Announced in June, Shared Photo Streams have officially arrived today with the release of Apple’s iOS 6, as well as corresponding updates to Mac OS X applications. Users can now create iCloud-based virtual photo albums that can be shared as web pages or individual photos, both capable of being viewed and commented on by other iOS 6 and iCloud users.
It should be noted that Shared Photo Streams don’t have to include photos from the main Photo Stream, and they are not subject to the same Wi-Fi-only and 30-day, 1000-photo limitations. They don’t appear to count against iCloud storage allocation, either, and enable users to easily notify family members and friends of new images that are being privately shared amongst themselves.
Apple has filed its master plan for its data center facility in Prineville, Oregon. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the plan shows two buildings with more than 500,000 sq. ft. of “data halls”; the overall facility is expected to cover about 107 acres. No time table is given in the plans for construction. “They really didn’t say how long they are looking at,” Prineville senior planner Joshua Smith said. Apple is already building a 10,000 sq. ft. data center on the Princeville property it purchased in February.
Apple has revealed that it is starting to transition users away from the me.com email addresses and Apple IDs available through MobileMe to new @icloud.com addresses. In its iOS 6 beta 3 change log, a portion of which was posted online by MacRumors, Apple says that “icloud.com email addresses are now available for iCloud mail users. Users signing up for new Apple IDs, or enabling Mail on their iCloud account for the first time, will automatically receive an @icloud.com email address instead of a me.com email address. iCloud users with @me.com addresses that have been used with iOS 6 beta 3 will receive an @icloud.com email address that matches their @me.com address.” As noted in the report, Apple made a similar transition away from @mac.com addresses when it moved from .Mac to MobileMe in 2008.
Apple has officially opened its iCloud Beta portal to developers enrolled in the iOS 6 beta. MacRumors reports that the site, which is located at beta.icloud.com and was spotted briefly in early May, offers previews of new Calendar functionality, as well as a redesigned Find My iPhone web app, and all-new Notes and Reminders apps. The new apps most mirror the functionality of their iOS counterparts, with the new Find My iPhone tool adding a battery status icon and support for the upcoming “Lost Mode.” The new iCloud web app suite is expected to see a public rollout alongside the release of iOS 6 this fall.
Apple has begun sending out e-mails to current and former MobileMe subscribers as a reminder of the service’s scheduled shutdown on June 30, 2012 and advising users to ensure that they download any Gallery photos and iDisk files and move any iWeb sites that are still hosted on the service before that date.
The subscription-based MobileMe service was replaced by the free iCloud service last fall with the release of iOS 5; at that time Apple announced the MobileMe sunset date of June 30, 2012, providing users with the option of migrating their MobileMe accounts over to iCloud at their own pace. Not all of MobileMe’s services were transitioned to iCloud, however, so users who migrated their MobileMe accounts to iCloud were allowed to continue using the Gallery, iDisk and web publishing services from their former MobileMe account up until the scheduled MobileMe shutdown date. An Apple support article provides additional guidance on saving content from the MobileMe service both for users who have already migrated to iCloud and for those who are unable to migrate to iCloud due to using non-iCloud-compatible devices.
Apple is preparing to add new photo-sharing features to its iCloud service, according to a new report. Citing people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reports that the new features will allow iCloud users to share sets of photos with other iCloud users and comment on photos. The report goes on to say that Apple is also working on a feature that would allow iCloud users to sync videos via iCloud. Apple is expected to announce the iCloud upgrade alongside iOS 6 at next month’s Worldwide Developers Conference.
Apple may launch both developer-accessible Siri APIs and Siri for iPad with the release of iOS 6, according to a new report. Citing an anonymous source, TechCrunch reports that the software, codenamed “Sundance”, will indeed feature a new, Apple-based replacement for Google Maps in the Maps application, and while the 3D mapping feature is said to be neat, it is also unlikely to be used very often. The report goes on to state that there have been “whispers” backing up the idea that Apple might announce a set of developer-accessible APIs for Siri, which would also make its debut on the iPad in iOS 6. Regarding the latter, the report claims that the difficulty with Siri on the iPad has been in designing a UI for the larger screen, rather than any technical challenge.
Finally, the report claims that new iCloud functionality and deep ties to OS X Mountain Lion will also be key parts of the software, which it claims may arrive at the same time as a completely revamped version of iTunes, and potentially even a “full-on Spotify competitor.” Apple is expected to unveil iOS 6 at its Worldwide Developers Conference next month.
A beta version of Apple’s iCloud.com online tools has revealed that the company plans to add Notes and Reminders access to the site. Developer Steve Troughton-Smith discovered the beta.icloud.com site by accident this morning, and posted a screenshot showing a beta message that read “The beta version of iCloud.com requires a developer account and setting up your Apple ID with latest iOS or OS X.” Behind the pop-up were the icons for Mail, Contacts, Calendars, a missing image marker that was later discovered to be the iWork icon, and two new icons for Notes and Reminders. Further investigation of the site by 9to5Mac discovered that the code for the site made references to iOS 6, specifically, “To use beta.icloud.com, first sign in to iCloud with the iOS 6 Beta.” Apple has since pulled the website, but it appears likely that Apple will officially open the site alongside the release of a beta version of iOS 6.
Apple is testing the use of iOS-style notifications on iCloud.com, according to a new report. Citing a reader tip that was subsequently confirmed by other staff members, TUAW reports that the notifications appear in the middle of the screen, and currently use placeholder text, stating “Default Title for English” and “English - This is test message description”. Apple has not made any announcement of web-based iCloud notifications, and would likely need to integrate more functionality into the website to make the notifications truly useful, as Mail and Calendar are the only current web-based applications that could fully take advantage of such a system.
Return7 has released a major update to PlaceTagger adding support for the iPad and for synchronization of location data via iCloud. PlaceTagger allows iOS devices to be used for recording location data while taking photos with a digital camera; recorded data can then be added to the photos as geo-tags during import using a companion desktop application.
With PlaceTagger 2.0, users can now synchronize location data between devices using iCloud rather than requiring a direct USB connection; a $5 Mac app, sold separately on the Mac App Store, provides geotagging of photos during import. Alternatively, users can geotagging photos imported directly to the iPad using the Apple Camera Connection Kit. GPX track export is also available for geotagging with any third-party application supporting the GPX format. The new version also sports an entirely new user interface with an integrated map view for displaying location data and improvements to the GPS recording precision. PlaceTagger 2.0 is a universal app requiring iOS 5.0 or later and is available from the App Store for $5, or as a free update for users of an earlier version. The companion Mac app is available separately from the Mac App Store for $5.
Apple is in the process of rolling out its iTunes Match service in a number of new countries. 9to5Mac reports that users in Italy, Portugal, Greece, Slovenia, and Austria can now sign up for the service, although they have yet to be added to Apple’s official list of countries in which the service is available. Launched in the U.S. in November, iTunes Match is a $25/year service that matches tracks in a user’s iTunes library with tracks stored on the company’s iTunes Store servers, uploading any tracks it can’t match, and offering users full access to all their music — up to 25,000 tracks — from any of their devices.
Apple is testing a new system which would automatically backup the device of any customer seeking an iOS device exchange or replacement at an Apple Store Genius Bar, according to a new report. Citing retail sources, 9to5Mac reports that the system is based on a wireless server that would securely and temporarily store a user’s content locally, then automatically wipe the content once the device swap is made. The report indicates that this backup information could come from iCloud or the device itself, and that this solution is preferable to simply relying on an iCloud backup as the process of restoring from an iCloud backup is typically takes too long. The system is said to be in the very early stages of testing, and should it launch, Apple is planning to pilot the system in a few select store by mid-2013, with a full-scale launch coming later that year.
A German regional court has upheld a ban on push emails delivered by Apple’s iCloud and MobileMe services, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The Mannheim regional court backed an earlier decision that barred Apple from offering the service in Germany on devices that were part of a patent dispute brought by Motorola Mobility. The court also held Apple liable for damages which must be paid to Motorola, although no amount was specified. A decision on a separate dispute between the two companies related to mobile communications standards was adjourned, with no date given for an expected ruling.
Apple has started to internally seed versions of iTunes 11, according to a new report. Citing anonymous sources, 9to5Mac reports that current development is focused on under-the-hood changes, but that new interface elements and features are likely being developed, possibly by a separate group. Among the new features mentioned for the software are support for iOS 6 devices and a dedicated iCloud settings panel with controls for iTunes Match, iTunes in the Cloud, iCloud iOS device backups, and more, all consolidated in a single spot. In addition, the report claims that a full iTunes/App Store revamp is underway with a launch expected sometime in the summer or fall, and that another 10.x point update is possible for initial iOS 6 compatibility, with one source calling that “more likely” than a simultaneous rollout of iTunes 11.
Films from Universal Studios are now available for re-download through Apple’s iCloud service. Citing multiple reader reports, MacRumors notes that films from Universal no longer display a “this movie will not be available from iTunes in the Cloud” warning when viewing the movies’ listings in iTunes, while films from 20th Century Fox retain the warning. A report from last month indicated that the absence of both Universal and Fox was attributable to a contractual obligation to pay TV channel HBO; both companies were said to be in negotiations to solve the issue.
Announced yesterday, Apple’s move to include Movies in its iTunes in the Cloud service means that you can re-download previously purchased movies from the Purchases section of the iTunes Store, and stream those films directly from the Apple TV — unless that film is from NBC Universal or Fox. AllThingsD reports that both studios are left out of the service for the time being due to a conflicting contractual obligation to HBO that gives the pay-TV channel exclusive windows. The report claims that the conflict will likely be solved in short order, however, as HBO spokesman Jeff Cusson suggests: “With every technological enhancement, we have always been able to find common ground with our studio partners, and we’re sure that will be the result here.”
Apple is working on a new audio file format that would allow it to deliver high- or low-quality files to iCloud users based on bandwidth. Citing a source with inside knowledge of the process, the Guardian reports that the new system would adjust itself to the bandwidth and storage available on the receiving device, and would be used to enhance the company’s iTunes Match service. According to the report, Apple has already asked a London studio to prepare audio files for the new streaming format. “All of a sudden, all your audio from iTunes is in HD rather than AAC. Users wouldn’t have to touch a thing – their library will improve in an instant,” said the source. Apple has recently been encouraging submission of audio files in the 24-bit/96KHz standard, and has also released a set of guidelines for mastering to iTunes which hint at a such a possible future service: “As technology advances and bandwidth, storage, battery life, and processor power increase, keeping the highest quality masters available in our systems allows for full advantage of future improvements to your music. These masters matter – especially given the move into the cloud on post-PC devices.”
Apple has temporarily suspended push email service for iCloud and MobileMe users in Germany due to its ongoing legal battle with Motorola Mobility. A newly published Apple support document on the subject reads, “iCloud and MobileMe users are currently unable to have iCloud and MobileMe email pushed to their iOS devices while located within the borders of Germany”. It continues, “Affected customers will still receive iCloud and MobileMe email, but new messages will be downloaded to their devices when the Mail app is opened, or when their device periodically fetches new messages as configured in iOS Settings. Push email service on desktop computers, laptop computers, and the web is unaffected, as is service from other providers such as Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync. Apple believes Motorola’s patent is invalid and is appealing the decision.” No timeline was given for possible reactivation of the service. [via Engadget]
Apple this morning announced OS X Mountain Lion, the next release of its desktop operating system for its Mac computers. Among the new features debuted by Apple this morning—many of which were based on existing iOS apps, including Notes, Reminders, and Game Center—is AirPlay Mirroring. As the name suggests, the feature will allow users to mirror their Mac’s screen on a HDTV using an Apple TV, making it easy for users to share web pages, videos, lessons, and presentations with others. In addition, the company announced a beta version of Messages for OS X. This iChat replacement mimics the Messages app on iOS, allowing users to send iMessages across both iOS and Mac devices. The app also integrates support for AIM, Yahoo!, Google Talk, and Jabber accounts, as well as FaceTime, removing the need for a separate, standalone app. The beta version of Messages is available now as a free download for users of OS X Lion 10.7.3 or later; OS X Mountain Lion is currently available in preview form to registered Mac developers and is slated to ship in late summer.
In addition to the previously reported statements on supply chain statistics and the Apple TV, Apple CEO Tim Cook provided several other noteworthy comments during his talk at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference. Regarding iCloud, Cook suggested that the genesis of Apple’s Internet-based synchronization was customer convenience; in his words, it was not a great customer experience to have to sync content between devices, and Cook explained that iCloud makes this easier by letting its now 100 million users transfer content back and forth from the cloud rather than from an increasing variety of computer-like devices they now use. Cook also mentioned Siri, describing it as an emerging alternative to the physical keyboard and mouse, along with Multi-Touch. He called both iCloud and Siri “profound” innovations in computing, and claimed that they are things today’s users will talk about with their grandkids.
Additionally, when asked what mark he would like to leave on the company, Cook said Apple was a unique company, and unique culture, that can’t be replicated. Speaking forcefully, he said that he would not witness or permit the slow undoing of Apple—an allusion to the John Sculley regime of the 1980s—because Cook believes in the company’s work so deeply. “Steve drilled in all of us over many years that the company should revolve around great products, and that we should stay extremely focused on few things rather than try to do so many that we did nothing well, and that we should only go into markets where we can make significant contributions to society, not just sell a lot of products,” Cook said. “These things, along with the expectation of keeping excellence… these are the things I focus on. Because those are the things that make Apple this magical place, that really smart people want to work in, and not just do their life’s work, but their life’s best work…”