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Inside iCloud: Apple's new web services for iOS and Mac OS X Lion

What's new in iCloud's web apps

All of these factors are advancing in concert, making it no surprise that iCloud's web apps are a marked improvement over the previous generation of MobileMe. One new big leap for iCloud's web apps is that they're now officially HTML5.

While MobileMe apps were primarily served up as "XHTML 1.0 Strict," with some HTML5-associated features, iCloud apps are now straight-up HTML5, with its simple DOCTYPE of "html". While everyone is making efforts to support HTML5 in their browsers, that doesn't necessarily mean that iCloud will "just work" everywhere, just yet. Navigate to the site on your mobile device (including an iPhone or iPad), for example, and you still get a message to "visit on a Mac or PC for the Web Apps."

iCloud's web apps make use of Local Storage, which can, for example, keep a copy of calendar data stored on the client side, allowing the Calendar app to open and operate faster, as long as you're working on a machine where it makes sense to save a local copy (you might not want to copy your data to a shared, public terminal, for example).

iCloud also uses cookies of course, something that the site cutely reminds you of if you attempt to access it with cookies turned off in your browser

Expanded web apps

In addition to better, faster versions of its existing web apps, Apple is also expanding what services are available within its web apps. Apple seemingly took forever to add Notes sync to MobileMe in Mac OS X and iOS, and is just now preparing to add Reminders (aka To Dos) sync across the board, with a dedicated Reminders app in iOS 5 and prominent positioning of Notes within Lion Mail and Reminders in the Lion Calendar app.

iCloud continues to sync Safari bookmarks, although there is no longer a web interface for accessing them; presumably, if you use bookmark sync, you'll access them via the browser you use, rather than on a web page itself.

Apple also rewrote its Find My Phone web app for iCloud, which now incorporates support for finding Mac OS X Lion Macs connected to the same iCloud account as well. In addition to locating devices, the service can remotely lock or wipe a configured Mac.

There is also a new iWork component in the iCloud web apps, which allows users to see and download (in iWork, Office or PDF formats) any of the documents they've stored in the cloud using native iWork apps on either the Mac or iOS. This functionality, related to iCloud's new Documents & Data feature, will be examined more closely in the following segment.

On page 3 of 3: Banished components of MobileMe, Beyond web aps.