Next week, at the World Wide Developers Conference, out in San Francisco, Apple is expected to take the wraps off iOS 5, the latest iteration of its popular mobile operating system. Readers of Horizons will remember that iOS 4 included the ability to app multitask, among other niceties. So what does iOS 5 have under the hood?
Well, over at Information Week, expert prognosticator Eric Zeman notes that the competing Android Honeycomb OS already "supports powerful widgets that can be used from the home screen." Apple, on the other hand, has some widgets, but most of them are static, and unlike their counterparts in the Android ecosystem, they don't update constantly.
"Rather than shoot for the moon, we'd like to see Apple integrate widget support –– or its own variation thereof –– for a few key apps, such as email, messages, phone functions, and perhaps social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter," Zeman writes. "This would be tricky for Apple to accomplish given the current architecture of iOS, but it's not impossible."
Another possibility – which again, already exists on Android devices – is over-the-air, wireless updates. Right now, Apple issues software updates to handheld devices via iTunes. But Mark Gurman of 9 to 5 Mac thinks that Apple will work out a deal with Verizon and AT&T to push smaller updates and patches directly to handsets and iPads. (Presumably, users would have to have a Wi-Fi connection to initiate the download.)
"Just like tethering in iOS 3," Gurman writes. "Apple has the technology but cannot just unleash it everywhere. Apple and Verizon Wireless are said to have been in talks over these wireless software updates since early this year. Sources could not comment on whether or not Apple is negotiating similar deals with AT&T or international iPhone carriers."
And of course, there's the inclusion of iCloud, a cloud-computer service widely believed to be released in concert with iOS 5. Andrew Berg of Wireless Week thinks iCloud will change the way consumers use their Apple devices – from the iPhone to the iPad. (Check out our report on iCloud for a quick primer on Apple's adventures in the cloud.)
"The company's iCloud offering is widely believed to feature deep integration with Apple's iTunes platform and store," Berg writes, "allowing users to stream their music and videos from Apple's cloud, as opposed to storing it on their device. Such a service has been expected ever since Apple acquired streaming music service Lala in late 2009."