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Op-Ed: Apple's WWDC Keynote Showed Plenty Of Great Software But No New Products

Op-Ed: Apple's WWDC Keynote Showed Plenty Of Great Software But No New Products

June 2, 2014
If you're an Apple developer, you probably loved this year's WWDC keynote address. For those hoping to see new hardware introduced, you were out of luck. In the coming weeks, we’ll be spending a great deal of time discussing each new and improved iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 feature in depth. For now, we offer our initial take on some of the things announced in San Francisco, California on Monday.

iOS 8

Apple calls iOS 8 the "biggest iOS release ever -- for developers and everyone else." That is probably true.  It's also true that many of these changes are under the hood. Not that this is a bad thing. In the new Photo app, every photo, every edit, every album now lives in your iCloud Photo Library. In other words, all your photos and videos now reside in the cloud for the very first time. You can access and download them anytime from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or the Web. Once you’ve enabled it on your iOS devices, iCloud Photo Library automatically keeps all your photos and videos in iCloud, at full resolution in their original formats, including RAW files. Depending on the size of your library, however, this may cost you. Each user is to receive 5 GB of iCloud storage free, and other storage plans will start at $0.99 per month. The Photos app also includes new editing tools and better search capabilities, which is good given the larger library size. Working on documents across multiple devices has been greatly improved thanks to the new iCloud Drive feature in iOS 8 and OS X 10.10. To upload your files to iCloud, simply drag them into the iCloud Drive on your Mac running OS X Yosemite or PC running Windows 8. Or start a new document using an iCloud-enabled app on your iOS device. Then you’ll be able to access those documents from all your devices. Messages in iOS 8 has a number of new features including the ability to add your voice or video to any conversation. You can also join (or exit) a group conversation with ease. The Messages app also groups all attachments in one location. This way, you no longer have to scroll through earlier parts of the message. One of the few design changes in iOS 8 has to do with notifications. Now, you can take action on texts, email, calendar invitations, and messages from apps, no matter where you are in iOS. Double clicking the Home button now brings up a new multitasking interface, which includes icons for recent and favorite contacts. Just tap one to call, text, or start a FaceTime call. Your iOS device's keyboard is getting smarter thanks to QuickType, which learns from your typing habits. Don't like Apple's build-in keyboard? No problem, as iOS 8 now allows third-party keyboards. Apple still doesn't allow separate logins on iOS devices. Nonetheless, it has introduced Family Sharing. The new feature allows up to six people in your family to share each other's iTunes, iBooks, and App Store purchases. In iOS 8, it is also easier to share family photos, calendars, and locations. Family Sharing also includes a new "Ask to Buy" feature for children to get permission before making a purchase. You can also create Apple IDs for children under 13 years old for the very first time. Earlier this year, reports indicated that Apple was set to launch a new app called HealthBook. That app is now here and is named simply Health. It allows your activity tracker, heart rate monitor, and other health and fitness apps to talk to each other. Health is likely to play a huge role with the "iWatch," which Apple should announce later this year. Handoff is a new feature in both iOS 8 and OS X 10.10. Now, whenever you're working on something on one device, you can continue doing so on another. This all happens behind the scenes when your devices are logged into the same iCloud account. The features works with a number of apps including Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, and Contacts. Developers can build Handoff into their apps now, too. Finally, Spotlight searches beyond iOS devices. For example, you can now receive results from Wikipedia, the iTunes Store, App Store, iBookstore, news outlets, and nearby places. In Apple’s newest iOS version, Siri, the company's voice assistant, can recognize songs and tell users the song title courtesy of Shazam. It can even recognize a song while you’re talking. With Siri in iOS 8, users can also purchase iTunes content. Also, saying “Hey Siri” will now activate the assistant. Compatibility Apple's iOS 8 will be compatible with the iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5, iPhone 4s, iPod touch (5th generation), and every iPad going back to the iPad 2. The iPhone 4 is not compatible with iOS 8.

OS X Yosemite

Apple calls OS X Yosemite "Completely new. Completely Mac." We disagree as OS X Yosemite looks a lot like iOS 8 -- not that we're complaining. Like iOS 8 (and iOS 7), OS X now features translucent toolbars and sidebars, which puts a greater emphasis on your content. It also includes a new dark screen mode, which we were hoping would also be announced for iOS 8 but wasn't. The update also features brand new icons and a new look to applications like Safari, Mail, Messages, and more. The most anticipated new feature in OS X Yosemite is probably the redesigned Notification Center. This now includes an iOS-like Today feature that tells you everything you need to know about your day ahead. You will also get access to important information with widgets like Calendar, Weather, Stocks, World Clock, Calculator, and Reminders. New widgets will be available from the Mac App Store.

Developer tools

We can't wait to see what the many new developers tools mean for apps going forward. These include Touch ID integration for third-party apps, as well as PhotoKit, HealthKit, HomeKit, and CloudKit. We plan on examining each of these in the coming weeks and months. Until then, we trust that Apple will be spending a lot of time this week at WWDC training developers on the new tools. Swift, a new programming language announced by Apple, also looks very promising. For Cocoa and Cocoa Touch, Swift code works side-by-side with Objective-C.

No new hardware

We'll go on record and say that this was probably the first WWDC keynote that didn't include a hardware announcement. Yes, this was a disappointment for those who wanted to see a new Mac mini or MacBook Pro. Still, it means we can expect a very exciting, hardware-packed fall in the coming months.

Final thoughts

  • Last week, Apple bought Beats Audio for $3 billion, but this wasn't mentioned during the keynote. No, Craig Federighi's call to Dr. Dre doesn't count.
  • We were also surprised that Angela Ahrendts, Apple's new senior vice president of retail and online stores, didn't make an appearance.
  • Missing during today's keynote was talk of a separate iTunes Radio app, as was rumored. Perhaps the Beats acquisition changed this?
Again, we're just scratching the surface on the new products and services announced during the keynote. Come back often in the coming days and weeks for more reports. Did the keynote live up to your expectations? What products are you most excited to hear more about?

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