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WWDC: Why this year is different

Ryan Faas | June 3, 2011
For one thing, Apple's already announced what's coming: iCloud, Lion and iOS 5.

Along similar lines, I expect Apple to highlight enterprise-integration features such as support for Active Directory and Exchange, plus a few curveballs. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to store a user account and home directory on a portable drive? Or see some native support for Google Apps accounts? Apple might even introduce an enterprise version of the Mac App Store as a software deployment.

While there will almost certainly be new Lion tidbits, the big news will be the announcement of pricing and a ship date. Apple has said only that Lion will ship this summer. Given the frequency of developer preview builds and the details about them from various Apple-centric sites, I wouldn't be surprised to see it ship sooner rather than later (perhaps even by the end of June).

 

iOS 5

Typically, Apple rolls out new iOS versions around the same time, if not on the same day, as new iPhones. Whether Apple will stick with that policy with iOS 5 remains to be seen. The company may simply preview iOS 5 and announce that it will ship later this year along with the next iPhone. Or it could announce an earlier ship date for existing iOS devices. In either case, it makes perfect sense for Apple to introduce iOS 5 at WWDC so developers can gain insights about new technologies they can bring to their apps.

What can we expect in iOS 5?

Speculation has so far focused on two major features. One involves Twitter integration, something that arose as an option for sharing files directly from a device, presumably with Twitter's upcoming baked-in photo sharing. If Twitter integration is built into the Camera and Photos apps, it will likely be at a system API level that could allow developers to take advantage of it in any photo- or camera-related app. Integration could even go deeper, with new Twitter-related options in other apps like Safari or third-party apps.

The second, and more interesting, hoped-for feature is a new homescreen addition that expands on the multitasking capabilities in iOS 4. Video out of Vietnam suggests that Apple is planning to add a specialized screen (similar to the existing search screen) that includes thumbnails of every running application. That would allow a user to switch between them more seamlessly and could allow applications to perform a wider variety of tasks in the background.

Apple has always been critical of full PC-like multitasking, though, because of its effect on processing power and battery life. But the company may be changing its tune on the concept, now that it's designing its own processors.

 

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