WWDC… and should you care?

So the keynote speech at WWDC (the Apple World Wide Developers Conference) has been and gone, and the commentators seem to be divided as usual. Some are disappointed at the lack of hardware releases, whilst others are lapsing into pure hyperbole as they geek out over some of the software announcements.

But should you care about any of this? 

I watch these keynote speeches with the keen anticipation that I assume a sports fan must have whilst watching their team play a big game. But as a non-developer, I must admit that by the end even my tolerance for technical geekery was waning a little. 

I imagine that if I had been around in a bygone era, I may have found it boring to listen to stonemasons talking about arches, keystones and the mechanics of load bearing - all of these things are quite niche areas of interest. But, like the architects and masons of old, developers now are building the foundations for our digital future, it’s exciting stuff - but perhaps the fine detail is not so enthralling.

To extend the metaphor a little further we could say that OSX Yosemite and iOS 8 are currently building sites. I expect commentators over the following months to be complaining about how these new systems are unstable and full of holes - it’s fun to take a poke at a big successful company like apple - but we must remember that these things are not ready yet. You wouldn’t sneak into a building site and complain about how the escalators aren’t working yet, just like you wouldn’t complain about the taste of a cake before it’s been baked.

But for those of you who enjoy peering over the fence of building sites, or sticking your fingers into cake mix - here are some of the points that I found the most exciting from this years speech.

 

  • OSX has had a big visual makeover and now looks fairly similar to iOS 7, it also introduces a dark mode which could be great if you’re working in a darker environment.
  • iCloud Drive brings a more dropbox-like approach to cloud based file storage. For anybody who remembers the iDisk feature that came with MobileMe a few years ago, this will be a similar thing but the integration with iOS8 is certainly a good thing.
  • MailDrop is a new feature of the Mail application which allows what looks like a very seamless way of emailing large files up to 5GB.
  • RSS feeds are back in Safari - this allows users to get regular updates from their favourite regularly updated websites such as news feeds and blogs without having to get a third party RSS application.
  • Airdrop is going to be cross compatible between iOS and OSX - so it will be really easy to send files from your iPhones and iPads directly to your Mac and vice-versa.
  • Continuity - now this is a big one! If you’re working on something on one of your Apple devices - you can quickly hand it off to another Apple device. You could start writing a document on Pages for Mac and then realise you have to finish it on the go - a small icon will automatically appear in the corner of your iPad/iPhone/iPod touch allowing you to get directly into the document you began on the Mac. I found this demo to be very slick, it starts around 39 minutes into the keynote and it’s worth a watch.
  • If you have a Mac and an iPhone you will be able to sync all your SMS messages between your devices as well as your iMessage messages. You will also be able to answer calls to your iPhone using your Mac (imagine if your phone is charging in another room!)
  • Updates to the keyboard in iOS will allow faster typing and the possibility of using keyboards other than Apple’s own included one.
  • Messages on iOS will allow the sending of short audio files allowing exchanges to be almost like a sequence of voicemail messages.
  • Healthkit and the corresponding Health app will be able to take information from a variety of devices (think digital scales, pedometers and the like) and compile it all into one place so you will have an overview of your health related statistics.
  • Family sharing - just like families can share their physical media such as books and CD’s in their home, the family sharing feature will allow family members with different apple id’s (but the same shared credit card) share their music, books, movies etc between themselves. Families will also have access to a shared photo stream, calendars, reminders and ‘find my friends’.
  • Cloud photos - looks like photo stream is getting an upgrade which will allow the sharing of all of your photos via iCloud and not just the most recent. I can see a lot more people paying for iCloud upgrades now this is in the pipeline!
  • Siri has an update so you can trigger it by saying “hey Siri”. This could be great in the car so you won’t have to take your hand off the wheel to get Siri working.
  • Third party apps will have more potential to talk between themselves and exchange information.
  • Third party apps will be able to use the Touch ID in the iPhone 5S
  • Homekit in iOS opens up a single place to control all of your home automation. This area is not so popular in the UK right now but I can see it getting huge over the next few years!
  • Huge improvements in iOS graphics capability will bring greater potential for console quality graphics on iOS. I especially like this when you partner it up with an Apple TV to essentially get an experience which is similar to some of the bigger consoles. Some of the new game controllers which are appearing for iOS make this an even more interesting prospect.
  • A new programming language called swift means that developers will be able to code faster and with less errors. This is the section which went over my head a little!

 

These announcements are good news for everybody - even Android and Windows users. Events like this up the ante for competitors to bring in new features of their own which in turn makes Apple work harder again. It’s a cycle of improvement which will never end but without the competition it may well slow down.

Bring on the next few years of tech, we live in exciting times!