Apples WWDCC World Wide Developer Conference Keynote is Apples annual round of updates to their iOS and Mac OSX operating systems and it is usually filled with information about which way Apple is going and what we will get in the next year. The event is supposed to be about developers but always has a strong lean towards the press. There have been rumours of a new smart house system and minor hardware increases – so what was updated?
Apples Mac operating system OSX was the first thing on the stage, talking about its last update Mavericks and how it had gotten to over half the install base of Macs and had been very successful. They announced the new version called Yosemite. Yosemite has a flatter more pastel and transparent design which is reminiscent of iOS8. They also added a ‘Dark Mode’ which gives a lot more contrast between focused and unfocused windows and darker color pallet. Yosemite has an number of practical changes. Spotlight now searches online as well as locally. A new Today view has been added to the OS which is very similar to iOS’s notifications and makes use of widgets. iWorks has had a web drive added that allows remote storage, syncing and collaboration. Safari has had its look stripped down somewhat and has had a number of under the hood changes made to make it faster and more energy efficient and sleeker. A Skitch competitor called Markup was demonstrated allowing os wide image editing.
Airdrop on iOS and OSX have been updated to be compatible – despite having the same name they were not until now. This allows easy passing of files and workflows from a Mac to an iPad or iPhone. It has also been buffed to allow remote control and use of your iPhone. They demonstrated starting a hotspot from the Mac, making and receiving phone calls and SMS’s.
Yosemite will be available in Autumn for free and will be available as a public beta in the near future.
They then moved onto iOS claiming that 97% of customers were satisfied with iOS and pointed out that the vast majority of their install base were on the most recent version of the OS. They then announced the new iOS 8.
iOS8 has had its notifications updated to make them more interactive so that you can do more with them. The example they used was replying to an email without leaving ever leaving the notification bar or liking a Facebook post from the notifications.
The iOS keyboard has been updated with a slightly different font and wider spaced keys. It has also added predictive text and phrases which looks very similar to the way Swiftkey works on Android.
iMessage has been updated with the ability to mute individual conversations or group conversations. Location sharing has been added with a settable time limit. Voice messages and video messages has been added, similar to the WhatsApp implementations.
It was rumored that there would be a health announcement – and there was. HealthKit is a central repository for health information which third party devices can feed information into. Nike+ and the Fitbit were shown as examples. They also showed an experimental system for reporting the data to doctors when they get outside prespecified limits.
Next was a Family Sharing system. The app allows sharing photos, calendars, reminders and find my friends. It also allows sharing of media and apps up to 6 devices. It also adds a setting to note a device as belonging to a child – if they try and buy an app it flashes a notification on the adults device asking if you wish to allow the purchase.
Siri has been updated to include a handfree start – say “Hey Siri” and it will respond. It also has had Shazam added to allow music recognition, the ability to purchase iTunes contact and 222 new languages added.
The iOS App store has had a number of features including an explore tab, trending searches and letting the search page be a continuous scrolling page. App bundles are also to be available – for example download all the games from this publisher at a discounted price. App listings are also having videos added called ‘previews’.
Shockingly they also added three things that were thought Android’s strong points. Sharing, widgets and extensions including third party keyboards. The sharing allows one app to pass on information from one to another. In use this seems almost like an app within an app. Developers will need to write to make use of it. Widgets are to be available in the notification pane only but seems quite full featured making the pane almost a second way to interact with the apps on the device. The extensions are almost add on programs that can be added to the OS. This was demonstrated with a Safari extension that allowed translation of websites and by the use of a Swype keyboard.
TouchID has had an API announced. This will allow third party apps to use the fingerprint match to an app. This would allow for example your bank to have a secure app that could be sure it was you opening it.
HomeKit was announced as the smart home system. The system works with locks, lights, camera, doors, thermostats and plugs. It allows individual or group control and seems to have all of the major manufactures involved. It also has Siri integration. Say “Siri its bed time” and the curtains close, the doors lock and the lights dim. Details were sparse but this has the potential to be a game changer in the smart home market.
A new graphics engine called Metal was announced. As an end user you do not need to worry about the exact details but it means the iPad graphics have the potential to get a lot lot better for little hardware overhead. It was demonstrated with an app called Zen Garden which will be available for free with iOS 8.
So what did we get today? A new version of OSX that looks a lot more like iOS and has a number of small but cumulative improvements and that has moved closer to the iPhone. The iPhone has had a raft of new features added many of which were previously Android only options. HealthKit and HomeKit are particularly interesting to those of us in the accessibility community. Apples sheer size and install base means that it stands a good chance of taking over these markets and popularising them. A very interesting keynote with many significant announcements.