WWDC is Apple’s yearly developer conference and in contrast to Google which brings the public in via Youtube, Apple only allows press and developers access. A restricted video link was available as well this year, but could only be streamed on specific Apple devices.
The keynote, attended by about 5000 is by invitation only. Tech journalists are invited but make up a small number of the audience. The world wide developer conderence will be running for about a week and a half, but access to this is restricted to developers only and as such, there is no press coverage. The event was live blogged by every tech journalist that could get in or had video available.
Before the keynote we had a very vague idea what we were going to get. A new version of the iPhone and iPad operating system, iOS7, with a redesigned interface. A new version of OSX, the Mac operating system. A new Mac Pro desktop PC but no new mobile hardware at all. A streaming radio service which the media is calling iRadio. What we actually got was surprisingly similar to what we thought we would get. Usually, this is rarely the case.
Apple’s update to its Mac OSX operating system is dropping the cat naming theme and switching to a ‘California’ theme with the new name of Mavericks. This probably makes more sense in the US but I confess I had to look it up to make any sense of it. It turns out to be a surfing beach in California notorious for the huge size of its waves and several deaths over the years.
Notable changes in the new version of OSX include:
- A change in style across the system and throughout its standard apps. All hints of skewmorphism have been removed and replaced with simple white and silver. This includes calendar, game centre and the phone and messaging apps.
- Apple maps has come to OSX and been integrated as a service to allow people developing for the Mac to use Apple maps’ data directly.
- System navigation has been revamped and its interface simplified. Tags have also been added which the user can add to files to make searching easier.
- Multiple display support has been improved – it was previously somewhat frustrating with system dialogues and menus appearing seemingly at random across screens. Two full-screen programs can now be run, one on each screen. In addition more AppleTV integration has been added allowing you to use your TV as if it was a normal monitor.
- Notifications have been added, integrated into your iOS iPhone notifications. You will be able to action a notification directly such as replying to an email without loading up the related program. In addition your phone can send push notifications.
- Safari, Apples web browser, has been revamped with many new features such as a new sidebar, the ability to integrate Twitter and LinkedIn directly, increased performance and better power usage.
- iCloud Keychain, Apples OSX password manager has been updated to work across multiple systems including iOS systems.
- iWork, Apples productivity suite has been updated to iWork for iCloud. This is effectively an office suite for the browser and is clearly aimed at Google Docs. Interestingly it is not Mac or iOS only and specifically was shown working on a Windows machine and with Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer.
iOS is Apple’s iPhone and iPad operating system and has been widely viewed as getting a little left behind both from a stylistic and feature point of view. Stylistically it has not changed significantly since its launch in 2007 and its yearly update cycle has meant that the faster moving Android has been overtaking it on features. iOS7 is Apples answer to these complaints and has made sweeping changes.
iOS’s whole look has changed. The basic screen layout is the same but everything is brighter and more integrated. All skewmorphism has been removed and it looks much more modern and – dare I say it – Android like.
- Fonts have been toned down and regularised
- A control panel has been added which slides up from the bottom of the screen for quick access to settings such as wifi, bluetooth, brightness and song control
- Multiple touch gestures have been added including more swiping and pinching in general
- Folders used to top out at 12 or 16 apps and can now be of any size
- The multitasking interface has been remade. Previously you tapped on the home button twice to get a list of apps. In iOS7 this has changed to a horizontal scrolling of three at a time.
Notifications have always felt like a “me too!” add on in iOS and have been completely overhauled in this version. with a new look and increased functionality.
- Notifications are now reachable from the lock screen
- The top of the new notification centre has three tabs – “Today”, “All” and “Missed”. Today covers whats coming up on your calender, weather and the like. All covers everything and Missed that which is no longer relevent but you have not dismissed.
- Notifications sync between devices including the OSX desktop.
A new facility called AirDrop has been added (only to the iPhone 5) which allows you to securely move files between phones and the OSX desktop. It can be set to only work with people in your contact list or people on the same wifi network
The Appstore has had several updates and has been given the iOS7 look along with everything else.
- On an iPhone it can use your GPS and suggest apps based on your location. This is suggested as being useful if you are travelling to highlight apps covering local entertainment, food or travel.
- Apps will now auto update in the background. This should help with app security in general and prevent old versions of apps building up on a device. Hopefully it will be possible to set it to update on wifi only.
Siri is getting an overhaul although it is still being called a beta almost two years after launch. There will be the option of a male or female voice, and additional languages are to be supported. In addition Siri will be able to check data from Wikipedia and Twitter. Apple also made a lot of the fact that Bing would be the default search engine, but did not say if it would be changeable.
The iOS update is promised for the Autumn and whilst Apple have not said specifically which systems will get it from past precedent it may be only the iPhone 4s and 5, the iPad Mini and the iPad 2 and newer.
Macbook Air, Mac Pro and Hardware
The MacBook Air line has been refreshed with Intel’s new Haswell processors. This upgrade will make two major changes. Battery life will increase to around 9 hours for the 11-inch Air and 12 hours for the 13-inch. Graphics performance will increase by around 40%, although it will still be slower than a machine with a dedicated GPU. In addition the SSD has been upgraded and is now 45% faster and the wifi has added 801.11ac support. The new Air’ are already available on Apples website ranging in price from £849 to £1129. The upgrades still will not make them a viable gaming machine but they have gone from a travelling notebook line to a viable work machine.
The Mac Pro line has needed a refresh for a long time and Apple had been making hints that we would receive one for a while and we got another look at the replacement system. There are still many details to be revealed but so far we know it has four USB, six Thunderbolt 2, HDMI and two gigabit Ethernet ports. Internally it has dual AMD GPUs with ‘7 teraflops of performance’ and will support 4K. The whole system is encased in a surprisingly small cylindrical case (show below with cover removed) that looks nothing like a normal desktop but is gorgeous. Release date, price and spec are to be confirmed but it will be ‘later this year’.
Apple also debuted two other hardware updates. The AirPort Extreme router has added 802.11ac wifi and has had its box redesigned to have a footprint of 4 inches by 6 inches. This is available now for £169.
iRadio has been rumoured for many years since Apple acquired Lala in 2009 but copyrights issues have held Apple up until now. If the rumours are to be believed Apple got the last of the major labels on-board on Monday last week (Sony) and so have announce iRadio.
The service is a free but has text and audio ads unless you are a iTunes Match subscriber. You can start a station based on a song or go with a curated station and influence songs played by starring, skipping and asking for ‘more like this’. There is also Siri integration and control.
That is the good part of it. The bad is that it appears to be only in iOS7, not in iTunes and that it is launching in the US only in the fall. Based on similar services in the past this means it could be years before it makes its way to the UK or wider world.
This years Apple WWDC keynote represented the biggest shift in iOS since the launch of the iPhone in 2007. In usual Apple style they have not been first with most of the features they have added but they do try to be the definitive version. Most of the things announced will not hit our Macs, phones or tablets for several months and have time to change and we will have to see what is released come the fall.
If you want to watch it yourself the keynote is here – be aware that it needs Safari or Quicktime to watch and is almost 4 hours long.