iCloud will lead to new app features: Experts

App developers and analysts have praised Apple’s new software releases, welcoming the updates and features that will allow them to create new programs for a variety of platforms.


But some international developers have said some of Apple’s features have started creeping into their own territory, threatening their business models.


Marc Edwards, chief executive of Melbourne-based studio Bjango, said the announcements were “all very positive”.


“There are certainly some things we can use in our apps here. I expected there may be some hardware, something related to the Time Capsule, but certainly it’s exciting nonetheless. It’s definitely a good thing,” he says.


Patrick Fitzgerald, director of LookOut Mobile – which has produced the Aussie Rules Live, Melbourne Jazz Festival and Great Southern Touring apps – says the new announcements were “exciting”.


“There were a few features we had expected to see there, specifically the notification updates and the keyboard updates. The cloud stuff was also exciting, and how that all relates to third party apps,” he says.


Apple announced a new suite of software called iCloud earlier this week, which allows users to back up their software, photos and other files into the cloud. The entire suite also allows them to sync data across all their Apple devices, such as music, eBooks and other media.


It also announced over 200 updates to the iOS software, including a brand new notifications system, wireless syncing and updates to native apps such as the camera and photo programs.


According to Fitzgerald, the new APIs for the iCloud suite mean more developers will be able to integrate within their own programs.


“This opens up a lot of opportunities for developers. Previously, you had to use Amazon for a lot of this stuff, but now that can change. We still have to look at everything in detail, but it’s exciting,” he says.


However, some developers haven’t been as forthcoming with their praise. Some have complained that because of new features introduced in the iOS 5 software, their apps are in danger.


Marco Arment, who has found success with his Instapaper app, is one of these. His app allows users to strip away the ads and pictures from a web page into a text-only article, and then send that article to an archive to “read later” offline. That function is now available in Apple’s Safari browser for free.


In a blog post, Arment wrote that he will have to work harder in order to gain new customers, but also notes Apple’s feature may raise awareness of his own programs.


“My biggest challenge isn’t winning over converts from my competitors; it’s explaining what Instapaper does and convincing people that they actually need it,” he wrote.


“If Apple gets a bunch of Safari users – the browser that works best with Instapaper – to get into a ‘read later’ workflow and see the value in such features, those users are prime potential Instapaper customers.”


“And it gives me an easier way to explain it to them – It’s like Safari’s Reading List, but better, in these ways.”


Analysts have welcomed the software, with Ovum’s Nick Dillon writing the various updates are welcome.


However, he also notes that improvements in some areas are also needed, writing cloud services need to expand beyond the iOS platform.


“The ability to share data between mobile devices, either via the cloud or though near field technology as shown off on HP’s WebOS earlier this year, would also help to improve the experience for users who own more than one iOS device,” Dillon says.


Principal analyst Nick Little also wrote in favour of iCloud, which seems to be a “more user-friendly” offering than Google’s or Amazon’s. He also pointed out the new services will help it compete in the increasingly expanding cloud market.


“Apple could at last be creating a cloud platform as a base from which to defend iTunes’ dominant position, not just against Amazon and Google but perhaps more importantly, against Spotify,” Little says.


Financial analysts have also praised the announcements, saying they will help bolster Apple’s financial dominance.


Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster has written that while the decision to make iCloud free will reduce revenue, it will also increase the amount of people who are likely to buy more iOS devices.


RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky has written in a note to investors that iCloud is a “possible game changer”.


“By ‘cutting the cord’ to the PC, Apple may expand its addressable market by 4x, addressing the (about three billion) handset users who have a phone – but not a PC,” he wrote.


“We believe we may see new devices in time, based off iCloud services.”


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