Apple levels up

Apple levels up

Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod touch — they’re converging and blending. Add a dash of the new iCloud and we have the beginning of a new era in how Apple helps us work, play and communicate.

After much thought I’ve decided this week not to write a usual MacTip but instead to tell you about some recent developments that will affect us all as users of Apple products.

My comments arise from watching the 2 hour streaming video from the WWDC 2011 keynote in June 2011 and from other non-specific information I’ve been reading.

If you have a couple of hours to spare and sufficient bandwidth, I recommend watching the Keynote. It’s not pulse-raising stuff, but it’s quietly very significant. And you’ll get to see demos of a couple of dozen great new features headed our way.

  1. Not just Mac any more
  2. New Operating Systems: Lion and iOS 5
  3. iOS 5 means standalone devices
  4. iCloud keeps everything in sync, automatically
  5. Macs demoted; iOS devices promoted
  6. OS X Lion adds iOS features
  7. The systems are merging
  8. More than just a new OS
  9. MacTips keeps up
  10. I welcome contributions

Not just Mac any more

In casting around today to write a Tip specifically for Mac users I found I kept coming back all the time to iPhone and iPad. For example, showing a new feature in the latest version of iTunes which keeps apps on iPhone and iPad in sync.

I haven’t checked any statistics, but it seems lately as though the balance of these MacTips has tipped towards iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. In other words devices that run the iOS.

A while ago I changed the subtitle of this site to: MacTips — the practical, useful website for people who love or just use Apple products.

The most popular post by far is Arrange Application icons on the iPhone or iPod touch.

I first set up MacTips in September 1999. At that time Apple computer only produced the Macintosh and software to run on it. That led to my choice of name.

Now Apple produce a variety of devices. The computing world has changed enormously and will doubtless continue to evolve at high speed into the future.

New Operating Systems: Lion and iOS 5

In June 2011 at Apple’s worldwide developer conference Apple told us about the highlights of the new operating systems for Macs and the iOS devices and also about some conceptual changes in how they work together. Each OS brings hundreds of new features.

I’m no industry analyst, but here are just a couple of things that stood out for me.

iOS 5 means standalone devices

iOS 5.

iOS 5.

The new operating system for iPads, iPhones, iPod Touch is iOS 5. It will be available within the next few months.

One hugely important feature is that those devices will now be able to stand alone — you will no longer be forced to plug them in to a computer to activate them or to synchronise files such as music and photos.

This means that in future people will be able to buy an iPad, for example, as their only computing device. I am sure a lot of people will do this.

iCloud keeps everything in sync, automatically

Using a new Apple service called iCloud, iOS devices and computers will be kept synchronised without the user actually having to do anything. For example, if I take a photo on my iPhone that photo will automatically show up on my iPad and on my Mac as soon as I turn on those devices.

Your data will be held in the cloud and automatically shared out to all your devices.

This will be a huge change from having to plug each device in turn into a computer to pull across photos and so on.

Clearly it also has implications for data use. Those of us on slow connections, or with low data caps may have to choose carefully how we work with this feature. But it underlines the importance of good access to high-speed broadband and high capacity connections.

Macs demoted; iOS devices promoted

These two changes also mean a difference in the perception of the Mac or PC. The Mac used to be the main device that holds all your photos, movies, music and other files while an iPhone or iPad was dependent and held a subset of those files. In future the Mac simply becomes another device on the same level as the iPhone or iPad.

OS X Lion adds iOS features

OS X Lion.

OS X Lion.

Meanwhile in a couple of weeks the new Macintosh operating system will be available to us to install. It’s called OS X Lion.

As usual, it brings all kinds of new whizz bang features. There are a couple of particularly significant things though.

It wasn’t part of the official announcement, but for the past 10 years Apple have always referred to their operating system as Mac OS X. The new version though, 10.7, seems only to be called OS X. They seem to have dropped the Mac at the beginning.

Mac OS X has lost its Mac in Lion.

Mac OS X has lost its Mac in Lion.

What’s more Lion is adopting many features introduced in iOS. For example, Launchpad gives you quick access to all your apps from a screen resembling that on the iPhone. Other interface tweaks will make the Mac seem more like an iPad too, with changes to scrollbars, full-screen windows and so on.

If your Mac has a trackpad you will be able to use many of the same gestures that you currently use on your iPad.

The systems are merging

In short, Apple appear to be beginning a process of merging the two operating systems. They’re bringing features from each across to the other.

More than just a new OS

By the end of 2011 the Apple world will have moved on to a different footing. iOS devices and Macs will be equal members of the family, while iCloud will keep our data available universally to all.

It’s a subtle but significant change.

MacTips keeps up

My MacTips will reflect that evolution and continue with Tips about the new software and current and new devices.

I’m sure some of my readers own only one device, while others own several. I currently own 4 Apple devices and several peripherals, but that’s not surprising as I love technology.

My partner though, who doesn’t specially care about technology, owns 3. Even my hairdresser, who has no particular interest in technology at all, uses a PC sometimes, and loves both her iPhone and iPad. She mainly uses them for playing games and keeping in touch with family.

I have no intention of changing the name of this site: I expected it to continue to be called MacTips. But the definition of “Mac” here has widened to mean “all things Apple”.

I welcome contributions

By the end of 2011 the Apple world will have moved on to a different footing. iOS devices and Macs will be on an equal footing, while iCloud will keep our data available equally to all.

These Tips will to the best of my ability explain how to use Apple products. I have neither access to nor expertise in all Apple hardware, software and services, but you’ll have noticed I’ve been bringing in guest writers to help extend my coverage. And I welcome more contributions.

Once Lion’s released my MacTips will lean towards the new features it offers. Then when iOS and iCloud are available in a few months I’ll be explaining them too.

Meanwhile, I’m open to suggestions for topics.

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