Today's Apple's WWDC Keynote: The PC Is Dead, Long Live the Cloud, Digital Amnesty for Pirates—Ahoy!
Didn't tune into today's Apple keynote? Fear not — here are the paradigm-shifting takeaways Steve Jobs wants you to embrace and understand, in handy bullet-point form!:
- The next wave of computing isn't going to be device-centric, application-centric, document-centric or even user-centric — it'll be experience-centric. At least of Lion is the template for the next wave of computing, which is what Apple assumes (Redmond, start your photocopiers):
- Gesture-based interfaces, animations and physics-based interactive elements make you feel like you're working directly on your content or media
- Applications are full-screen and "immersive," rather than locked into windows and sitting on faux desktops —all of the administrative and operational stuff disappear offscreen and surface only when the OS decides you need or want it
- "Saving" of files is automated and iterative (you can scroll back in time to past versions of files/documents to undo edits, retrieve deleted stuff, restore changes, etc. — like Time Capsule except at the document level)
- But "saving" may be antiquated anyway, because Apple is pushing "stop and resume" as the new default — when you move your attention away from an app all of the stuff is frozen in a persistent snapshot, and when you return, you come back to exactly the same state as you left it
- This "pick up where you left off" idea doesn't just apply over time — with Apple's new cloud-based infrastructure, it also applies across devices (at least for those applications that are cloudsmart). This means that if you're working on something on your Mac in, say, Pages (Apple's MSWord equivalent), all of your changes are synced with the cloud. Go to your iPad, fire up Pages and you can Resume your work on that exactly where you left off. Leave your iPad at home, and you can open up and Resume your work on your iPhone. (The same is true for playing media — freeze on the Mac, pick it up on the iPad or iPhone or Apple TV where you left off. The goal is anytime, anywhere computing with a consistent but device-appropriate experience.
- This is all just context for the larger paradigm shift that Apple is decreeing, which is that the PC is dead — or at least demoted to "just another device," as opposed to the "hub of your digital life" (their old slogan). The PC, as Jobs famously said in the last keynote, is like a truck. It's a heavy-duty info-mover that's not really necessary for 90% of the things we do today, especially with so much computing power sitting out in data centers and accessible via the persistent wireless Internet. We still need to fire it up for some things, but we really don't need to dock to it anymore — that's just annoying. Instead, the cloud is the center of digital everythingness now.
- You no longer need to tether to a computer to activate new iDevices — turn them on, connect them to the Internet, identify yourself and all of your stuff (apps, media, files, prefs, etc.) will stream down to your new gadget automagically.
- You also don't need to tether in order to do iOS upgrades — those will also stream down wirelessly to you and update on their own (uh, hopefully only if you ask for them? <<jailbreakers beware>>
- It's not just activation — it's also syncing, which will take place in the background across all of your Apple platforms, from the Mac to the iPhone and iPad to Apple TV, via the magic of iCloud — allowing not just the stop-and-resume behavior mentioned above, but also consistent media access everywhere. If you have an app, movie, song or other piece of media on one device, you now have it on all of your authorized devices (up to 10) — and any changes you make are reflected everywhere. It's like DropBox, but for your whole damn digital life.
- Discs are dead, too. Lion, like iOS, is a downloadable release (4GB) that you get through the Mac App Store. If you must have physical media, you're getting a USB stick. Seriously, does anyone still use discs for anything other than coasters?
- The big announcement, of course, is iCloud. And it *is* big. It's the thing that enables all of the background syncing to all devices, doing what Exchange does for Outlook (syncing email, messages, calendaring, contacts), but also what Google Music Beta and Amazon's Cloud Drive do for music and other media, with a couple of very big differences.
- It syncs photos, music, books, movies, apps, documents, preferences and application data, making all of it available to all of your devices in updated form at all times
- It backs up all of your mobile stuff to the cloud — so you can restore wirelessly rather than having to restore from your computer if your device crashes or needs total resetting, or, again, if you get a new device
- IT'S NOT A STREAMING SERVICE. It's a meta-download service — if you want something on your authorized iDevice that you already own, you click on it and it downloads to that device. Once it's on that device, you can listen to or watch it as many times as you want, delete it, redownload it, etc. at will. Rationale: 1.) streaming eats up bandwidth like no tomorrow — so why not cache it locally if it's something you'll be consuming again and again; 2.) streaming only works when you're in wireless range. Syncing lets you listen on your local device even when you're off the grid.
- You can upload/sync whatever you want if it's on your computer and in iTunes (whatever the origin — ripped, torrented, etc.). However, to avoid the hours, days or weeks of uploading that syncing a 32GB music collection may require, you can use something called iTunes Match, which for $25 will scan your iTunes collection and automatically make available 256K (e.g., ultra high-fidelity), DRM-free copies of the songs that Apple has access to available in your iCloud — no uploading. If they don't have it, you can still upload it and it's treated the same as everything else. Here's the amazing thing: THIS IS BASICALLY PIRATE AMNESTY. You may have 100GB of downloaded music, but use this backdoor and for $25, it'll all be replaced with legal, DRM-free tracks that you can listen to on all your devices. Once that happens, you're beyond the reach of Big Music. And this is not a subscription service, either — it's DRM-free music, so they can't rake it back; it's a one-time $25 payment to indemnify you from RIAA prosecution. Not bad, for all of you who've been reared on fr33 d0wnl04dz!
There's a lot more stuff in there, but these are the big things — and they point to some bigger ones ahead. I would watch Apple TV very closely…as I predict that all of this iCloud stuff is poised to impact the living room in a huge way very soon.