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Jobs unveils free iCloud sync, storage service

June 6, 2011 04:24 PM ET

Previously, Apple had charged $129 for its operating system upgrades.

Scott Forstall, Apple's senior vice president of iOS software, introduced iOS 5, and like Schiller and Federighi, focused on just 10 features.

Apple said the iOS upgrade will ship this fall, presumably alongside or perhaps slightly before the launch of the next-generation iPhone.

Most experts expect Apple to debut the iPhone 5 -- called the iPhone 4S by some -- in September.

"iOS 5 is a major release," said Forstall. "This is incredible for our developers and our customers."

Among the iOS 5 features Forstall highlighted were in-app notifications, a magazine- and newspaper-subscription tool called Newsstand that periodically downloads new issues in the background for offline reading, a new tool for short lists or reminders not tagged to the calendar, and tighter integration with the micro-blogging service Twitter.

"We want to make it even easier for all our customers to use Twitter in our iOS products," said Forstall, who demonstrated a single-sign-on for the service and built-in Twitter support for several Apple-designed apps, including Camera, Photo and Safari.

Apple will also refresh the iOS version of Safari for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch to offer browser tabs -- which the desktop edition already sports -- as well as Reading List, which lets users mark Web pages, then synchronizes the list across multiple devices for later reading.

Other apps included with the operating system will also receive new features and tweaks, including Camera -- which will let users zoom by pinching fingers on the screen, and allow simple in-app editing -- and Mail. The latter will offer full-text searches

The highlight of Forstall's presentation, however, was the announcement that iOS 5 will cut the cable and allow users to activate a new device and grab software updates on existing ones without connecting to a Mac or Windows PC running iTunes.

Apple has named the feature "PC Free."

"You can now set up and activate your device right on the device and you are ready to go. It's that easy," said Forstall.

According to Apple, PC Free will rely on a Wi-Fi network to synchronize and back up user-owned content from their mobile devices to their iTunes library housed on a Mac or PC.

Gottheil was more taken with Lion's new features than iOS 5's.

"They smoothed some of the rough edges to iOS," Gottheil said, "but in terms of sheer creativity and innovation, I like Lion better. Desktop OSes are 20th century, and intrinsically limited. But Apple's gone back and said, 'What can we do to give [Mac OS X] a new life?'"

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed Keizer RSS. His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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