Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Released Today - Why iOS 5 is a big deal

CNET - iOS 5, which made its debut at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June, marks a turning point for the company’s mobile software. Yes, it’s largely a collection of tweaks, improvements, and fiddling with a tried and true formula, but it’s also one that–for the first time–breaks iOS devices apart from computers running Apple’s iTunes software and goes further to try to unify the devices into the same family.

That vision is miles away from where Apple’s iPhone journey started and a response to the fact that iOS has long since rocketed past the company’s computers in popularity, with devices like the iPad growing to compete directly. No, this isn’t a “Mac OS X is dying” post, as much as now is a very good time to point out that what may seem like just another software update is something much bigger in the grand scheme of things.

The “PC Free” era

For the last four major versions of iOS, stretching all the way back to the original iPhone, Apple has demanded that users plug into a computer–be it a Mac or PC–to sync music, ferry over data, and grab software updates. Now those features are built into iOS itself.

Of course, if you have a computer, you can still plug in your device and continue to use iTunes, but Apple’s big idea is that these devices now stand on their own, right out of the box. That’s further augmented by a new wireless sync feature built into today’s iTunes 10.5 software update and iOS 5 that lets users continue to sync with their computer as they always have, but without the wires.

To get to the “PC free” era, as Apple’s calls it, the company’s gone through each built-in application to make sure it can function fully without the need for a computer running iTunes.

Apple laid the groundwork for that in previous system software updates, letting users download content from the iTunes Store directly onto devices. But where that was largely a ploy to encourage people to make more content purchases, this move takes the decoupling approach system-wide to make the hardware more appealing to those who wish it exclusively. That amounts to things like letting users delete media that’s been synced over from a computer, as well as editing photos that have been snapped on the device.

In order to make what could be considered a sacrifice of decoupling it to iTunes, Apple’s tied it to something else: iCloud. That’s Apple’s new cloud-based service that both stores and ferries files from one iOS device to another.

Launching tomorrow alongside iOS 5, iCloud does many of the same things as MobileMe (the service it’s replacing), while adding new hooks like:

-A back-up service that can store near-full copies of your iOS device on Apple’s servers for safe keeping
-The capability to re-download previously purchased content from any one of Apple’s digital stores
-A feature called Photo Stream that transfers photos from one device to another in the background
-File storage for app developers to keep certain files, like documents or application settings

Collectively, the service acts as a safety net for some of the things consumers originally needed a computer for when using these devices, something Apple is banking on to be attractive for users with one iOS device, or many.           More