My 2011 WWDC Wish List

WWDC 2011 logoWWDC is a week away and Apple has announced Steve Jobs will be demoing OS X Lion, iOS 5 and iCloud along with other members of Apple’s executive team. Personally, I’m thrilled to see Steve Jobs will be presenting despite his current leave of absence from and wish him all the best. It looks like this will be an action-packed WWDC with lots of new software and services announcements. To commemorate the occasion, I thought I’d put together my wish list of things I’d like to see announced in this presentation. Note that these are not predictions; in fact I think there’s an excellent chance that many of these items are tech unicorns. But in the spirit of wishful thinking, here my top ten list of what I’d like to see from Apple at this year’s WWDC:

1. More Content Partnerships and/or A Development Platform for Apple TV

Put this one in the long shot category. Apple TV is still a hobby project, but I think it’s one that Apple is rekindling interest in. At $99 the price is right and one of the major competitors (GoogleTV) has imploded since its release. The field is clear for Apple to take this product and run.

Apple TV has special meaning for me because I desperately want to ditch my Cable TV subscription but there are a few holdouts that keep me subscribed. Apple TV along with some content partnerships could solve this for me. Right now, the $1.99 per episode purchases or $0.99 rental options aren’t enough. We’ve already seen this start with If you could get access to live sports and other specialized programming such as premium channel content and specialized channels like HGTV or the Food Network on the Apple TV I think a lot of people would pay a la carte for the content.

2. Over the Air Sync for iOS Devices

We’re so close here. I can already update my apps over the air and sync my contacts, calendars and email. But I can’t sync my music and podcasts over the air or receive software updates. Wired may be better for some things (like software updates) but if I could sync music and podcasts over WiFi I’d be in heaven. I can see iCloud making this possible for music, though sadly podcasts seem to always be left behind.

One of my law partners recently bought her first iPhone last month. She picked up her first Mac a couple of months before. I setup Exchange to sync her contacts, calendars and mail over the air and she couldn’t be happier. I couple of days ago she came to me asking how to transfer pictures. I told her to plug it in. She asked, “to what?” It occurred to me that she had never synced her phone to a computer, neither her home Mac nor her office PC. She didn’t even realize that was something she was supposed to do. A Verizon employee set her phone up in the store and she never looked back. I bet there are a lot of other people in the same situation.

3. Bridge to the Mac App Store

I like the idea of the Mac App Store (MAS), and when I buy applications in the future I try to make it my first stop. But the vast majority of my applications never came from the Mac App Store and thus can’t take advantage of the benefits of the auto-update feature and the ability to install on multiple machines. It would be nice if Apple would offer Developers some way to “plug in” apps that were previously purchased outside the MAS into the system. I’d even be willing to pay something for this feature so long as the price was in line with the additional benefits and features offered.

4. Upgrades and Demos in the Mac App Store

Related to the above, one of the major reasons I don’t use the MAS for many of my purchases is because developers offer discounts for upgrading software purchased elsewhere. Now, many developers will over specials in the MAS when they release a new version to try to convert users over to the MAS model, but it would be nice if they had the option to offer upgrade pricing.

Another issue is the availability of demo software. If all software could come with some built in “try before you buy” option where you could download a demo it would clean a lot of cruft out of the MAS. Currently, developers of to clog the MAS with two versions of their software, one demo version, one regular, have people who are unhappy request refunds, or send buyers to their website to download demo versions. Seems Apple could implement a better way.

5. Archiving Email

I don’t throw away email. Perhaps that’s a character flaw that will come back to bite me one day. But I like to be able to go back through and search the archives of my email, and more than once this practice has saved my bacon. MobileMe webmail already offers an option (in the form of a button) to archive email, but this functionality is not built into the client or on the iPhone. Gmail already does through its web interface and the iPhone. Why can’t MobileMe figure this out?

6. Better MobileMe Email Filters

While we’re on the subject of MobileMe, could we please get some useful server-side email filters. Apple finally implemented some basic server side filters last year, but they pale in comparison to the email client offerings or even the customization of competing services like Gmail.

7. Multiple Custom Email Signatures on iOS Devices

I obviously have lots of issues with email. For personal email, my generic iPhone email signature is fine. But especially in a work setting, there are times when I don’t want my clients (or my bosses) to know that I’m not in the office. My normal work email signature is fairly lengthy, so I’ve created a TextExpander snippet. This works fine, but because TextExpander support isn’t natively supported in Apple apps I have to launch the TextExpander Touch app and either compose the message there or copy and paste my signature. No question, better than typing it manually, but a problem that could be easily solved by Apple.

8. A Better iDisk

There are rumors that MobileMe will be swallowed up into iCloud, perhaps the core features will be free with a pay service for more advanced features with maybe a cloud music service will be premium. Currently I pay $99 a year (okay, less because I buy from Amazon and other sources) primarily for my email address that I’ve had for years and over the air sync with the MobileMe cloud. But everything I currently pay for with MobileMe could be replaced by free services. The one feature MobileMe feature that I wish I could use but don’t because it’s woefully underpowered is iDisk. I’ve switched over almost exclusively to Dropbox when possible.

Apple, meet Dropbox. Fix it.

9. True Voice Control and Navigation

I love the Dragon Dictation apps for the iPhone, but I don’t use them as often as I should because they’re not built in the OS. The speech recognition is remarkably good. I recently dictated my dinner order flawlessly to a text message while sitting at a traffic light. (Small sirloin, medium, with loaded baked potato and side salad.) It was wonderful, but a feature I rarely use.

The limited voice control feature on the iPhone has been hit or miss for me. Unfortunately I’ve found voice dialing on the iPhone to have poorer accuracy than my previous Motorola flip phone.

While we’re at it, how about you let the iPhone read me back my text messages and email messages at my command. That would be ideal for the car, gym or any other place where I don’t want to pull out my phone and check my messages.

10. Don’t Lose OS X

I am not a part of the Apple Developer program so I haven’t seen anything about OS X Lion other than the information that Apple has made publically available or that has otherwise leaked from various sources. However, I am concerned about the merging of OS X and iOS. Some crossover is a good thing, make the operating system more user-friendly and easier to use. But there’s a line.

I don’t want to sound like a curmudgeon stuck in the past, but I don’t want to lose my ability to be a “Power User” within OS X. The walled garden approach Apple takes with iOS devices is not appropriate for a computer operating system. Remember, the Mac App Store, as great as it is, is limited to only certain apps because of API and use restrictions. Many of my favorite apps had to loose functionality or are not available in the MAS because of Apple’s restrictions.

From what I’ve seen, I don’t think Lion is taking us down this path, but I don’t want it to start us down this slippery slope either.