If you tuned into any of the seemingly hundreds of live blogging that covered today’s WWDC keynote you undoubtedly hoped to see fireworks. As an outside observer I expected Jobs to stride on stage and take everyone’s breath away. Instead the day seemed to be full of gestures that simply didn’t go far enough to be called innovative, only acceptable and nice.
Admit it, you were hoping that …one more thing…would turn out to be as awesome as last year’s surprise didn’t you? Instead you got iTunes Match, an attempt to give iTunes the kind of functionality Google and Amazon could only dream of. One small problem with iTunes Match is that Apple is re-encoding all music during the transfer to 256kbps if the quality isn’t good enough. I don’t know about you but I’ve loaded tons of mp3 unto my phone in the olden days of storage cards and a standard 192kbps song of average length is going to run you close to 5MB. So you can basically imagine an extra MB being added to that for songs that you’ll be paying to download to your idevices and that eats into your data usage.
A sure firework and a definite mortal wound to Blackberry is iOS5’s iMessage. The ability to message other iOS/Mac OS X users directly and bypassing carriers hits at the heart of one of Blackberry’s last trump cards. You have to hand it to Apple by recognizing the opportunity to gain a foothold in the enterprise market which would be harder for their competitors to unseat them once established. Definite big time play right here. I’m talking about Fourth of July Firework here! The only caveat is the same limitation Facetime has, only works with other iOS5 users. When pitted against cross platform solutions like Skype and live messenger the reach of iMessage seems limited when considering how many people now rock Androids and this fall Windows Phone.
Notification Center is Apple’s answer to all the criticism and requests made about notifications. They spot on nailed the notifications giving iOS users a method they will surely enjoy and they have more control over how they interact with notifications. It is a dead ringer to MobileNotifier, a popular 3rd Party app. As you can see it is not just the lock screen that got a nice update but system wide. Well done Apple, well done.
Apple introduced a quick access method to enter the camera app which attempts to work similarly to the Windows Phone method. However the iPhone doesn’t come with a dedicated camera button (doh!) so instead uses the volume up key to perform the task. Also we’re still not sure if it requires both the camera button present on the lock screen and a swipe to enable the function or just one. In any case it is a more cumbersome way of performing the task Windows Phone emphasizes as a key feature and differentiator for their platform.
All the hubbub around Twitter integration turned out to be not worth the fuss. Yes twitter integration is system wide on the iDevices but its just the ability to tweet from apps and other parts of the system. It isn’t an elegant, inventive way of utilizing twitter the way another OS is thought to be doing. It was a passing mention and not a key point in the presentation. That should tell you how much effort really went into this implementation. As always, yes iOS users will probably be satisfied and happy to have this integration in this form but when faced with increasing competition just doing enough and strong arming people into acceptance because of your install base just isn’t going to be enough very soon.
I won’t mention the other services and features announced because frankly they aren’t worth noting. Today was a mixed bag for Apple as they delivered some much needed refresh and updates of the notification system, debuted their cloud solution and showed how their ecosystem is more in sync and tighter integrated than ever. Its just the shock of seeing Apple clearly implementing features that Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone have had for a while and not doing a better job of implementing any feature that drags the grade down for me. I give the iOS5 update a solid C+ because aside from the iMessage attack on Blackberry Messenger there was little to nothing of note. Even that wasn’t innovative just direct. On the other hand it’s a clear sign that iOS has matured to the point that small improvements is all that’s needed to remain competitive and keep legions of users/customers happy.