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Friday, December 30, 2011, 03:40 pm PT (06:40 pm ET)

Inside Apple's 2011: iOS, Apps & iCloud


iOS 5
In October, Apple released iOS 5.0, which introduced a new Notifications Center for managing alerts; added direct iMessage support for devices that enabled WiFi-only devices to send and receive text messages; added a Newsstand app for managing and delivering subscription content; incorporated a Reminders app for working with To-Do and location-based events; added system-wide integration with Twitter; enhanced Safari with support for Private Browsing, Reader and Reading List features; added "PC-free" setup and support for editing photos, playlists and other features that previously required computer support as well as new support for iCloud, enabling downloads of previously purchased iTunes content and apps, WiFi sync, and over the air device backups and software updates.



iCloud also introduced a new cloud Documents & Data feature Apple supported initially in its own iOS iWork apps and within its online web apps, as well as a Photo Stream feature for pictures that is supported on both iOS devices and on the Mac desktop with iPhoto or Aperture. The service also enhanced the former MobileMe "Find my iPhone" service with new support for finding both registered desktop Macs and other users using the new Find My Friends app.

Find My Friends


In addition the Find My Friends app, Apple also introduced Cards for designing and mailing printed greeting cards, Airport Utility for "PC-free" management of Apple's wireless network base stations from iOS devices, and a Trailers app for browsing movies.

AirPort Utility


Apple also brought features of iOS 5 to Apple TV in a 4.4 software release, including support for wireless AirPlay video mirroring with iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, iCloud connected Photo Streams, and inclusion of its own Trailers app and new NHL and Wall Street Journal apps, stopping short of opening a full App Store for third party Apple TV software.



Apple also added a key new iOS feature in Siri, although it reserved the functionality exclusively for its high end new iPhone 4S. While giving the iPhone 4S the ability to dictate voice to text similar to features that have been added to Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 and Google's Android for some time, Siri goes far beyond basic voice recognition to deliver an intuitive voice-based interface to the device's calendar, maps, contacts, messaging features, reminders, stocks and weather apps, and enables sophisticated replies regarding local search from Yelp and general knowledge and research answers from Wolfram Alpha.





Siri was hardly a secret development, given that Apple had acquired the project last year and its app interface had already been made publicly available, albeit in a limited feature set. However, Siri's polished functionality as a helpful and at times witty personal assistant served as both a key marketing feature of iPhone 4S and, analysts have since reported, a primary driver for sales.

Top mobile platform managers of Microsoft and Google were both quick to downplay Siri as a competitive threat, with Microsoft's head of WP7 Andy Lees saying that he didn't think Siri was "super useful," while Google's senior vice president of mobile Andy Rubin said in an interview that he doesn't "believe that your phone should be an assistant," adding that "your phone is a tool for communicating. You shouldn’t be communicating with the phone; you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone."

However, Google's chairman Eric Schmidt later described Apple's Siri feature as a "significant development" as he told a U.S. Senate antitrust subcommittee that it was an example of healthy competition in the search business, going so far as to cite independent publications that described Siri as a "Google killer" because it cuts the company out of search and paid ad placement revenue.

One month later, Google and Microsoft were insisting that they were actually ahead of Apple in voice features and had better future plans, despite clearly being behind Siri in the accuracy and voice capabilities they offer.

On page 3 of 3: Apple's iOS competition