WWDC 2011 Flashback: OS X Lion, iOS 5, iCloud and iTunes Match

As we head towards WWDC 2014 we thought it would be fun to look back at Apple World Wide Developer Conferences past, what they introduced, and what impact they made. Today let's take a look at WWDC 2011, where software ruled the day — OS X Lion, iOS 5 and iCloud...

Apple often peppers WWDC with some sort of hardware announcement, but not in 2011. That year it was all about the software. OS X 10.7 Lion was on display, along with iOS 5 and new cloud services from Apple — iCloud, which would replace Apple's Mobile Me service, and a new music subscription service called iTunes Match.

Apple had first given a public glimpse of Lion the preceding fall at a special event it called "Back to the Mac," where it emphasized the incorporation of multitouch capabilities in OS X, carried over from its experience developing the touch interface used in iOS. Apple also introduced the Mac App Store at that event, along with full screen app support in Lion.

Fast forward to 2011, and Lion's full capabilities were in effect. Though the software would not be released for months, Apple wanted OS X developers fully on board, outlining new features like document auto save, versioning, Mission Control, Launchpad. But that only scratched the surface.

iOS 5 also made its debut, though it likewise wouldn't ship for months, finally seeing a general release in October. Among the many tentpole features Apple demonstrated, Notification Center, Newsstand, Reminders, iMessage and Siri were the standouts, along with integration with iCloud, Apple's new cloud-based service model.

Apple had been dabbling with cloud based services for a number of years, first as iTools, then as .Mac, and since 2008, MobileMe. The subscription-based services had evolved over time, offering users e-mail, web page hosting, and data synchronization capabilities. But by 2011 MobileMe had very few fans — its launch was botched in 2008, and Apple had trouble recovering afterwards.

iCloud was an opportunity to start with a fresh piece of paper, as the service gradually subsumed and eventually replaced all together MobileMe. Users would get e-mail service, 5 GB of free storage with more available for an annual subscription fee, and the ability to synchronize data between Mac and iOS devices. All without having to worry about embedded ads.

Fast forward to today and iCloud is still with us, and it's still the glue that enables iOS and OS X to seamless;y synchronize information. Today iCloud has become a formidable standalone service in its own right thanks to Apple's development of web-based versions of the iWork applications, Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

At the same time, Apple introduced iTunes Match, a new subscription music service that for $24.95 per year published your personal music collection into the cloud, enabling you to listen to your own music from any connected device, not just the one where the music library was hosted.

Alas, WWDC 2011 would be Steve Jobs' WWDC swan song. The beloved CEO of Apple would pass away in October.

Give the keynote a look above and tell me what you think of WWDC 2011. What, if anything, does it make you hope for at WWDC 2014?

Peter Cohen