iOS 8, OS X Yosemite and iCloud Drive: Making Apple devices more than just the sum of their parts

iOS 8, OS X Yosemite and iCloud Drive: Making Apple devices more than just the sum of their parts

Apple's new operating systems and cloud services will do more together than they can apart

If there is a single message to walk away with from WWDC 2014, it's that Apple plans to make Macs, iPhones and iPads work together even better. Apple has articulated a clear vision of its devices and services working in seamless lockstep with one another in a way we haven't seen before.

In iOS 7, interface deference is a big thing: Just getting out of the way to enable you to get things done with a minimum of muss and fuss. That concept is employed readily across the board in iOS 8 and Yosemite, where the emphasis is on letting users work as seamlessly and easily as possible without getting in their way.

Continuity is the word that Apple used in its presentations to describe interoperability features in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. Maybe you've found yourself writing an e-mail on your iPhone when you suddenly realize you could do it faster and more efficiently on your Mac. Now you'll be able to. Your Mac will use your iPhone as a Wi-Fi hotspot without you having to fumble around with settings. You'll be able to send SMS text messages from your Mac (using your iPhone), and you'll even be able to use your Mac to take and make phone calls.

All this speaks to enabling you to simply get things done instead of worrying about which device you need to use to do it. The emphasis is on cooperation, on both environments working together to make things easier for you. All this falls under the new Apple moniker of "Handoff," which enables the devices to work in tandem with each other.

This is a sea change for Apple. Until now, iOS and OS X have largely existed independently, with some limited interoperability facilitated through iCloud syncing. Apple's throwing the doors open to widespread iOS/OS X interoperability, and they're also bringing third-party developers into the fold, providing them with the tools they need to incorporate Handoff into their own products.

iCloud Drive further enhances this idea. The cloud-based file storage system resides on your desktop as simply another folder area. You can drag documents into it, organize them into folders and use OS X's tagging metadata feature to attach meaningful search content revealed when you use Spotlight. What's more, it works on iOS, OS X, even Windows.

Steve Jobs once told the creators of Dropbox that their popular service was a feature, not a product. iCloud Drive is a feature, and it essentially works like Dropbox, providing a simple online repository for files that's integrated right into the core user experience.

There's another huge benefit to iCloud Drive: collaboration between apps in iOS. Up to now, documents created by iOS apps have more or less existed independently within app-specific silos. Without a file system exposed, you couldn't easily work on a document with one application, then make refinements with another. iCloud Drive changes that - now you'll be able to illustrate with one iOS app, color it with another, then embed it in a document created with another application. That kind of interoperability is a simple mechanism we take for granted in OS X, but it's a whole new world for inter-app collaboration on iOS.

Ever since iOS has risen in popularity and significance, there's been a simmering fear among Mac users that our platform was being marginalized — that OS X would be "iOSified" in a way that dumbed down the experience for us. It's clear that Apple has a very different strategy in mind. With iOS 8, OS X Yosemite, and iCloud Drive, Apple is intent on helping us get the very most out of each of our devices. But when they work together, we can do even more.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Peter Cohen

Mac Managing Editor of iMore and weekend Apple Product Professional at a local independent Apple reseller. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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iOS 8, OS X Yosemite and iCloud Drive: Making Apple devices more than just the sum of their parts


I'm looking forward to getting my hands on this once released. Many features are very exciting on their own, but it's all being put together in a way that .. yes, I'm locked in.. but damn.. this is one hell of a nice gilded cadge were in! Pillows, silk, and all! ;)

Apple's plan is slowly coming to fruition. Make a phone so powerful that everyone wants it. Tell the masses they can use it with windows.

And now here comes the bait, you can use it even better if you buy a mac. So all you android and windows users, if you want the perfect user experience, you have to go all Apple: Mac/iPhone/iPad.

I'm already there, so I can't wait.

Everyone already knew you could use it with Windows. They don't need iOS 8 for that. Photo Stream, Shared Photo Streams, iTunes Radio, etc. all work without a Mac on Windows, and have been since forever. The only thing that you don't get access to is Reading List in Safari, since Apple discontinued Safari for Windows (stopped releasing new versions, and using that old version is out of the question). It is easily replaced with a third party app and/or a Chrome Plugin, though.

Using it with a Mac would matter more if the Macs didn't cost over twice as much as a last gen Notebook computer that runs flawlessly for "the masses" giving them no reason to justify that amount of extra cost just to use a few interop features, when they can basically get the same thing done on a PC while saving a ton of cash in the process.

As far as I'm concerned, OSX is good enough to sell itself. What Apple is trying to do is push hardware sales, but that's hard to do when the Windows PC market is as cutthroat as it is. You can get a last gen Laptop that performs flawlessly for the average use and will for at least 2-3 years easily, for like half the price of a MacBook Air.

That's what I'll continue to do, until Apple's prices come down a bit (if ever).

If Apple thinks that I'm even going to consider buying an iPhone, iMac or MacBook, iPad [mini], and Apple TV just cause "Continuity is cool," they're delusional. The sheer cost of buying into their ecosystem that way it prohibitive to the majority of people. This is why their PC marketshare isn't high. Not cause their OS isn't good enough, but because their machines are priced out of range for the majority of people.

Good for you. Apple has never, ever made it its goal to sell its product to every customer out there at any price. Their model has always been to build the best product that they can build at a price that maximizes their returns while achieving sustainable scale. Apple knows very well there are people like you who are not going to buy everything they sell at the prices they are selling at. You seem to take this as a personal affront directed specifically and maliciously at you. Don't. It's not.

Actually, my understanding is their marketshare isn't high because of enterprise. Take that out of the equation and it looks a hell of a lot better. May not be as high as Windows but still very popular among non-business users. And 2-3 years life from a PC is why I switched. I'm up to 7 years on my iMac, running Mavericks, never been in to a service agent and it's fine for the family. In terms of TCO I'd bet it's at least as good as a PC.

The new cloud functionality seems like a clever way to avoid a full fledge file system on iOS for now. Combine that with the new iOS app API's to allow files to be edited in place by another app or plugin and it it gets even better.

From a OS X perspective I think the SMS texting will be the most immediate impact for me. No more messaging from iPhone for SMS and OS X for everyone else. I just hope it works and all conversations propagate quickly and consistently. And maybe search within messaging will be fixed? Aren't they adding a better way to manage attachments in Messages as well?

I'm really excited about this, but I have a question.

I've been using Evernote (EN) for a few years and I have about 1000 notes. It's clearly the best note app etc. out there, but I've always worried about its proprietary file format and having all my stuff "futureproofed" etc.

So, with this latest development with iCloud drive and Continuity etc., I'm wondering if it's time to cut bait and go through the arduous task of transferring my EN notes to Apple apps. I would much rather have all my stuff in the Apple ecosystem.

Does anyone feel the same? Would anyone care to comment on the pros and cons of this idea? I'm probably missing something here, so please let me know--thanks!

Evernote has several ways to export data, both to their format and to completely non-proprietary ones. Google Evernote Export for details - here is one such guide.

I would not worry in that regard - EN is arguably the best out there in terms of allowing you a way out.

Of course, if you have other reasons (integration, app preference) to go all-in on Apple, you certainly can. In many ways, Apple is the inverse of EN here - they make wonderfully polished applications, but they make it difficult (or, at best, do not help) to leave. (not a judgement - just their business interest is in keeping you on their stuff.). So your "future proofing" concern with Apple is one of ubiquity. If you are confident you will stay Apple now and forever, they make great stuff. If you think you might want ever have a mix of devices, they may not be your best choice.

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Hey, thanks for your reply!

I already knew about the export function in EN, but I don't really know what I would do with a bunch of HTML files, i.e., how would I import those into a new note app?

As far as that article goes, it seems a bit outdated--I couldn't find the Evernote folder in my Mac's Library (either of them). That said, I'm assuming that, if it exists on my hard drive, Time Machine is always backing it up, yes?!

I think you make a good point about Apple vs. EN. I do plan on sticking with Apple for the long run, though, and I'd prefer to have the EN functionality in an Apple app (I still hold out hope that Apple buys EN!).

So, I guess I still need to figure out just how I would export EN notes (HTML etc.) in a format that would actually be transferable to another application. EN doesn't really explain that on their site.

As a user of Evernote I am curious what apps you would move your notes to. Does Apple have an app that would not force you to give up some functionality that is present in Evernote?

Yep, I've been thinking exactly that! I also am not happy with being locked into the proprietary format. I looked at NoteSuite (for Mac and iOS), they are promising an ability to export your notes (not in HTML!) at any time, and you choose your own cloud storage, not theirs (e.g I use iCloud as it happens). But NoteSuite are a small startup and are only slowly moving on development of an iPhone app, and there are other interface issues with the Mac version that they have not improved in the time I"ve been waiting.

So now my idea for iCloud Drive is to make folders in there to match my Evernote notebooks, then export those notes as RTFs. (how to do that?
Then I will have the separate files in there, that I can access on any device, and they are fully searchable using Spotlight. (Another annoyance with Evernote was having to search there, as well as Spotlight, if I wasn't sure where some information was stored.) Easily tagged now too with OS X tags.

Yes, I'll miss the ease of Evernote with web clipping, direct snapping of photos as notes etc.. but I still prefer the freedom that this will allow, and the knowledge that they are simply files that I could move somewhere else (eg Dropbox) one day, if I wished.

I'm excited for all of this to be available this Fall. I think it's gonna be awesome.

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Great article, Peter. To me, this is definitely the most exciting news that came out of yesterday's keynote. It seems to be a particularly elegant way to work with files across devices, and it makes choosing the Apple ecosystem even more attractive. I can't wait to try it out!

Now, the one question I do have though is how much storage do we receive with this (or was iCloud Drive directly tied in with those pricing tiers that were announced...)?

The one feature i am curious about seeing is whether we will be able to download files off the internet to iCloud drive using an iPad or iPhone. Because that is really going to determine how well this feature works.

on a side note i wonder if they would ever open an app like xCode to iPad and truly make it capable of a lightweight laptop replacement. This would be very cool especially now with swift.

Apple's software excites me more than the hardware. yeah I love my rMBP. My iPhone 5 is great too, but I'm really looking forward to them working together so seamlessly. I was debating about going back to Android but with Continuity and iCloud drive, Apple got me back in their camp firmly. I'm shocked to see so many people acting like what Apple announced yesterday isn't a big deal. This true deep integration in the software is a very big deal. Seamless use across all devices, iOS or OS X is something I've always wanted.

Just realize that you're generally dealing with the typical consumer that doesn't really care to see the forrest behind the trees. Enthusiasts are more likely to see a feature and understand how that feature can enhance future applications.

I got the feeling that they are really pushing now, and listening to peoples suggestions, eg lots of people have been going on about iCloud for months, swappable default keyboards, inactionable notifications, lack of cellular support for macs etc. so yea good on apple for listening to customers and potential consumers.

I really think this is due to "Apple under new ownership"

I'm not sure that Apple would be so open to doing what consumers have chosen (based on usage patterns on other platforms) with Steve Jobs at the helm.

Apple knows makes them unique and seems less apprehensive about joining their competitors on some features.

Yea I got that feeling too and completely agree about apple being under new ownership in that I got the feeling the software guys have been let loose a lot more And it's good to see they are listening to people too.

Apple's software opened up when Scott Forstall left and Craig Federighi took over both iOS and OSX.

My crystal ball suggests ARM based Macs running universal apps written in Swift. I'm excited about everything from yesterday's Keynote.

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Swift does seem to make the idea of ARM based Macs a possibility. Now I just need to see some other ARM advancements in storage (SSD) and display (VESA Dock Port?) a la Thunderbolt.

Exciting times

iCloud Drive and Extensions make an interesting file managing solution (mini Cloud Finder replacement). This will take care of app confusion/chaos and make up for Safari's usability deficiency (Apple was also slow on OSX with Safari power features and customisation). More functionality is truly a nice thing that iPad was missing, this feels like a solid 10.6 Snow Leopard (or 10.9 Mavericks under the hood update) and hopefully It all means that I'll need less apps installed on the device to do everything I want because iOS was basically crippled.

This keynote wasn't all that exciting for me. My computer is too old to run Yosemite, and I've never used iCloud. I am happy about iOS 8 though.

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This keynote wasn't all that exciting for me. My computer is too old to run Yosemite, and I've never used iCloud. I am happy about iOS 8 though.

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I am really excited about Continuity and iCloud Drive, my question or concern is that I travel for a living, and completely rely on a pay per usage WiFi hotspot. Will a lot of these new functions with Continuity burn up a lot of Data usage?

AFAIK continuity requires devices to be on the same network, but I guess transfer of data is via the cloud still since it will need to be in iCloud. You'll probably just have to switch it off.

The real take away for me is how many features show how the iPhone will work with the iWatch. Awareness of the phone's presence, internet connectivity with instant hotspot, mobile connectivity with SMS relaying. The voice mail feature within iMessage shows how easy it will be to send messages from your iWatch.

For me, the take away is how, until the keynote, most of the world outside Apple failed to see and understand the still vastly untapped potential of the current set of personal computing devices (smart phone, tablet, PC). In one fell swoop, Apple just explained why iWatch, health monitoring, home automation, etc. (i.e. the next Apple product category) are taking longer to come out than a lot of pundits and blogger demand. All these new categories will not be as revolutionary as we hope they would be if the underlying platform that hosts them isn't fixed and upgraded first. Apple just told us they're working on the fix. Notice how AAPL is trending up, even though the pre-keynote 'More Devices' mantra was left unheeded? I think the message Apple sent hit home.

I'm 33 and have been using a PC since I was probably 6...I've always kept my distance from Macs, but NOW I'm SERIOUSLY considering making the switch. I love my iPhone and iPad Air and its exciting to see how this is coming together for them. I am also a diehard iTunes user and hope they will also invest in a nice overhaul there as well....can't wait for iOS 8. We'll see what happens from there.

To quote Steve, when you buy your first Mac, it will be like a glass of cold water in the desert.

I can attest to that. Mac is great. My wife has a windows computer running 8.1 touch. She won't leave my iMac alone. She now uses it just as much as I do. I'm all in. Bidding my time to get a MacBook Air or Pro. Yosemite has taken it to the next level. Getting things done seamlessly across all devices can't wait.

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I am wondering (admittedly have not researched it).... Will handoff be handled through Bluetooth like AirDrop? Or will it be like airplay is at the current set up... Where both devices have to be on the same wifi network??? Given the articles written the past few days about how airplay wont require wifi after 8 is released, I want to know if handoff could in fact eat up my mobile data allotted to me from my carrier.

These interoperability features solve so many of my issues with the Apple ecosystem. I just hope they work. I mean, I can't even get iTunes syncing via wifi to work regularly because iTunes consistently fails to recognize my iphone and ipad, with everything running latest versions of os, etc. so, if these features work, I will love them. I hope they do.

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I have a question about how the integration between OSX and iOS through via an iPhone hotspot. I admit it does sound very attractive. I currently am with Verizon which charges for using your phone as a hotspot. This might be speculation at this point but I am wondering if this integration will be done in a way that Verizon can get involved thus costing me another $300 per year.

@davebolton I am pretty sure that the hotspot integration will only work for phones that have the hotspot feature enabled, which is up to the carriers.

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That would make sense. Currently Verizon charges an extra $25 per month for this with my data plan. Maybe I need to revisit their plans as the shared data plans include this (I think). It does sound intriguing. This might push me in the direction of moving from a desktop mac (mac mini) to a MacBook Air.