It’s that time of the year when Apple nerds gather in a big herd in San Francisco for Apple’s WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference.) There is, of course, the other big event in the fall when Apple announces/releases the new iPhone and the new operating systems. But June is centered on app development and it’s where the coverings come off of the details of the new operating systems: watchOS, tvOS, iOS and now, the newly renamed macOS.
I’m not going to deep dive the various platform changes as plenty of others have done that, here’s the MacStories Overview and Walt Mossberg’s Unpacking. Rene Ritchie has a great overview of the whole week: WWDC 2016: Beyond the Keynote.
As usual, there were a great many expectations (and hopes) in the Apple and larger tech community. Some of them realistic, some of them not so much. This year there was much rending of clothing and gnashing of teeth about Siri and how far Apple has supposedly fallen behind Google and Amazon. The expectation being that Apple would bring forth major improvements to Siri, putting itself back on level ground with it’s competitors.
Of course Apple did announce improvements but as it often goes, the improvements are iterative. Siri will be opened up to the developers of apps in a few categories only. The intelligence of Siri will be improved but within the privacy goals previously set by Apple. They will rely on in-device processing as well as something called “Differential Privacy” which is very selective processing by Apple of your data but only in aggregate (with other users) and with injected random noise. The idea here is that they learn about the collective base of users but each individual user’s data remain’s private. Whether the results will be up to the expectations of users remains to be seen. Google collects far more data. Amazon is a bit more open and aggressive.
Along the lines of a more powerful Siri many hoped for the announcement of a new Siri-powered Apple device that would compete with Amazon’s Echo and the devices announced by Google. No such announcements were forthcoming. The closest Apple came was in announcing a new app called Home as well as the Siri improvements. For now the current lineup of Siri enabled devices will be Apple’s offering with the AppleTV and iPad (plugged in) serving as Home-kit hubs.
I’ve been a bit disappointed with the 4th gen AppleTV. I’d been looking forward to Siri searching my content but alas Siri doesn’t search Homesharing content nor has it been announced for the next version of tvOS. But the new remote app will be a welcome addition and no doubt the other improvements will be welcomed by many. I’ve found that the Plex app is far more useful than Apple’s Homesharing interface which seems clumsy by comparison.
I was a bit disappointed that there were not more iPad related improvements to iOS. It’s possible that there will be some improvements that were not highlighted in the opening presentation or in the week afterward. In time more of the hoped for changes will come. Of course Federico Viticci had some thoughts on this.
AppleMusic and News are both going to look a lot nicer. Photos is getting some great improvements and Messages was obviously a focus and is benefiting more than any other app. I use Messages a lot and am looking forward to enjoying the new features. Notes is getting collaboration which will come in handy for folks that need that feature. Split screen Safari might be handy.
macOS Sierra is getting some nice improvements. Most notably, Siri which will be able to handle local file searches, image searches on the web and much more. Some of those searches will be pinnable or saved for later use. Other notables: tabbed interface for many apps, ApplePay, Picture in Picture, iCloud Drive sync for your Documents and Desktop folders, Universal Clipboard, and Auto Unlock.
Katie Notopoulos writing for BuzzFeed
The End of the Apple Man
But the effervescent demo of Apple Music by the charismatic Bozoma Saint John — a black woman who looked and acted nothing like the typical Apple Men onstage before her and who in her opening remarks mentioned being a mother — felt like a breath of fresh air signaling that perhaps the winds are changing. There were other signals too. In the video segment cheering on developers using Apple’s Swift programming language, the video ended with a black woman joyfully expounding how awesome coding was — certainly not the stereotype of a coder, and not totally reflective of the crowd there watching the video. At another Apple event in March, another black female Apple executive, Lisa Jackson, took the stage to talk about Apple’s environmental efforts.
Breaking the Apple Man stereotype in the people who appear on stage as the Apple’s evangelists is symbolic. Having a black woman present on stage might just mean the company is more aware of the optics of its events.
I’ll end with one of the highlights of the keynote and that was Apple’s announcement of Swift Playground which is a part of their efforts to encourage coding:Everyone Can Code. Many were hoping for full-on app development on the iPad, this is not it but it is a great start. I expect many kids will get their start coding via Swift Playground and many adults too. Very exciting.