Is Apple Poised To Take Social Seriously In iOS With "Media Stream" And "Find My Friends"?

Another day, another iOS beta. This time, 9to5mac has dug into the latest iOS 4.3 beta and found something rather interesting: hints of a would-be new feature to be called “Media Stream”. While the details are obviously pretty scant at this point, early speculation points to a more social version of iOS.

9to5mac notes that inside the code for Media Stream is also a reference to something called “Photo Streams”, which is something other users may be able to subscribe to. What other users? Well, presumably your friends. 9to5mac is putting two-and-two together, tying these hints to the recently found “Find My Friends” feature in the first iOS 4.3 beta.

Each of these new features appear to be also tied to MobileMe, which also suggests that Apple could begin using the cloud for this new social stuff (if it is, in fact, social stuff). While there was no word about it during their latest earnings call yesterday, Apple had previously said that their massive North Carolina-based datacenter was set to come online at the end of 2010. Assuming that happened, new cloud-based services could be on the way shortly.

Much of the speculation that has been around an “iTunes in the cloud“, but it’s possible that Apple could do a smaller-scale, more personal cloud experience first. If that’s the case, something like a picture streaming/sharing service could make sense. But the name “Media Stream” also implies other media beyond pictures. Might music and videos be shared in the same way as well? Could Apple take a page from Microsoft and create a Kin Studio-like experience for iOS devices?

Apple took a pretty half-hearted step towards social with Ping last year. Have they learned from their mistakes there? And can they afford to go it alone in social, or would they try to partner with Facebook and/or Twitter on it?

Or maybe Media Stream will actually be meant to directly compete with the streaming media service Google has stated they will build into upcoming versions of Android?

At this point, who knows what Apple is cooking up here. 9to5mac seems to think all of this stuff won’t see the light of day until iOS 5. This goes along with earlier news that the new multi-touch gestures in the iOS betas weren’t meant for iOS 4.3 at all, but a later version (likely iOS 5).

iOS 5 hasn’t been announced or acknowledged by Apple, but assuming they keep on their same yearly timetable, a roadmap for it should be unveiled sometime before their WWDC event in June.