New Developer Opportunities Arrive with Apple's iOS 5, iCloud

Apple took the wraps off of two huge initiatives at its Worldwide Developer Conference this week, both of which have major implications for its developers: iOS 5 and iCloud, a suite of offerings to hasten the "post-PC" world, according to CEO Steve Jobs.

iOS, Apple's mobile operating system, is familiar to most developers. The fifth iteration will be available sometime in the fall, according to an Apple press release. Those belonging to Apple's Developer Program, however, don't have to wait: a beta version of the OS is available for them.

Apple touts more than 200 new features in iOS 5, including upgrades to messaging, notifications and new organizational tools for newspaper and magazine subscriptions. All the new features mean developers will have about 1,500 new application programming interfaces (APIs) to work with, Jobs noted.

Included in the messaging and notification enhancements is tight integration with Twitter, which was sorely lacking in previous iOS versions. Instant messaging also gets a makeover, and the mobile version of Apple's Safari browser finally gets tabs. "iOS 5 has some great new features, such as Notification Center, iMessage and Newsstand and we can’t wait to see what our developers do with its 1,500 new APIs," said Jobs in the release.

Not everyone was impressed, though. In particular, some in the rival Android community noted that many of the features are already available on Google's mobile OS. A writer on the (non-Google-affiliated) Android blog wrote:

"In iOS5, Apple ripped off Android and introduced features you’ve likely enjoyed for almost three years: wireless app and contact syncing; integration of Twitter into the OS; tabbed browsing; a better email app, and much more ... It’s fun to point out that Apple loves to trumpet its innovation but spent most of today’s WWDC keynote gushing over features that I used 3 years and 2 phones ago."

Something new that Apple did introduce was iCloud, which Apple is positioning as as set of cloud services to tie together all computing devices like the iPhone, iPad, Macs and even PCs. Content from these devices is kept in Apple's cloud and pushed to all devices, keeping everything in sync. Toward that end, Apple says it has "completely re-architected and rewritten" its Contacts, Calendar and Mail functions.

More opportunities will exist for developers in this area, too. iCloud storage and backup APIs, for example, have also been released to those in the Developer Program. Overall, it's an impressive lineup of announcements, according to Forrester Researche's Frank Gillette. He blogs that

"With the trifecta of iCloud, Mac OS X Lion, and iOS5, Apple takes the lead in personal cloud implementation and vision, with the broadest support across a user’s Macs, Windows PCs, iPhones, and iPads, and deep support for third-party developer integration into iCloud."

A key takeaway for developers is that there's a new smorgasboard of opportunities to be grabbed, and those that have hesitated to focus seriously on cloud development should likely readjust their thinking.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.