WWDC: Why this year is different

For one thing, Apple's already announced what's coming: iCloud, Lion and iOS 5

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Apple certainly needs to make some serious improvements to the iOS notification system; its options haven't changed since the first iPhone arrived in 2007. Any incoming notification (be it from a third-party app or some built-in function like a text message or voice mail) can trigger only three actions: Make a sound, add a badge number to the associated app's icon, or display an alert in the middle of a device's display.

That's pretty limited. Worse yet, alerts tend to layer over each other and only offer users the option to immediately respond, which typically launches the related app, or to ignore, in which case the alert disappears from view, never to be seen again. That makes alerts almost pointless.

Apple needs to overhaul the system. If nothing else, there needs to be a mechanism for collecting alerts for later review similar to webOS. In my opinion, webOS has a much better alert system than Android, with its notification bar on handsets -- though the notification setup on Android tablets is much more functional.

I'm not certain which direction Apple will go, but I'm assuming something's coming -- partly because it's desperately needed and partly because last year, Apple hired Rich Dellinger, the creator of the notification system used in webOS.

I'm sure we're going to get some enterprise news for iOS as well. IPads and iPhones have been marching into workplaces of all shapes and sizes. Apple will want to highlight that and will no doubt talk about the mobile device management features built into iOS 4 and the range of management consoles now on the market. We'll likely see some advances in this area as well.

Of course, iOS 5 will also take advantage of all the iCloud goodness Apple has been building. This will be huge for music, but also useful for any additional sync capabilities and access to new cloud features.

Ironically, given the popularity of the iPhone and iPad, iOS 5 may turn out to be one of the lesser parts from this year's keynote, particularly if it won't ship for some time.

Bottom line

In general, I think this is going to be a pretty major event for Apple -- I expect to see the company leapfrog its way into the cloud computing arena with some serious and polished offerings. While Lion and iOS 5 are going to be major points, iCloud is clearly going to be the showstopper as a service and a core component of each of Apple's platforms.

And I still wouldn't be surprised if there's "one more thing" no one has anticipated.

Ryan Faas is a freelance writer and technology consultant specializing in Mac and multiplatform network issues. He has been a Computerworld columnist since 2003 and is a frequent contributor to Peachpit.com. Faas is also the author of iPhone for Work (Apress, 2009). You can find out more about him at RyanFaas.com and follow him on Twitter (@ryanfaas).

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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