Apple’s Boring WWDC » Manila Bulletin Technology

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By: Rom Ferria

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In this year’s WWDC held at San Jose Convention Center, in California, Apple made 6 major announcements, and boy, they’re mostly boring, like Google’s I/O 2017! Apple first announced changes to tvOS, and the one thing that made it worth it is the announcement that Amazon’s Prime Video will soon beadded. This will definitely make me disconnect the Roku at home.
Second announcement was on watchOS improvements. There’s no new hardware that accompanies the new watchOS announcement, but that is usually scheduled when the new OS is released, sometime this September. The new watch faces are ho-hum, pretty, but boring. The improved Workout and Activity goals are welcome, but really not that much exciting. I was expecting more, but I guess we just have to wait for September.
Everyone hoped for new OS X features, but this year is a “Snow” release, i.e., fine-tuning of the existing features, ala Leopard to Snow Leopard versions. The new OS X, dubbed High Sierra, focused on performance,meaning, not much new consumer facing features, but more on making it faster and more robust. OS X High Sierra joins the iOS platform in using the new Apple File System, APFS, a modern file system for the modern hardware. Apple refreshed the iMac, Macbook, and Macbook Pro line with the new Intel Kaby Lake processors, but it is still stuck at the 16GB
RAM maximum. Whilst there is no Mac Pro announced (which Apple said that it is developing), Apple introduced the new iMac Pro line which is something that “professionals” who prefer all-in-one configuration will be happy with (yes, it tops at 18-cores and 128GB of RAM, and Radeon Vega GPUs!). I wonder, though, what functionalities will Apple add to the Touchbar.
The new iOS version, iOS 11, came with numerous feature improvements. Whilst it is not as a drastic as an interface re-design, which I was hoping for, the new improvements on Siri, Maps, Messages, Photos, LivePhotos, Control Center, Notification and the Do-Not-Disturb-While-Driving are not revolutionary, heck, they’re expected fine-tuning. Apple Pay, on the other hand, introduced the peer-to-peer payment feature, which goes head-to-head against Venmo, Paypal and others. It is interesting to see Apple provide a facility where it keeps your money, ala Paypal, until you transfer it to your Apple Pay account. I guess Apple is reserving the new iPhone-centric features when it announced the new iPhone this September. In addition, the frequent mention of machine learning tells everyone that Apple is not sitting on the side-lines, as others believed that they were. One thing, though, Apple announced the new Augmented Reality (AR) feature of
iOS 11, along with the software development kit (SDK), ARKit, for developers. This one, though, looks promising, and as Apple has mentioned, once it ships, it will be the largest AR platform — no AR developer will let that slip!
The iPad Pro was long overdue for a refresh, and personally, I was hoping for an iPad Mini Pro. Apple discontinued the 9.7″ iPad Pro, but introduced one with a bigger and better screen at 10.5″, in a similar physical form factor. The new iOS 11 makes the iPad Pro a better productivity tool, e.g., better multi-tasking, more Apple Pencil support for Notes, drag-and-drop, and the new Files app for file management. Now this makes choosing between and iPad Pro and a MacBook quite complex, unless you are a developer (until Xcode runs on iOS, which I hope is soon). Yes, I really want the new 10.5″ iPad Pro! As what has been rumored to be a wall-connected Siri device, similar to Amazon’s Echo and Google Home, Apple unveiled the HomePod, a device that is similar, but not quite. Apple’s new device is a music device, a speaker to be precise, rather than an assistant. Apple’s Tim Cook mentioned that they were working on this even before the Echo. Anyway, the HomePod reminds me of the HiFi that Steve Jobs revealed before, which was not a successful product. However, this one has the form factor similar to the Sonos speakers (and Echo and Home, too), a popular WiFi-connected speakers system. The HomePod is similarly connected, comes with 7 tweeters, 1 woofer and 6 microphones! The microphone array, of course, is for Siri, but a more music-centric Siri (not as a generic smart assistant), for the moment, but it interfaces with Home app to control HomeKit devices.  The HomePod is expected to arrive this December in the US, UK and Australia, and is priced at USD349! Whilst I do have the Echo Dot, which I use as kitchen timer and Spotify-player, I can’t wait for the HomePod to control my HomeKit devices and Apple Music.
Overall, Apple’s WWDC is boring, but in a good way. The tvOS, watchOS,OS X and iOS platforms are maturing and being continuously refined —  as I have expected. Whilst I do prefer more drastic UI changes for iOS,the current features presented are promising. I cannot wait to find out all the new features and improvements, which will actually be revealed when the platforms are actually released to the public this September. So excited with the potential of ARKit and the Apple Watch interfaces with glucose monitoring devices.



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