This morning I attended Apple’s opening keynote for its World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Fransisco, California. Aside from it being a frantic, intense and incredibly unique experience there were a flood of announcements that have yet to fully sink in. Regardless it is clear that the wheel of mobile has already begun to turn and Apple has set the tone for another year of designing, developing and deploying innovative experiences across a range of cutting edge mobile devices.
With a focus on ‘Experience’ and ‘Performance’ Apple has focused on addressing the most requested improvements to both the tools and the platforms that developers have built their software upon for years, allowing these tools and their underlying foundations to grow into their own. In many ways the company is taking the time to solidify their ecosystem in the ways that only Apple is capable of and judging by the mood of the room today, this really does have developers excited.
OS X 10.11
In terms of OS X, developers saw the announcement of 10.11 named ‘El Capitan’ which includes new APIs and features such as Force Touch, shake-to-enlarge mouse and Safari pinned sites. Apple also introduced ‘Intelligence’ improvements to Spotlight using natural language parsing making it easier to allow users the ability to search deep within their files and documents. Many of these are small yet extremely welcome refinements to the overall experience of the Mac.
But more importantly Apple introduced Split-screen apps, enabling users to easily snap two full screen applications side by side. After a loud and enthusiastic roar from the crowd, it’s clear that developers are excited to get their hands on split-screen apps and integrating the functionality with their own desktop apps.
We also saw the announcement of iOS 9 which builds upon the idea of ‘Intelligence’ in which the OS is beginning to be more contextually aware of a user based on location, time of day and usage patterns. Contextual awareness weaves throughout the OS in many ways such as through Spotlight and Siri to enable quicker, more relevant interactions for users when it’s needed the most. If you have an upcoming meeting, iOS predicts who you might need to contact or where you might want to eat and makes it fast and easy get things done. It’s clear that contextual awareness is an important factor in making relevant, timely and valuable applications moving into the future.
As was expected Apple even brought split-screen app support to iOS with the iPad. If developers have implemented size classes, this enables users to multi-task for the first time on a non-desktop device. It signals a significant shift in the mobile device space where users have typically focused on a single app at a time. Users will now be juggling between two different interfaces and environments simultaneously. This will mean developers will quickly be required to consider not only the relationship between their apps and others, but it will allow users to perform more powerful and efficient tasks at the same time.
Developers were also incredibly excited about the announcements of Swift 2.0. Along with many language changes and improvements, most notably Apple announced plans to make the language Open Source, beginning with a Linux compiler implementation. The company certainly understands the popularity of the language and the desires to take the language beyond its current state into something that is open, driven by its own developer community and set to last for many many more years to come.
Having only recently launched Apple Watch to the public along with WatchKit, Apple also announced watchOS 2 which allows developers to build applications that perform logic from on the watch itself as opposed to as an app on an iPhone. The new OS enables custom Complications, access to hardware and sensors such as the Digital Crown, Speakers, Audio, and communication with the iOS application.
Despite the short turn around on WatchKit Apple are definitely iterating fast on the Apple Watch which I believe is both comforting and exciting. Apple Watch will very soon operate with third party complications, time-travel mode, glances, notifications and finally the apps themselves.
Based on what was announced during the opening keynote it is clear that Apple is taking the time to refine the details across its entire software ecosystem. From improving developer tools such as Xcode to driving extremely pressured services such as Beats, this year is going to be an exciting year for Apple developers. New APIs, frameworks and tools allow developers to create more meaningful and useful applications as opposed to slow, clunky and otherwise unhelpful nightmares.
We will just have to see how the technology announced this morning, pans out across the rest of the year.