WWDC Predictions Part 1: iOS and Lion
Next week is WWDC, and Steve Jobs will again take the stage to show us iOS 5, OS X Lion, and iCloud. In the last 2 years I’ve attended WWDC, my lack of preparation and coffee relegated me to watch on a big projection screen in the overflow room. This year, I’m going to force myself to go early to see the keynote live. There just is no substitute for the real thing, and I think this year will be notable: in the last few years we’ve seen hardware released at WWDC, which is fun but not nearly exciting for developers as a major new OS upgrade.
What we know for sure: we will see the announcement of 3 products: Mac OS X Lion, iOS 5, and “iCloud”. I think that iCloud will touch both iOS and Mac, and will be the most exciting of the 3 announcements. I’m going to talk about that in a following post.
Mac OS X 10.7 Lion
I think I’m least excited in what they have to say about this. So far what I’ve seen of Lion has been underwhelming, and unless they reveal something completely unannounced in the betas released to developers, I don’t see it changing the way I use my Mac. What I do expect is some deep integration with iCloud, which I think will be far more interesting than the rest of the OS announcement.
I think we’re in for a treat with iOS 5. iOS 4’s most notable feature was multitasking. I think that iOS 5’s notable feature will be iCloud, followed by a new notification system.
iOS notifications suck. Plain and simple and horrible for anyone who uses more than 1 or 2 apps, or for anyone who messages regularly. “Katie: 2 Messages” is not all that useful, and the way that most push notifications work, stacking the most recent message and causing me to have to play “dismiss the dialog boxes” is maddening. If I don’t use my iPad for a while, I’m destined to play this game with meeting requests, CNN alerts, Words with Friends updates, etc. Each I have to deal with, at that moment, one at a time, until I’m done with them all. And god forbid I want to actually act on 2 or more of those alerts instead of just dismissing them: acting on one brings up the app in question, only to show me another notification about a different app.
This has to be fixed for iOS 5, and I think they finally will. I don’t know what form it will take, but I’m hoping it has some sort of history so that I can see and act on past events. It would be interesting to see Apple create some sort of priority structure too, so missed calls have a much greater importance than letting me know my crops are ready in Farmville (note: use of Farmville for illustrative purposes only). The trick will be in making this system as dead-simple to use as the notifications: while they are frustrating to a power user, making someone make a Yes/No decision is quite straightforward. Anything that Apple does, they’re going to try to keep this level of simplicity.
I don’t know what Apple will do in this realm, but I think that providing widgets tastefully makes a lot of sense. Android features widgets on home screens, which in my opinion are ugly: it makes each screen look cluttered and unorganized. The pictures that they show you selling the phones are rarely what actual Android phones look like: I’ve found them to be an unorganized swipe fest of random forgotten widgets.
For letting me know about the weather, or show me my calendar, or any other such simple task that is designed for fast consumption, widgets make a lot of sense. They allow you to quickly get a lot of information at a glance without hunting through your apps. I wonder if Apple will make the lock-screen a new home for widgets, and save the home screens for app launching. Or perhaps they will use the area above the multitasking bar, making the double-tap a power users dream for task switching as well as info gathering. In this area I have no idea what Apple will do, and I think they are just as likely to leave the feature off if they haven’t dreamt up an elegant way to solve it.
The Mac OS/iOS development platform for most of us is called Xcode, and just went through it’s biggest update yet, to version 4.0. I think Apple will update Xcode 4 to 4.1 during the conference, and will make it the required platform for building for Lion and iOS 5 upon the release of iOS 5. This is likely a few months away, and will allow most devs sufficient time to move over to the new platform (bugs and all).
As for other announcements, we could very well see some Mac hardware announced at the show, but are unlikely to see any iOS hardware. These are, in order of what I think is most likely:
- Macbook Air (minor refresh, speed bump, thunderbolt)
- Airport Express/Time Capsule (if rumors of stock are to believed, and to support iCloud)
- Mac mini (which hasn’t seen an update in a year)
I don’t think we’re going to see an Apple TV announcement. The hope with Apple TV is that Apple will open it up to developers to write apps for, but I don’t see that happening just yet.
So that’s it. Stay tuned for my iCloud predictions, where I think the meat and potatoes of the announcement will be.