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iCloud rumblings at WWDC

by Howard Wolinsky

The Worldwide Developers Conference starting today in San Francisco is Apple’s (AAPL) signature event of the year for the company’s watchers and fans

iPhone 4, FaceTime video chat and a near-final release of iOS 4 for developers were featured at the WWDC 2010. Four years ago, Apple announced the iPhone there, a game-changer for tech, leading to the dominance of smartphones, apps and app stores, and the iPad and other tablets.

Could 2011 be another game-changer for Apple itself and the industry?

This much is known: Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO and co-founder, who has been on medical leave, will give a major speech at the event. And Apple has said it will unveil its new iCloud platform to provide web-based storage services, including music.

Also, the meeting apparently will not be about the iPhone 5.

Will there be more? Will WWDC be about WMCD (weapons of mass creative destruction) of tech as we know it?

We’ll know soon enough. Meanwhile, there are plenty of guesses.

Roundup of leading pundits and observers

Kevin Fox, lead designer at Mozilla Labs, blogging at fox@fury, is suggesting that the 2011 will represent a major shift in Apple as the introduction of another game-changer, the iPod in 2001.

“I don’t have any inside info, and I make a point of not trying to pry secrets from my friends who work at Apple, but the rumblings are huge. iCloud could mean anything, but given the complete failure of MobileMe over the last decade there’s no way Apple would introduce it on such a pedestal unless it’s incredible,” he said. “My guess is that iCloud is to MobileMe as iPhone was to Newton: a complete, deep, polished solution after an underwhelming market failure.”

Tom Krazit at Paid Content said the iCloud “is expected to be the most modern take on Internet services that Apple has yet to attempt.” He said Apple blew it on MobileMe. “Apple is a bit notorious for having trouble grokking the Web,” he said.

John Gruber at Daring Fireball said iCloud should be considered the new iTunes, rather than the new MobileMe.

“With iPhones, iPods, and iPads, the central store for almost all data stored on the devices is iTunes running on your Mac or PC,” he said. “With iCloud, that should shift to the cloud. iTunes, the desktop app, currently syncs the following things with iOS devices: audio, movies and TV shows, iBooks e-books, App Store apps, contacts, calendars, bookmarks, notes, and any sort of files shared between iOS apps. All of these things would be better served syncing over-the-air via the so-called cloud.”

Gruber said if Apple can work out a deal “to allow movies, in addition to music, to be bought and stored permanently in your iCloud account, then the Apple TV 2 suddenly changes from a machine for renting movies into a machine for buying or renting movies.”

Krazit maintained WWDC will be about software.

“Forget all the hype about the iCloud: the single most important reason for WWDC remains iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch,” he said. “But while Apple certainly takes a lot of pride in its hardware design teams, the software is arguably more important, the basis for an army of mobile developers who consider Apple’s iOS their biggest priority when it comes to application development.”

He said iOS 5 will be featured in the keynote and likely will have hooks into iCloud, a new push-notification system, and a deeper level of integration with Twitter. Since Jobs’ has said 2011 will be “the year of the iPad,” the tablets will be on the iOS5 menu as well, he said.