At one point during today’s Apple “let’s talk iPhone” dog and pony show, all the live blogs paused and I wondered whether Apple had unveiled its super-secret Cupertino mothership and blasted off. But no, today turned out to be all about the iPhone 4S, iCloud, iOS 5 and an incredibly clever-sounding voice recognition app dubbed “Siri.”
Fledgling CEO Tim Cook—in it seems permanently for Steve Jobs—revealed that Apple’s latest mobile operating system as well as online storage and synchronization service will go live October 12. That’s more or less what we expected (the last rumor I heard put the release date a couple days later, October 14).
(MORE: Apple Announces iPhone 4S: Old Design, New Specs, Siri Assistant)
So that’s it then, look for iOS-the-fifth (downloadable) and iCloud (subscribe-able) one week from tomorrow. It’ll be a free update for the iPhone 4, 3GS, both the original iPad and iPad 2, and both the third and fourth generation iPod Touch.
We already know all there is to know about iOS 5, thanks to prior (and very thorough) Apple events, like WWDC, but in case you missed those, iOS 5 is pretty much an iOS-extreme-makeover. It’ll include a one-size-fits-all Notification Center, something called iMessage that’ll let iOS-based devices chat directly over either Wi-Fi or cellular networks, a new Newsstand bookshelf-like view of papers and magazines purchased from the App Store, tighter Twitter integration, improved to-dos (and reminders), a more granular picture taking app, enhanced photo editing, a few Safari browsing/reading tweaks, and—last but not least—”independence for all iOS devices.” Yep, iOS 5 makes it possible to do everything over the air and kiss cable tethering (to a Mac or PC) goodbye.
iCloud dovetails with all that, replacing Apple’s Mobile Me service and enabling wireless synchronization of email, contacts, calendars, bookmarks, notes, to-do lists and more. Why’s it so important? As I wrote yesterday:
Because the future of what you do—and what you do it with—is ineluctably online. Call it distributed computing the-next-generation, call it the latest iteration of the old client-server model, or if you’re in marketing, rebrand it “the cloud,” but whatever you do, don’t call it a fad. You want your e-life to follow you wherever you go? To have it backed up and secured without worrying about special utilities or local hard drives? To have all that at your fingertips on virtually any Internet-connected device? Yes you do, ergo “the cloud.”
Mark your calendars: October 12. Whatever else Apple delivered (or failed to deliver) during today’s “what-no-iPhone-5?!” presser, we now have fixed dates for two of Apple’s most important and arguably forward-looking technologies.
MORE: Apple Accidentally Launches iCloud Early (in Email), Next iPhone Looms
Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.