SiliconFilter

Microsoft Brings Its SkyDrive Cloud Storage Service to the iPhone

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For quite a while now, SkyDrive, Microsoft's cloud storage service, has sat quietly at the center of the company's Windows Live online services and Windows Phone. Now, however, the company is quickly launching new features for the services. Earlier this week, SkyDrive received a number of major updates, including sharing features for Office documents, an HTML5 uploader and better file management. Today, the SkyDrive team is adding a Windows Phone app and an iPhone client to its feature line-up.

This move clearly shows that Microsoft is not willing to leave the consumer-focused online storage market to startups like Dropbox or Box.net (or Google, for that matter).

SkyDrive for Windows Phone

Skydrive windows phone

SkyDrive, of course, is already deeply integrated into Windows Phone, but this new app provides users with, as Microsoft puts it, "the full SkyDrive experience from Windows Phone, including tasks like browsing their entire SkyDrive, sharing links to folders or files, deleting files, and creating folders." The new app is available worldwide and should be in the Windows Phone now.

SkyDrive for iOS

As for iOS users, Microsoft notes that "not everyone who relies on SkyDrive for sharing photos or accessing Office documents uses Windows Phone… yet." I have to give Microsoft some props for making more and more of its products available on iOS (though Android users are still out of luck). With OneNote and Bing, for example, the company made its first (tepid) steps onto iOS quite a while ago, but the real push towards launching apps for Apple's mobile operating system seems to have started now.

SkyDrive for the iPhone is now available in Apple's app store and allows SkyDrive users to "access all of their files in SkyDrive, create folders, delete files, and share links to folders and files directly using the Mail app."

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6:45 pm


Apple Approves $15 iPhone Tethering App That Circumvents Carrier Fees (Update: And It’s Gone…)

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iPhone users have their choices of data plans, but unless you opt for an expensive plan that includes tethering or subscribe to a separate tethering plan, turning your iPhone into a WiFi hotspot for you phone is not an option. Jailbreakers, of course, always had the option to turn their iPhones into rogue hotspots. Now, however, Apple has approved iTether, a $15 app that allows Mac and Windows users to connect their iPhones to their computers over USB and then get online over a 3G connection without the need for a special tethering plan. You can download the app here.

Update: Apple has pulled the app.

App Store  iTether

It’s not clear how this app slipped through Apple’s famously thorough approval process. As MacRumors notes, the developers just posted a note on Twitter, saying that they were “very clear with Apple” about what their app does. According to the developers, Apple asked them “a bunch of questions and then approved us.” Either Apple really wants to see this app in the App Store, or somebody pressed the wrong button somewhere (something similar happened when Apple approved and then quickly pulled an app called “Netshare” in 2008).

Developer’s Site is Down, So You Can’t Use the App Right Now

Because of the way the app works, users have to download a piece of software that runs on their laptops (Mac or Windows).

As the company is currently getting so slammed by potential users that it’s servers have broken down, you can’t actually use the app right now as you can’t download the software for your laptop. Those who were able to get to the site and install all the required softwarereport that it’s working as advertised.

How Long Until Apple Pulls the App?

Carriers like AT&T, of course, won’t be very happy about this. In the past, AT&T especially has been known for going after jailbreakers who installed tethering apps. It’s quite likely that AT&T will also go after iTether users.

It remains to be seen how long this app will remain available in the app store, so if this is something you really want, now is probably the time to get it. There is always a chance that Apple approved this by accident, after all.



7:56 am


iOS 5 Beta: So Widely Available Already, Users Leave Negative iTunes Reviews When Apps Crash

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The first developer-only beta version of iOS 5 has only been out for about a week, but it’s already clear that no other pre-release version of iOS has ever seen a wider release beyond the developer community than this one. It’s hard to pinpoint why this is the case, but there are clearly enough users who either paid $99 per year to become part of Apple’s developer program or who paid a rogue activation service a few dollars to get access to the beta that way. As iOS developer Malcom Barclay notes, this wide release has some interesting consequences for developers: some users are now leaving negative iTunes reviews for apps that don’t work on iOS 5 yet.

Ios 5 crashed please fix

Will Apple Crack Down on Fake Developer Accounts and Activation Resellers?

Few companies keep their betas under tighter wraps than Apple and the $99 developer fee has generally kept regular users from just installing a beta out of curiosity. Now, however, the rogue beta activation market continues to grow and even a $99 fee isn’t much of a deterrent anymore for those who really want to get the latest and greatest from Apple a few weeks early. Sadly, it seems some of these users don’t understand the meaning of the word ‘beta’ anymore.

It will be interesting to see if Apple will try to crack down on rogue installs when it’s ready to test the next major version of iOS. There’s little the company can do about those who want to pay $99, but we may see higher fees for developers who want to activate additional UDIDs (currently, every developer account comes with 100 additional activations for beta tests – a loophole that resellers then exploit).

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10:51 pm


iCloud Isn’t a Replacement for MobileMe: Is Apple Completely Backing Away from Web Apps?

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One thing I completely overlooked when Apple announced iCloud yesterday was the fact that it’s not replacing the current MobileMe email, contacts and calendar apps with better ones – it’s shutting all of its Web apps – including the MobileMe photo galleries – down altogether. Apple’s iCloud site doesn’t make any mention of these services whatsoever – instead, just like iTunes in the Cloud is all about syncing music files and not streaming them over the web – MobileMe’s core features have been replaced with better syncing tools.

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6:31 pm


What’s Missing From Apple’s iTunes in the Cloud is iTunes in the Cloud

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When Apple announced its iCloud service yesterday, the whole presentation led up to the reveal of iTunes in the Cloud, the most anticipated part of the service. As Apple went through its explanation of the service, though, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat disappointed. iTunes in the Cloud is missing a central part of what I was expecting from this service: access to my iTunes library in the Cloud. All the basic pieces are there: Apple knows what music I have on my machine (assuming I pay for iTunes Match once it’s released) and can sync that data to my other Apple devices – but you can’t stream your music from a web-based iTunes interface.

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3:33 pm


Get a Little Piece of iCloud Today With iTunes in the Cloud

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Apple announced its major new cloud initiative today and while most of the features won’t launch immediately, Apple is releasing a new beta version of iTunes today that brings over the air music and app syncing features to OS X and iOS devices. With iTunes in the Cloud, users will be able to quickly download music they have purchased in the past from iTunes without connecting their devices to a computer. On iOS devices, users can now also see which apps, songs and books they have bought but not downloaded onto this specific device yet and which ones they have purchased in the past and maybe uninstalled since then.

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9:13 pm


All of Apple’s WWDC Announcements: iCloud, iOS 5 and OS X Lion

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Apple today announced iCloud, iOS5 and OS X Lion at its annual WWDC developer conference in San Francisco this morning. The event lasted for two hours and was packed with major announcements, including iTunes in the cloud, new features for iOS (including over-the-air updates) and a recap of what’s new in the forthcoming OS X Lion release, which will retail in Apple’s Mac App Store for just $29.

iCloud

Just as Apple announced last week, a large part of today’s presentation focused on the iCloud. Steve Jobs himself explained how this new feature will work. At its core, iCloud will take care of syncing data between all your iOS devices. iCloud, said Apple, “stores your content, and wirelessly pushes it to all your devices. It just all works.”

iCloud replaces all of the current MobileMe apps (Mail, Calendar (with shared calendars) and Contacts). Jobs specifically stressed how iCloud ensures easy syncing between all your devices. iCloud will include 5GB of free storage for mail, documents and backup.

Pricing: MobileMe/iCloud is now available for free.

iTunes in the Cloud: This was probably the most anticipated part of iCloud. With iTunes in the cloud, you can download all the songs you already bought on iTunes to your iOS devices with just one click and all the songs you buy in the future will be automatically synced to up to 10 devices as well. iTunes syncing will be available for iOS 4.3 users today.

iTunes Match: Apple now lets users sync all their ripped songs for $25 per year by matching songs to its existing library and allowing users to redownload songs to your iOS device. 

Documents in the Cloud: This feature ensures document syncing between all your devices. Developers will be able to include these features in their own apps through a new API. The syncing features will work on iOS devices, Macs and PCs.

Photo Stream: This feature allows users to sync photos between apps wirelessly. It will be build into the Photo apps on iOS and iPhoto on the desktop. On PCs, photos will be synced to the Pictures folder. Apple TV users will also get access to their pictures as well.

As photos take up a lot of space, only the latest 1,000 pictures will be synced to iOS devices.

Apple will store these photos on its servers for 30 days. This, according to Jobs, is more than enough time to ensure that user have synced their photos to other devices.

Also in iCloud: App Store and iBookstore Syncing, Backup

iCloud now also syncs all your app purchases and books between devices. As for the backup feature, Apple will now automatically back up all your information to the cloud once per day.


iOS 5

According to Apple’s own data, it has now sold over 200 million iOS devices. Today, Apple demoed the next version of iOS, but also provided some updates around iTunes and the iBookstore. Apple has now sold over 40 billion apps, as well as 15 billion songs and 130 million books. In total, Apple has paid out more than $2.5 billion to developers.

 

A developer version of iOS 5 is launching today. For the rest of us, Apple plans to launch iOS 5 in the Fall, but didn’t announce a specific date yet.

The next version of iOS 5 will include 1,500 new APIs for developers and over 200 new features for tools. Here are the ones Apple highlighted today:

PC-Free: This is likely the biggest announcement on the iOS front today: iOS users will now be able to use their devices without every connecting them to a PC. Activation can happen on the device itself. Software updates are now delivered over the air, too. For those who use a desktop, iOS will now also sync with iTunes over WiFi.

Notifications: “We heard from our users that they want a new UI to get to their notifications. And we heard them.” iOS 5 will include a Notifications Center – a single place that brings together all the notifications that come to your phone. In addition, Apple is also updating the lock screen and adding a better overview of the notifications you may have missed there.

Newsstand: Apple is bringing a central hub for magazine and newspaper content to iOS. Among the launch partners are National Geographic, Popular Mechanics, the New Yorker, Golf Digest and more. New content will be downloaded in the background. It’s not clear how this will work together with existing news apps.

iMessage:  With iOS 5, Apple will launch its own messaging app that allows iOS users to basically bypass SMS to send messages to other iOS users. Users can send text, photos, videos and contact information. You can also optionally get read receipts and, just like in a chat app, see if your contact is currently typing.

Twitter Integration: iOS now includes a single sign-on for Twitter. Apple has also integrated Twitter into some of its own apps, including the photo app and Safari.

Safari: According to Apple, about 2/3rd of all mobile browsing is now done through Safari.

The mobile version now includes a Safari Reader feature that is basically Readability for the mobile browser. This will be available on both the iPhone and iPad. In addition, Apple is also bringing a reading list feature to iOS that will compete directly with Instapaper and sync between Macs and iOS devices.

The next version of Safari will also feature tabs – just like the desktop browser.

Reminders: This looks like a very simple list app for grocery lists, but it does have some nifty features, including location support and integration with iCal.

Camera: The new Camera app is a lot faster than the previews version. In addition, there is now an icon on the lockscreen that immediately takes you to the Camera app and Apple finally allows you to set the volume button to take pictures. The app now also lets you pinch to zoom and includes some basic editing features (cropping, red-eye reduction and rotating).

Mail: Mail now allows for rich-text editing and the ability to control indentations.

Game Center: Apple announced that Game Center now has 50 million users (more than Xbox Live). New features for Game Center include support for turn-base games and the ability to get friend and game recommendations.

New Keyboard for thumb-typers

OS X Lion

os x lion logoApple’s Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi demoed the new version of Apple’s desktop operating system OS X during today’s keynote today.Lion will be distributed through the Mac App store. Users who buy the upgrade will be able to use it on all the authorized machines that they have linked to their accounts. The price will be $29 and it will be available in July.

Most of today’s announcement was a recap of what we already knew about Lion, but here are the new features Apple focused on today:

Fullscreen applications: Schiller specifically demoed Safari, iCal and other apps developed by Apple itself.

Mission Control: This is basically Apple’s new version of Expose. Schiller described it as a “bird-eye view of everything that is running on your system.” Mission Control brings together features of Expose and Spaces, which should make handling multiple apps and windows a lot easier for OS X users.

Built-in Multitouch: The fact that Lion has built-in support for multitouch isn’t a secret. What’s nice (but not surprising either) is that Apple also demoed how this works in in the company’s own apps like Safari and iPhoto.

App Store: Schiller described it as the “best way to buy software.” Indeed, according to Apple, the Mac Apps Store is now the #1 channel for buying desktop software across all platforms (ahead of Best Buy, Walmart and Office Depot). As we already knew, the App Store will be deeply integrated into OS X Lion.

Launchpad: Launchpad is basically an iOS homescreen for your Mac. You manage icons just like on OS X (including support for folders). You can launch the Launchpad screen both through clicking on an icon or by using a four-finger pinch gesture.

Resume: This feature, once supported by developers, will bring all your apps back into the state they were before you shut down your computer.

Auto-Save and Versions: The idea here is similar to the new resume feature. Auto-save regularly ensures that the documents you are working on are saved in the background and Versions allows you to go back to earlier versions of your documents. Apple demoed this feature with its own Pages text editor, but it’s not quite clear what developers will have to do to enable this for their own apps.

AirDrop: See other OS X users around you and send them files with just one click.

Mail: The new version of mail looks a lot like the iOS email client. I wrote up a more detailed early look at the application here. The two most important new features here, besides the new look, are better and faster search features and a “conversation view.”

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4:42 pm


Why is Apple Trying to Crush All the Rumors Around its WWDC Keynote?

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In what is an unprecedented move for Apple, the company this morning announced what it plans to announce during its keynote at the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) next week. Typically, these events are shrouded in mystery and the days ahead of the conference are ripe with rumors and speculations as to what will be announced and who will announce it. Not so this year. Apple didn’t just announce the obvious – that we will see a preview of iOS5 and OS X Lion, but also that it will indeed launch a new suite of cloud-based services under the rumored iCloud name. While the Apple Kremlinologists will continue to speculate whether the fact that  Apple announced that its “CEO Steve Jobs and a team of Apple executives will kick off” the event means that Steve Jobs is coming back from his medical leave or not, the fact that Apple pre-announced Jobs’ presence at the event is also unprecedented.

Setting Expectations

Apple today confirmed that Steve Jobs will keynote the WWDC keynote

So why did Apple announce all of this? My personal feeling is that it’s all about setting expectations. Those who don’t follow tech news closely are likely still expecting to see the iPhone 5 (as the WWDC has traditionally been where Apple announced its newest generation of phones). Today’s announcement makes it clear (by omitting any reference to hardware in general), that we won’t be seeing a new iPhone at WWDC. In the past, speculations around new devices often got so far out of hand that the actual product had to be a letdown (what? no solar-powered iPhone?). Apple has been getting better at setting expectations lower through planned leaks, but it looks like the company is now also ready to be a bit more open about its plans for the immediate future.

Now that Amazon and Google are offering music lockers, it’s also likely that Apple wants to keep the buzz around its iCloud offering going for another week (Amazon stole some of that with its $0.99 Lady Gaga promotion). Apple’s offering will likely be more comprehensive than this, but a music locker will likely be the key feature of its new iCloud service.

Or: Setting up a Bigger Surprise?

On the other hand, this is still Apple. Maybe this press release is just misdirection and the company does have “one more thing” ready to go at WWDC (iPhone 4S? new Apple TV with apps?).

There are, of course, still lots of questions about what iCloud is really about (will it be integrated with iWork, for example?), what’s in iOS 5 and what unannounced features Lion still has in store for us. At least, however, the speculation will focus on this and not on new hardware.



3:57 pm


iOS 4.3.3 Arrives with Fix for "Secret" Location Database

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Apple just released an update to its iOS operating system for iPads and iPhones. After the “scandal” around the discover of a location database on the iPhone 4 and 3G-enabled iPads, Apple promised to quickly fix this “bug” quickly.

Here are the changes according to Apple:

This update contains changes to the iOS crowd-sourced location database cache including:

* Reduces the size of the cache
* No longer back the cache up to iTunes
* Deletes the cache entirely when Location Services is turned off


It doesn’t look as if there are any other new features or changes to Apple’s terms of service, but as you know, it’s always best to read through these documents before you agree to them…



10:45 am


Apple: iPhone Location Database is Crowdsourced, Not Tracking You

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Apple today issued a response to the controversy around the location database on modern iOS devices that a group of researches discovered last week. Apple categorically denies that it is tracking its users. The database  on the phone, according to Apple, does not track a user’s location but is actually a crowdsourced database of nearby WiFi hotspots and cell towers around the users’ location.

With the help of this database, the iOS device can quickly triangulate its position and lock on to GPS satellites and cell towers faster. This database, Apple says, is downloaded onto the phone and should only consist of a subset of the total number of towers and WiFi hotspots in your area. The fact that the devices download far more data is, according to Apple, “a bug we uncovered and plan to fix shortly.”

Why does Apple use this method now and not in earlier versions of iOS? Earlier versions of Apple’s iPhone OS relied on Skyhook as it’s provider for location data. Since then, though, Apple has terminated its contract with Skyhook and now manages its own location database.

Fixes?

Apple says it will encrypt the database in the next major iOS software release. The next minor iOS update will reduce the size of the crowdsourced database (Apple makes a point of repeating “crowdsourced” throughout its announcement) and ensure that the database is not backed up when the device is synced with a computer. When a user turns off Location Services, the updated iOS will also delete the cache.



8:49 am


Apple’s Secret Location File: Is it Just About Cell Towers?

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The iPhone location scandal dominated the tech news today. While early reports seemed to indicate that all iPhone 4s and 3G-enabled iPads were keeping precise logs of everybody’s location over time, the reality that emerged over the course of the day is a bit more complicated. Atlanta-based tech blogger Will Clarke took a closer look at the data tonight and argues that Apple is decidedly not keeping a log of the phone’s location in this secret file, but is only storing the location of cell towers.

Clark plotted the raw data from the file on his phone (the iPhoneTracker app’ only shows an approximation to obscure the exact location from snoopers) and compared it to GPS data he collected during a bike ride. The discrepancy between the two data sets leads him to believe the phone is only storing the locations of cell towers it gets in contact with.

His conclusion: “The only thing that makes sense is that the iPhone is actually storing the locations of the cell phone towers that it communicates with. My guess is that the iPhone uses this data to help it locate cell towers if it is in the same location again in the future.”

What’s Apple Really Storing? Cell Tower Locations

After reading this, I took a closer look at the data on my phone and I think I can back his theory up with what I found. Here is a plot of data from the iPhoneTracker app from my recent trip to Maui. You can see that the plot actually puts me on a neighboring island at times – likely because it get a ping from cell towers there while we were on the beach.

cell_location_towers_maui

So why is Apple storing this data then? It doesn’t look like the phones actually transmit any of this data back to Apple’s servers. Unless this is just sloppy programming and a developer forgot to set a function to erase a temporary log file (not something Apple is known for), there must be some reason for this file to exist. My best guess: the iPhone relies on this database to speed up GPS reception without having to ping Apple’s servers to do so (which makes a difference, especially now that Apple has moved to its own location database).

Still Creepy

Whatever the reason for the file’s existence, none of this absolves Apple from the responsibility to at least encrypt this data. Even though the low accuracy does make the data somewhat less useful for those who want to use it for nefarious purposes, it can still show what town you were in and when. That’s not quite as bad as being able to place you on a specific street at a specific time, but even the low-resolution data still has serious privacy implications.



10:18 pm


Zite: The Personalized iPad Magazine App You Should Install Right Now

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Zite is a personalized magazine app for Apple’s iPad that gives you far better reading recommendations than any of its competitors like Flipboard or Sobees’ NewsMix. Instead of having to rely on your friends on Twitter and Facebook to recommend interesting stories to you, Zite’s algorithms are only seeded by looking at your Twitter and Google Reader feed. After this, Zite will learn which articles you are most interested in by looking at your reading behavior as you use the app.

I never quite bought the hype around Flipboard. While visually exciting, the app’s focus on social curation somehow doesn’t work for me. It is a highly popular app, though, and few have managed to challenge its position at the top of the personalized iPad magazine category. Zite could be this app.

Zite food

No Gimmicks

Zite is not quite as visual an experience as Flipboard, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Instead, the app’s focus is squarely on the text and unlike Flipboard, it gives its users the full text of an article in a plain, Readability-like window whenever possible (or in a browser popup if not).

Setting Up

Setting the service up is as easy as giving it your Twitter handle and Google Reader account credentials. It will then come back with a list of topics you are most likely interested in. The list it created for me was a bit off, but correcting Zite’s choices only takes a few seconds and you can create your own sections if none of the apps preconfigured ones fit your interests.

Zite tnw

Learns About Your Interests as you Read

As you read, Zite watches what you do, but you can also explicitly tell it to show you more stories about specific keywords and from the sources and authors you prefer. Sharing to Twitter and Facebook is, of course, build right into the app.

If all of this sounds a bit familiar, that’s probably because you are familiar with services like my6sense, which is currently my gold standard for personalized reading recommendations. Sadly, my6sense doesn’t currently offer an iPad version of its service.

If you have an iPad, I recommend you give Zite a try right now.



10:10 am


iOS on the Desktop: Hands-On With the OS X 10.7 Lion Preview

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Apple seeded the first preview of OS X 10.7 Lion to its developer community yesterday. This is the first time developers get to play with the next version of Apple’s operating system, even though the company already gave us a first glimpse at Lion during an event in October of last year. We got our hands on a copy of Lion today and decided to give it a try with an eye on how much of Lion has been influenced by iOS.

Caveats

A few notes:
a) this is pre-release software – if you have no pressing reason to install it, stay away. This is called a developer preview for a reason and is not even a beta release (though it’s been extremely stable here so far). Things could go wrong and you could lose your data.
b) given that this is pre-release software, Apple will likely make substantial changes to the tools and features included in the current release. Keep that in mind as you read the rest of this post.

Install

Once downloaded, the installer prepares your system and then reboots. On my rather old and creaky white MacBook, this first part took a bit less than 10 minutes. After the reboot, the installer does its job, which takes about another 30 minutes or so. Overall, this disk image-based install was probably one of the easiest operating system updates I’ve ever done.

First Impressions:

Trackpad gone crazy: The first thing that threw me off was that Apple has now reversed trackpad scrolling. What does that mean? Basically, you now move your fingers down to scroll up and vice versa.  This mimics the gestures you use on the iPad and iPod one-to-one, but takes some getting used to. There will likely be an option to change this, but on my old, non-multi-touch white MacBook did not offer the ability to toggle this in the System Preferences. In the developer preview, the new scrolling behavior is the default mode.

Full-screen mode: Full-screen mode is one of the most important new features in Lion and even though it is currently only supported by Apple’s own apps like the new Mail.app, Safari 5.1 the Preview app and even the terminal app, it’s clear that this has the potential to change how you use your Mac. The icon for going into full-screen mode can currently be found in the top right corner of the screen.

If you have more than one app in full-screen mode at the same time, you can use a mouse swipe or keyboard shortcut to move between them and your regular desktops, as well as the new screen for widgets that’s now in the left-most position of your screen, just like the search feature on Apple’s iOS (makes you wonder if Apple could put widgets there on iOS as well). Both the taskbar and menus are hidden in this mode, but moving the mouse to the top and bottom of the screen reveals them again.

To exit full-screen mode, you have to move the cursor to the top of the screen to reveal the toolbar there and click on the blue full-screen mode icon to close it. I haven’t found a keyboard shortcut for this yet.

Is my app running? Oddly enough, Apple has done away with any indication of whether a specific app is currently running or not. That’s a strange move, though clearly inspired by iOS. Maybe once we all move to SSDs, it won’t make a difference as apps will start in seconds anyway, but I rather like to know whether Skype is running in the background or not without having to actually start it… (Update: as one of the commenters noted below, there is an option in the Dock preferences to turn the “running lights” back on.)

Launchpad: Maybe the most iOS-like feature of Lion, Launchpad gives you easy access to all of your apps (a feature that was oddly missing on OS X until now). Just like on iOS, you can organize your applications on multiple screens here, put them into virtual folders and move them from one screen to another. It’s a surprisingly handy feature, especially if you don’t want to clutter your dock with lots of apps you only use now and then.

 

Finder: The main new feature here is that you can organize your folders by kind, which, for example, lets you see which applications, documents, presentations, PDFs and, of course, other folders are in your directory. It’s a rather nifty feature that’s less granular than organizing your folder by kind and yet still gives you a quick and easy way to organize a folder. Also smart, in your application folder, files are now organized by application category (it wouldn’t make sense to organize them by kind – after all, they are all applications).

If you organize folders by kind and use the icon mode in Finder, you can scroll through the lists by using a horizontal swipe (see screenshot below) that features some Cover Flow-like 3D effects. This doesn’t seem very useful, as you never know how many more apps there are hidden on the left or right side of the window. The list view seems like the better solution if you want to organize a folder by kind.

Overall, the new Finder also feels faster than in Snow Leopard, though this might of course be a placebo effect.

Mail: The new Mail.app almost feels like a copy of the Mail app on iOS. I’ll write a separate post about this later.

Small changes: There are lots of new little animation that now appear all across the board. Toggling between different views in Finder, for example, can now be done by dragging and dropping the selector between the four options (a hint at more touchscreen goodness to come?). If you just click on an option instead of dragging the selector, the slider will move into place with a little animation.

A few more minor changes I noticed: Pop-up dialogs now also fade in and out with a zoom animation. Icons on the dock throw a shadow on the applications or desktop background behind them.

In Apple’s own apps, the scrollbars are now invisible when you are not using them. They fade in and out as you use the trackpad or mouse wheel to scroll, though. Using them the old-fashioned way by clicking and dragging them is rather hard as you have to aim rather precisely.

As for FileVault, AirDrop and Versions, three very interesting new features that Apple has talked about, I didn’t see any evidence of them yet.

There’s a Lot of iOS in Here

Like many, I was worried that Apple was dumbing down OS X in order to make it more like the iPad. After spending some quality time with it, I’m happy to say that it doesn’t feel like that at all. The iOS-like features, including the new emphasis on the full-screen mode and the Launchpad, are there, but you don’t have to use them. They are useful, but stay out of the way. The other refinements in the OS so far are welcome and hint at good things to come for the final version (and a lot of these changes also seem to hint a OS X touchscreen devices that are maybe forthcoming).

What Did I Miss?

I probably missed quite a few changes. After all, I only spent about four hours with Lion so far. Let me know in the comments if you saw something else that caught your attention or if you would like me to take a look at some features to see if they changed.



3:40 pm


The Daily Gets an Update: It's Still a Disaster, But At Least it Loads

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The Daily, News Corp.’s much hyped and buggy iPad-only newspaper just got a much-needed update. Even though the launch of The Daily was delayed by months, the first version of the app quickly turned out to be extremely buggy (I couldn’t even start it for the last few days) and quite a disaster when it came to usability. Today’s update does little to fix any of the usability problems, but at least the app loads again.

Interestingly, the release notes also point out that current users should delete the app before upgrading. Chances are that few of The Daily’s readers will actually see this note. I am not sure what the repercussions of not deleting the app are (I had actually just uninstalled the app just before the update appeared), but it’s probably best to follow these instructions. Of course, even if you never get the app to run again, you can always use this web-based index to read the main stories.

But at Least it Loads…

There is no point in repeating all the issues with the design and content we and others have found with the app. Suffice to say, today’s update does nothing to alleviate these concerns. On the positive side, though, as the release notes on iTunes note, today’s update brings “improved performance and stability.” Indeed, the app does feel somewhat more responsive – though it still feels very sluggish – and hasn’t crashed yet.

On the negative side, though, the compression artifacts that made the carousel view anything but attractive are even more pronounced now (maybe in an effort to improve its speed without having to actually change any code). Of course, delivering a new edition still takes far too long and the updates the news team sometimes pushes during the day still aren’t highlighted in any shape or form.

So while it’s good to see that the tech team at The Daily quickly fixed some of the problems with the app, today’s update does little to address any of the real concerns most of us had with the original paper. It’s still light on hard news stories and trapped in old-school newspaper thinking. Unless the team fixes the glaring usability issues and actually pushes out real news stories (instead of horoscopes and stories about how guys like cats), it’s hard to see how News Corp. can recoup its investment here once the ad-supported free version expires and readers will be forced to pay a subscription fee.



2:21 pm


Reactions to Steve Jobs’ New Medical Leave of Absence

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Earlier this morning, Apple unexpectedly announced that the company’s iconic co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs would take a medical leave of absence. In an email to Apple employees, Jobs said that “At my request, the board of directors has granted me a medical leave of absence so I can focus on my health. I will continue as CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions for the company.”

Neither Apple nor Jobs provided more details about this decision, but as the Internet exploded with news reports about Jobs’ decision, most reporters noted that today’s announcement was likely related to Jobs’ 2009 liver transplant and his earlier leave of absence and surgery in 2004. Both of his earlier leaves were due to the pancreatic cancer his doctors discovered in 2004. Just like during his last leave, Apple’s COO Tim Cook will lead the company’s day-to-day operations.

Privacy

In his email, Jobs asks for privacy, a topic of heated discussions during his last leave, as his health is – according to many – closely linked to Apple’s performance. All Things D’s Kara Swisher, however, argues that Jobs deserves his privacy this time, “because the public Steve Jobs has given his large audience more than enough since he got back the last time he was sick.” It remains to be seen if Apple’s fans and stockholders will think the same, however.

Apple Stock

aapl stock in frankfurt

Given Jobs’ central role at Apple, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the company’s stock price quickly suffered after the news broke. In Frankfurt, the stock immediately dropped 7% from the previous day and never recovered. Undoubtedly, Apple’s announcement was timed to coincide with Martin Luther King Day, a day where the U.S. markets are closed. This should give Apple investors a chance to cool off before the markets open again on Tuesday.

The timing of today’s announcement also comes just one day before Apple is scheduled to reveal its quarterly earnings report (which most pundits expect to beat expectations) and before the company will celebrate the 10 billionth download from its app store. All of this should help ease the pressure on Apple’s stock and you don’t have to be a cynic to think that Apple considered these facts when it timed today’s announcement.

On GigaOm, Mathew Ingram wonders, however, if the stock can “withstand the absence of Steve Jobs.”

Succession

Another topic that quickly rose to prominence after the news broke was the question of Jobs’ succession. The Wall Street Journal today features a short profile of Tim Cook, calling him the company’s “CEO-in-waiting.” CNET’s Jonathan E. Skillings and Erica Ogg also note that Apple has privately acknowledged that it has a plan of success in place, but that the company refuses to make this plan public, as that would “damage the company’s ability to retain and recruit top executive talent.”

On his ITworld blog, Chris Nerney argues that, “while Jobs focuses on his health, Apple board must focus on its responsibility.” Also on ITworld, Ryan Faas wonders if Apple can “thrive without Steve Jobs at the helm.” His conclusion, after looking at Apple’s performance during Jobs’ last two leaves is that “Apple is [not] going to be slowed down in the least.”

Indeed, the general tenor in the tech world is that Cook would be a capable successor for Jobs and the right choice for filling in for him.



10:28 am