Apple iCloud, iOS 5 Counter Windows Phone, RIM BlackBerry Features

Apple's new iCloud and iOS 5 offer some features seemingly designed to counter similar efforts from Microsoft's Windows Phone and RIM's BlackBerry.

Apple kicked off its annual Worldwide Developers Conference with the unveiling of three new platforms: Mac OS X "Lion," iOS 5 and iCloud. Combined, this trifecta aims to fulfill the company's vision of a "post-PC" world, one that emphasizes mobile devices over desktops and laptops.

Mac OS X "Lion" includes a baked-in Mac App Store, with access to a variety of full-screen applications. This feature is a spiritual descendent of the App Store long available for iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad, and hints at just how much the company's advances in mobility have begun to influence its other areas of development.

Apple's iOS 5, meanwhile, will come with a variety of new features seemingly tailor-made to counter its rivals. There's a new camera shortcut, accessible via the lock screen, reminiscent of a similar function in Microsoft's Windows Phone.

"Feeling flattered today. Lots of great [Windows Phone] ideas headed to iOS," Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Windows Phone program management, Tweeted June 6. "(Camera button/above lock, auto-upload of pics, better notifications ...)"

Apple also introduced iMessenger, a robust conversation platform that lets users carry a single conversation between their various iOS devices. Almost immediately following that unveiling, analysts positioned the feature as a potential threat to Research In Motion's BlackBerry Messenger.

"Anyone with an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch can send unlimited free text messages to anyone else using an iOS device," Peter Misek, an analyst with research firm Jefferies & Co., wrote in a June 7 research note. "The two mainstays of RIM's sales have been corporate email users and consumer BBM [BlackBerry Messenger] users. While Apple lacks RIM's NOC/node infrastructure that allows for BBMing without a data plan with some carriers, iMessage otherwise is a direct competitor."

Apple could become a deeper threat to RIM, he argued, if it launches a "low-cost iPhone in the fall targeted at prepaid and emerging markets."

On top of a glimpse of the two new operating systems, Apple also whipped the curtain back from its upcoming iCloud service, which will sync user content and push it to various devices via the cloud. Contacts, calendar and mail are now free and cloud-centric, with Apple's servers pushing messages and updates to iPhones and iPads. With iCloud, users can also sync and access their iTunes music via the cloud.

Misek's research note dings the iCloud as "mostly me-too so far" and "similar to Amazon's and Google's services though Apple's Photo Stream is more automatic in its uploading and distribution of photos."

But other analysts saw iCloud as exactly the sort of feature that'll help sell more Apple devices.

"In our view, these new announcements further strengthen Apple's digital ecosystem by providing consumers with increased functionality, enhanced ease of use, greater efficiency and cool new features," Brian White, an analyst with Ticonderoga Securities, wrote in a June 7 research note, "that we believe will drive further adoption of Apple devices in the future."