On Monday, we reported how Apple is working on a streaming-only iPhone. The smaller, lighter device will have limited storage. Media and data will be streamed to the device over the network, like the second-generation Apple TV.
In November, we reported that the iPhone 5 will use a Near Field Communications chip (NFC) to enable an ambitious remote computing system. Wave the NFC-equipped iPhone near any compatible Mac, and the user’s entire Home directory will be loaded onto the guest machine — files, photos, music and even the same desktop background. It will be as though the user is sitting in front of their home computer. Apple has even patented the system.
How are the two related?
As we’ve reported in bits and pieces over the last few months, Apple is getting into cloud computing big time. With the opening of its massive $1 billion data center in North Carolina, Apple is trying to blend mobile and desktop computing.
“One thing is for certain: that massive data center isn’t being built to handle 99 cent downloads,” said our source for the streaming iPhone story, who asked not to be named.
Apple hasn’t said a peep about its plans, but the clues are building:
- Apple is working on iTunes in the cloud, courtesy of its purchase of Lala last year. Google is also developing its version of iTunes in the sky. Apple already has the technology in place: its licensing with the labels that’s holding things back.
- Apple is finalizing a MobileMe “locker”, which stores music and videos purchased from iTunes, as well as photos and albums uploaded to a MobileMe account.
- Apple has filed several patents related to NFC technology.
- Apple is likely planning to put NFC in all its products, from the iPhone to Macs, MacBooks and Apple TV.
- Apple has been hiring near-field communications experts, and is rumored to be already testing iPhones with NFC.
- Apple’s new online Mac App Store would make it easy to download guest apps to a host machine. If a guest machine doesn’t have a particular piece of software, it could be temporarily downloaded and installed on the host machine.
Other news outlets are hearing the same things. 9to5Mac predicts that Apple will be beefing up iOS 5 this year with cloud computing initiatives; while AppleInsider has made the same connections between NFC and remote computing.
One note of caution. We’re getting reports about stuff that’s in early development, and some it may not be released to the public.
Apple is famous for prototyping everything it does, even its retail stores, but most never sees the light of day. One of the hallmarks of the company is the discipline to release only a fraction of what it develops. As Steve Jobs told Fortune magazine in 2008, “I’m actually as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done.”