iOS 4.3 beta contains references to Media Stream, Photo Streaming
With Photo Streams, you will also be allowed to “invite” other users to view your pictures as you take them and upload them to a service. This service looks like it is connected to MobileMe, and we speculate that “Media Stream” can be directly connected to “Find my Friends.” We think Find my Friends will be another aspect of Apple’s social network, a part of a free MobileMe, where you can choose to view your friends’ “Photo Streams” all on that same map. Apple has a patent on something called iGroups relating to this. This would clearly tie into the Mac and iOS photo app’s Places feature. From looking at the SDK, it looks like “Media Stream” could very well also have a plugin counterpart, like AirPlay, in 3rd party apps.
Apple currently has MobileMe and Ping and Game Center as separate cloud services, the latter two functioning as very specific social networks -- one for music, the other for gaming. Find my Friends is a reference to an extension of MobileMe's current Find my iPhone service and might bring a Latitude-style social location network into the mix. With Google under new management but still up in Apple's business with Android, and Facebook rumored to be eyeing the phone space, Apple will need a stronger online/social component.
There seem to be a lot of pieces to the puzzle and that's part of my concern -- Apple's online and social strategy still seems to be in pieces. Hopefully they're working towards something more unified and Apple-like. A single Apple login that would not only work for iTunes, MobileMe, Game Center, Ping, whatever this new Media Stream service is -- and also let you activate a new phone and download your preferences without plugin into iTunes -- would be killer.
Apple's got that huge new data center coming online and they've got an iOS 5 preview event almost certainly coming this spring. What would you like to see from Media Stream and Apple's online/social networks in general?