, and I’m looking forward to becoming an iTunes Match subscriber. Since I won’t have to pay $99 per year for MobileMe anymore, I’ll still come out about $75 ahead on this deal!
What did you think of Monday’s WWDC11 announcements from Apple?
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