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Mac Planet: iCloud and iOS upgrades revealed

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In other announcements from WWDC in San Francisco, Apple says it will be integrating iCloud more deeply into the new iWork, Apple's office suite that has also been eagerly anticipated. New iWork for Mac and iOS is coming out soon, and the rollout includes iWork for iCloud.

This will be accessible via your web browser on iCloud.com, which you sign into with your Apple ID and password. You will be working on a server, basically, controlling elements via your browser. The graphics capabilities are amazing - you can see iCloud iWork will benefit from the faster Safari that OS X Mavericks promises. Keynote for iCloud even support 3D animations. Interestingly, it was also demonstrated in the Google Chrome browser on Windows 8.

The developer beta is online already, with a public beta due later in the year.

Tim Cook came back to talk about iOS, and this got the biggest cheer of all. Six-hundred million iDevices have been sold, and Cook showed figures that iDevice owners use their devices 50 per cent more than Android users use their devices, even though Android often outsells iDevices these days in various markets.

Then a film showed off Jony Ives' total visual redesign of the new 'flat' iOS 7. Wow, app developers are going to have to redesign the look of a lot of their apps. The Apple weather app even animates with snow, rain, thunder, lightning etc, and when you pinch it to show several places at once, the animations continue. The crowd lapped this up, cheering and clapping. Changing the wallpaper changes subtly the colour theme throughout the system.

It's hard to explain how iOS 7 looks - when you hear 'flat design' and envisage shape-and-letter style icons, somewhat disturbingly it's Windows 8 that springs to mind. But in iOS 7 this has been wondrously well done, from what we were shown. The interface is layered with virtual planes of controls and interface elements.

Even changing the background picture echoes, colour-wise, through the interface from then on, it's simply lovely, and the new icons seem to float on an interactive layer like a transparent film. It really makes the best of Retina displays.

Craig Federighi (Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering) came back on stage to talk about iOS 7. After a few slides, he actually demonstrated iOS 7 installed on an iPhone 5. Folders will get multiple pages for better app organisation. Mail has new options to trash and mark mail from a finger-drag from the left of the screen.

Other new features include Control Center - swipe up from the bottom of your screen and you'll get controls, in a semi-opaque layer, linked to the app you are in. All apps will now support multitasking. Background tasking learns which apps to update in the background according to your device use, which iOS 7 monitors for fine tuning.

Safari for iOS 7 has a new fullscreen display with a one-tap access to search. It will support the new iCloud Keychain. Tabs have received a cool 3D look and the limit to eight tabs has gone.

AirDrop has also arrived on iDevice, addressing the issue of sharing documents easily. This is a feature I really wanted. File transmissions are peer-to-peer, fast and encrypted. If it works the way it was demonstrated, this is an excellent new feature that will really make business and leisure iDevice use way better. This will be particularly good over the new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, which has to be supported at hardware level - the new MacBook Air and AirPort Extreme have it, though.

Live photo filters have been added to the Camera app, along with a new Photos app which organises the images to break you away from the mess of pictures most of us end up with. There's even a new Year level, to see a year's worth of images at a glance. The new filters can be applied to saved pictures too, and it has iCloud photo sharing. Eddy Cue then took the stage to talk about Siri. It has new voices, male and female, in French and German also. It can now control system functions like screen brightness and turning Bluetooth on and off. It supports Wikipedia and Bing searches.

iOS in the car has gone up a level, giving you loads of hands free, and eyes free, features.

The App Store app has been redesigned with age ranges, and a popular apps near your current location feature will be great for travel. App updates will be automatic. This elicited a cheer and clapping.

iTunes Radio was, as many expected, announced. It's built into the new Music app. Hundreds of stations have been provided already but you can modify them into customised stations based on the selection playing. This will roll out in the States first, other countries later.

There were many more features but there wasn't time to show them all, but a new Activation Lock means stolen iPhones cannot be reactivated. This went down really well. A whole lot of new APIs (application program interfaces) are available for developers to help harness these features. This also raised enthusiastic applause. iOS 7 Betas for iPhone are available now for developers, and they're coming for iPad. iOS 7 will be out for the rest of us in a few months.

Everyone loved the new looks and capabilities of iOS 7, and it was easy to see why. A few people I spoke to were shocked at how much work had been achieved by Apple so quickly on this, and so profoundly.

Finally, Tim Cook took the stage again to wrap up. Perhaps an expectation rose that there might be the infamous "one more thing", perhaps a new iPhone and/or iPad, for example an iPad mini with a Retina display. But no, Cook just thanked everyone, and reminded us that Apple's goal was to make really great products to enrich people's lives. Good-oh.

Generally speaking, although the new MacBook Airs and the all-new Mac Pro elicited strong and very positive reactions, the developers at WWDC were more impressed by the iOS 7 things they were shown. This is a developer conference primarily, of course, and they're spending the rest of the week meeting, networking, workshopping and attending demonstrations and labs. In this way, WWDC effectively becomes the developing engine room for the rest of the year, and once they get the APIs Apple promised for their Software Developer Kits, they'll be off producing thousands more killer apps, or at least adding the latest iOS 7 abilities to those they already have.

Apple has posted more info about iOS 7 here.

iOS 7 will be available as a free software update for iPhone 4 and later, iPad 2 and later, iPad mini and iPod touch (fifth generation) sometime in the New Zealand spring. Some features may not be available on all products and US English, French and German language support will be available with the launch of iOS 7, with additional languages added over time.

- NZ Herald

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