iOS 4.3 Beta Hints at a Social Network for Apple Devices
By Adam Dickter / CIO Today. Updated January 20, 2011.
Can the second-most-profitable company in America leverage its popularity with hundreds of millions of consumers into a successful new social network? A beta of the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 4.3, suggests that's what the computer giant plans.
The developer kit contains a folder called Media Stream that would allow iPhone users to connect and share photos, according to 9to5Mac. The beta suggests that in the future users will be able to subscribe to each other's photo streams and even set privacy settings, a la Facebook.
9to5Mac said it appears Media Stream "will go way beyond photos in the future. We think Apple will expand this to music and videos, maybe like AirPlay between mobile iOS devices ..."
The new system may be connected to Apple's current cloud-based network called MobileMe, which offers such subscription services as Find My Phone, a calendar, and PC synchronization.
Ping Hasn't Done Well
The question is: While no one knows smartphones, tablet computers, MP3s or paper-thin laptops better than the folks at Apple, is social media their forte? In September, when rolling out new iPods and the latest iTunes update, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced Ping, a network that allows users to share music selection and artists with friends. CNN listed Ping as one of its Top 10 Tech Fails of 2010, saying "a lot of the time, it simply pushes you to buy music. Needless to say, Ping hasn't really caught on."
"Ping was just Apple dipping its toe in the water with a specific aspect of social networking," said Michael Gartenberg of Gartner Research. "It was a baby step to begin to figure out how a social network can be integrated into their software experience."
Given the epidemic success of Facebook and Twitter, Gartenberg sees a social-network component as a necessity for any mobile platform going forward, and all the more so for Apple, given the reach of its products.
The question, he said, is how much to integrate existing networks -- as Apple has done with Ping and Twitter -- and how much to innovate with its own system.
Will It Be in Final Version?
"Apple has a very large online presence and a lot of online services," Gartenberg said. "There is a lot they can do with MobileMe to foster greater social interaction going forward. I don't see any reason why they shouldn't be working on a strong social component as well as working with existing efforts."
He cautioned that the hints in the iOS 4.3 beta don't necessarily mean Media Stream will be part of the final update available to consumers. "You shouldn't read into things hidden in the developer release," he added. "There's a reason why they are hidden."
Gartenberg noted that despite speculation based on SDK clues about greater multi-touch gesture functionality, Apple said in an update Wednesday that won't be part of 4.3. "They now say they were just messing around to see what they could do," Gartenberg said.