The time between the developer preview for iOS 4 and iOS 5 was the longest to date. Rather than a spring event like in previous years, Apple didn’t reveal any details of iOS 5 until WWDC 2011 in June. Also, rather than a summer release, general availability was held off until October of that year. So what did Apple manage to achieve with those extra months? Several things that weren’t made available to developers, including Siri and Notification Center widgets. iCloud, however, and the sync services that came with it, were big. As was Newsstand and its subscription services, at least potentially. In keeping with tradition, however, neither was without controversy.
Meanwhile, over 500,000 apps were available in the App Store and downloads had topped 18 billion. By January, 2012, over billion had been paid out to developers. By March, App Store downloads hit 25 billion, and by June, the App Store was available in 155 countries.
Apple originally announced App Store subscriptions in 2008 as part of the iPhone OS 3 event, but they never took off. At a special event in February of 2011, Apple’s Eddy Cue joined FOX’s Rupert Murdoch to announce proper subscription support on the App Store, and the Daily, a new, all-iPad magazine to spearhead it.
At WWDC in June, Apple showed off Newsstand, a special kind of folder that housed all the magazine, newspaper, and other subscription, periodical apps. Again, developers had to update to support Newsstand and its subscription features, but once they did:
- The subscription app would download to Newsstand, not the general Home screen
- The subscription app would “wake up” once a day to refresh content, if anything new was available.
- The subscription app would show the latest cover or front page artwork, instead of the app artwork, to visually cue users to potentially new content.
Reaction to the Daily was so-so. Reaction to Apple wanting their traditional 30-percent cut of revenue from subscribers, but not allowing any surcharging in the App Store to make up the difference, was explosive. The late Steve Jobs framed his position for Apple:
Our philosophy is simple—when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing. All we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one-click right in the app. We believe that this innovative subscription service will provide publishers with a brand new opportunity to expand digital access to their content onto the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, delighting both new and existing subscribers.
The issue became conflated with digital goods being offered as in-app purchases in general, perhaps exemplified most by Amazon’s Kindle App. The platform concerns that come with deviating from 30% in any way were summed up by Matt Drance, former Apple developer evangelist and current Apple Outsider:
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We’re less than 24 hours out now from this years highly anticipated WWDC keynote, and we’re continuing our look back on past events today with the 2011 presentation from Moscone West. Continuing the tradition of the previous 3 years, 2011 saw, the unveiling of iOS 5, OS X 10.7 Lion, and iCloud. This was also of course, the final keynote starring the late Steve Jobs.
iOS 5 continued the tradition of yearly updates to Apple’s mobile OS. Headline features included iMessage, the iOS to iOS instant messaging solution, notification center and the long awaited over the air OS updates. With iOS 5 Apple also added their own reminders app, along with quick access to the camera from the lockscreen.
OS X 10.7 Lion was a major update, with over 250 new features to speak of. We saw such things as AirDrop, a proper full screen mode, Launchpad and Misson Control introduced, along with the brand new Mac App Store.
Then of course, came iCloud. Not just cloud storage as such, iCloud replaced MobileMe and was to become a way to push all your content to all your devices. Contacts, calendars, photos, apps, along with the facility to backup your device. All Apple customers would get a free iCloud account, and iTunes even got involved with iTunes in the cloud and iTunes Match.
So, that’s 2011. As ever, share your own highlights with us in the comments below! Just one more day to go!