WWDC's real news: Apple moves beyond iOS and OS X

A look at Apple's areas of focus reveals that the iPhone, iPad, and Mac are vessels for Apple's services strategy

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  • Expanded iCloud and Siri services. One of OS X Mountain Lion's enhancements is iCloud Documents, which lets Mac apps (but only if sold through the Mac App Store) directly access the iCloud syncing and storage service to store and retrieve their documents. iOS apps already have that capability, so in many respects this is just OS X catching up to iOS. At the recent AllThingsD conference, Apple CEO Cook said the company was working on expanded services for its Siri voice-based personal assistant technology. That's as close as Apple gets to a preannouncement, so expect to hear about new data sources for Siri and perhaps APIs to allow greater developer access in iOS and OS X (maybe). Even if Siri doesn't yet go beyond the smartphone, its dictation capability -- already in the third-generation iPad -- makes sense to become part of OS X, especially because the Mac has long had speech recognition for controlling its user interface.
  • Updated iWork suite. Apple's alternative to Microsoft Office hasn't been updated since 2009, and it shows. Certainly Pages, Numbers, and Keynote will gain iCloud Documents support in OS X -- an omission that makes syncing between iWork on iOS devices and the Mac frustrating today. Less clear is whether Apple will fix some of the major flaws in Pages, such as lack of style sheet support and revisions tracking, that keep it from being a true Word replacement. Likewise, Numbers lacks key business capabilities such as linked spreadsheets and macro support. (Keynote is actually a better tool than PowerPoint.) In 1997, Apple got Microsoft to commit to keeping Office on the Mac, despite what was then deep skepticism the Mac would survive. Microsoft has honored that bargain, though with inferior versions. The Apple-Microsoft relationship is complicated, with strong competition in some areas but concerted efforts in others (such as fighting Google), and the persistent reports in the New York Times that Microsoft will offer Office for the iPad in November could mean Apple will refrain from making iWork too competitive, to ensure the iPad's business support is better than Android's.
  • iOS 6 banner at Apple's WWDC in San Francisco's Moscone Center width=
    Credit: 9to5 Mac
  • iOS 6. The banners proclaiming iOS 6 as "the world's most advanced operating system" are already hung at San Francisco's Moscone conference center, where WWDC is beig held. So it'll feature prominently at WWDC's keynote. What's in iOS 6 is largely unknown. Maybe Apple will fix some longstanding deficiencies in iOS. And no doubt Apple will include some enhancements from OS X Mountain Lion -- the do-not-disturb switch for notifications and Safari's iCloud Tabs -- plus the new maps serice and any Siri and dictation enhancements. But those alone would make for an iOS 5.2 update, not a full-version rev.

That's a lot to cover in a keynote session, even at Apple's usual two-hour length, so I question whether Apple will also reveal the interminably rumored "iPhone 5" at WWDC, as is popularly blogged.

If you look at the list of what Apple is working on, you can see that most are independent -- or could be -- of either OS X or iOS.: iCloud, maps, Siri and dictation, sharing services, social integration, iTunes (which may also get a face-lift at WWDC, though its development schedule is less predictable than iOS's and OS X's), and iWork. That's why I believe the real focus at WWDC after the curtain has been drawn on the keynote will be iCloud, Siri, and these other services.

Apple is creating a rich ecosystem of services that aren't device-specific -- though most are Apple-specific, which raises some concerns. It's making that post-PC notion real, creating a federation of capabilities that work across devices in your hand (iPhone, iPod, and iPad), on your desk (Mac), in your TV (Apple TV), or perhaps in your car.

This story, "WWDC's real news: Apple moves beyond iOS and OS X," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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