Apple iCloud, iOS 5, Mac OS X Lion Aim to Boost Google, Microsoft Competition

Apple introduced radically revamped Mac OS X "Lion" and iOS 5 operating systems, along with a new "iCloud" designed to sync data between multiple devices.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage at San Francisco's Moscone Center June 6 to kick off his company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference. Following his introduction, a series of Apple executives detailed the upcoming Mac OS X "Lion" and iOS 5 operating systems, as well as the company's iCloud service.

New features of Mac OS Lion include a baked-in Mac App Store, which offers access to a wide variety of full-screen apps. A spiritual descendent of the App Store long available for iOS devices like the iPhone and the iPad, the Mac App Store is perhaps one of the biggest examples of how Apple's advances in mobile-device software are beginning to influence its work on laptops and desktops. Clicking the LaunchPad icon in the Mac's dock will open a grid-like page of apps and folders reminiscent of iOS.

Lion will also offer full-screen apps, and the ability-via a feature called "Resume"-to restore an app to the same condition prior to logging out or restarting. With one click, individual windows within apps will zoom to full screen, and swiping the trackpad will allow users to cycle to other windows.

Another new feature, Mission Control, allows the user to "zoom out" of their desktop to a bird's eye view of everything running on the system, including apps. From there, a single click will send the user into a running app.

Apple is also using Lion to jigger with some operating-system fundamentals, including scroll bars, which now remain visible only when in use. In yet another nod to its own work in mobility and touch interfaces, Lion's trackpads now support an increased range of gesture control, including page and image zoom and full-screen swiping.

On the productivity side of the equation, Lion includes Auto Save and Versions. The latter is Time Machine for individual documents, allowing the user to revert to any number of previous versions with a single click. AirDrop wirelessly shoots files to other users, and FileVault keeps information secure with XTS-AES 128 data encryption-for both internal and external drives.

Lion will retail for $29, starting in July. Apple, in its fervent desire to pound as many nails as possible into the coffin of box-sold software, is making its newest operating system available for download via the Mac App Store.

Apple's upcoming iOS 5 is a similarly broad-based update of a company operating system. Given the competitive pressures of Google Android, analysts and pundits have waxed philosophical over the past few months about the importance of this release to Apple's fortunes in the mobility space. Certainly, the iPhone and iPad need to keep their software evolving in order to keep ahead of the growing family of increasingly sophisticated Android devices; Research In Motion's BlackBerry franchise and Microsoft's Windows Phone also show no sign of lying down and dying quite yet, although both of those rivals face the specter of declining market share.

During the June 6 presentation, Apple executives claimed that Apple has sold more than 200 million iOS devices and occupies some 44 percent of the operating-system market. Android defenders, start your blogging software.

In that spirit, iOS 5 is a major release. Apple has tinkered and refined its notifications screen, boosted iOS interoperability with Twitter, introduced a robust "iMessage" conversation platform (one that lets users carry a single conversation between their various iOS devices, and seems positioned as a competitor to RIM's BlackBerry Messenger), and added a new feature called Newsstand will consolidate the user's e-periodical subscriptions and download new issues in the device's background. Safari Reader, the company's app that presents articles in an ad-free and continuous frame, now has an iOS version.