It is about a week away from WWDC 2011 and I haven’t seen too much of the specific predictions for what would be announced yet, other that the broad topics of iOS 5, Lion and iCloud somehow linking the two. The follow is not a serious attempt at a prediction, but an idea that I think could become real if Apple decided to go all in on their iCloud initiative.
First, a few assumptions that I’m just treating as fact…. iCloud, or whatever is is called, will be cloud based storage/services for hosting stuff. Safe money is on your own music, without having to upload your tracks.
BUT, I had a scenario today where I suddenly realised this cloud based sync idea could be even more compelling.
Today I took some photos on my iPhone while out with the kids. I wanted to sit back and look at my photos on my iPad, but I decided I couldn’t be bothered syncing or sending the photos in any way. I could have synced both devices via my Mac, ensuring the same Events were configured for syncing and probably found the photos I was interested in where not there after I had made myself nice and comfortable on the couch. Alternatively, I could have sent all my photos manually up to my MobileMe account for private viewing, and then viewed.
IDEA 1: Ability to stream Photos from one iOS device to another in my home library.
This is easily possible, AirPlay supports pushing Photo from my iPhone to my AppleTV. In this case I was to sit on my couch, iPad in hand and want to be able to browse (i.e. pull) photos down from my iPhone, all from the iPad. I imagine this could be akin to using the Home Library feature recently added to the iPod App to stream music from my iMac. Note here though that this is one iOS device to another.
IDEA 2: Photos constantly synced up to my iCloud.
But what if the photo was to constantly push my photos up to my iCloud storage, much like Dropbox does, then I could expect to browse my “virtual collection” of photos across all my iOS devices and potentially Macs from a single index in iCloud. The physical content file may then be either sent from iCloud if present, or direct from another decice.
IDEA 3: Making iCloud Photos Social
But what if that online copy of my Photos was not just for myself, but could be tagged and shared with my friends via iCloud? Rather than explicitly sharing photos to Facebook, Flickr, etc, what if all my photos were seamlessly available only, it was just a matter of me selecting from the local Photos or Camera App at any time (meta data would be synced at any time too).
But which friends you ask?
IDEA 4: Using your Address Book as your Friends List
Apple already has the best social graph of 100 million subscribers… the iPhone Contacts App. Instead of manually “Adding” Friends, Apple already has all the contacts you have ever added to your phone, with unique keys to identify them (mobile and email address). I have previously written about this idea before, but with this use case of Photo Sharing the concept just becomes more compelling.
Rather than try to get permission from Facebook to integrate your FB identifier into the iOS SDK (an apparent early feature of iOS 4 that was apparently removed) Apple could immediately create a social network of iPhone users as a start, then add the non-iPhone carrying iTunes accounts to boot for a pretty comprehensive social graph.
So, if you didn’t need to Publish to Facebook and could be lazy and let others just see the photos you had taken locally available via iCloud, would you bother with the FB step? Equally, if I new I could browser more timely photos of a family member by going to the source (iCloud) than the explicitly shared list, would I bother with Facebook for that friends photos in the first instance.
Maintaining your friends list would just be a byproduct of using your phone. Add a new person in Contacts and you might add the name, mobile, email address and “Social Group” to contol visibility of all the social features disussed here. This social group and streaming to it would then be consistently and simplistically applied across the whole iOS including Photo, Videos, Games, Music (Ping 2.0)?), etc. Even receiving a call from a new contact would all you to create a Contact for that person and therefore the option to add to your social network immediately.
IDEA 5: Chat via iCloud
But what if I extended the cloud based aggregation to other features of Facebook, or other purposes:
- Chat could replace SMS with other iOS carrying friends
- Facetime could become more than video calling, but become more like an instant messenger (i.e. see who is online)
- Gamecenter could become more prevalent as the hub for social gaming, giving cows to your friends (if that is what you do in Farmville?)
IDEA 6: Enriched Notiifications becomes your “Wall”
There are already rumours that Notificatons will receive some love in iOS 5. No major surprises there. However imagine if Notifications was not only the framework for local Apps to receive push notifications, but the iCloud was a key provider as well given the above ideas for social sharing of content. I think a key feature of any Notifications overhaul is going to have to include the ability to view a history of recent notifications, however what if it wasn’t just your notifications but a stream of notifications of what your friends where also doing? Sound familiar?
IDEA 7: Evolution of Ping
Apple could then evolve Ping from being a standalone App and bring it into the wider iCloud social system with notifications, friends music lists, see what your friends are playing right now, etc.
With the centralised music locker of the rumoured iCloud and licensing deals with the music labels, and therefore no need to upload your own