Like Pavlov’s dogs, the tech world starts salivating (and speculating) whenever Apple CEO Tim Cook is set to take the stage anywhere, but the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) is not usually the place for remarkable hardware reveals.
As many in the Twitter world #WWDC reminded…it’s a developer conference…it’s about the software. The company has a total of 9 million registered developers (up 50% from last year); the youngest in attendance at the event this year is 13.
Last year it was iOS 7, OS X Mavericks and one piece of sleek hardware—MacBook Air. What did Cook have up sleeve this time? Or these days, some ask, does he have anything at all up his sleeve? Was there breakthrough innovation or incremental changes?
OS X 10 and Mac
Cook took the stage and started with a few brags about Mac: sales grew by 12%; there is an 80 million installed base; and Mavericks OS X saw 50% user adoption (a record 40 million copies).
Then, in the first of several slights to the competition during the keynote, Cook asked: “How does that compare to Windows 8?” Adoption was 14%. “Need I say more?” he concluded.
The latest desktop system is OS X Yosemite (which came after OS X “Weed” was rejected, Craig Federighi, senior vice president of Software Engineering joked on stage), redesigned and refined with a fresh, modern look, powerful new apps and new continuity features to make working across Mac and iOS devices more fluid.
The new Today view in Notification Center gives a quick look at everything, all in one place; iCloud Drive is located within the Finder and can store files of any type; and Safari has a new streamlined design that puts the most important controls at the fingertips.
Mail makes editing and sending attachments easier than ever; Handoff lets users start an activity on one device and pass it to the other; and Instant Hotspot makes using iPhone’s hotspot as easy as connecting to a Wi-Fi network. Yosemite also enables the ability to make iPhone calls on the Mac.
What Android Does Best
iOS 8 was rumored, but expected and confirmed by Tweets of banners hung at the conference venue before the event even began. Apple calls it the “biggest release since the launch of the App Store.”
Cook, as he likes to do, again talked numbers on the outset of this part of the presentation: 100M iPod touches; 200M iPads; 500M iPhones units sold.
Apple gained 130M new users last year. [Insert bash] Cook said, “Many switched from Android, which they bought by mistake and sought a better experience and better life, so they came to iPhone.”
Eight-nine percent of users are on iOS 7 already, versus 9% who are on latest Android OS. This, he pointed out, is particularly important when it comes to Android, since “they dominate the mobile malware market.”
So while users are satisfied with last year’s news, Cook said that Apple was not taking a break as he officially unveiled iOS 8.
To round out the peck at the competition, Federighi, when talking about the new keyboard experience in the upgrade, showed an image of an old QWERTY BlackBerry device and laughed: “This is what a state-of-the-art keyboard experience looked like before iPhone,” he said.
iOS 8 is set to deliver a simpler, faster and more intuitive user experience, according to Apple, including iCloud Photo Library, allowing photos and videos to be more easily shared across devices; new Messages features to easily share voice, video or photos with just a swipe; and an entirely new Health app.
iOS 8 also includes predictive typing for Apple’s QuickType keyboard; Family Sharing, to share purchases, photos and calendars within the same household; and iCloud Drive, to store files and access them from anywhere. See all the details on the top 10 iOS 8 features here.
For the Enterprise
For Enterprise, iOS 8 builds on the new IT model for a mobilized workforce by improving the way users are informed of how their devices are configured, managed or restricted.
iOS 8 offers expanded security and management improvements as well as new productivity features, including an expanded level of data protection for key built-in apps, the ability to set an out of office response, see colleague’s availability when scheduling a meeting and support for configurable Thread Notifications in Mail.
Just like in the OS X upgrade, greater continuity between iPhone and iPad, including Handoff, will also benefit mobile workers on the go. It enables users to start an activity on one device and finish on another, along with Instant Hotspot and the ability to make and receive calls and send SMS and MMS messages from the iPad.
An Apple a Day
Playing into wearables, (but not its own) the new Health app gathers the information of users’ choice from their various health apps and fitness devices, and provides a clear and current overview in one place.
iOS 8 offers developers the ability for health and fitness apps to communicate with each other. With user permission, each app can use specific information from other apps to provide a more comprehensive way to manage health and fitness.
For example, the Nike+ apps using NikeFuel will be able to pull in other key HealthKit metrics such as sleep and nutrition to build a custom user profile and improve athletic performance.
4,000 New APIs
The iOS 8 SDK is Apple’s biggest developer release ever, with more than 4,000 new APIs. This provides developers with the ability to create new apps like never before, further customizing the user experience with “major extensibility features” like Notification Center widgets and third-party keyboards; and introduces robust frameworks such as HealthKit and HomeKit.
iOS 8 also includes Metal, a new graphics technology that maximizes the performance of the A7 chip and Swift, a powerful new programming language. Plus there is, PhotoKit, CloudKit and new App Store features for developers like app previews and app bundles, the new iTunes Connect with free analytics and TestFlight for beta testing pre-release apps.
Still a Rumor: iWear Something Apple
No wearables dropped at the event, but as mentioned, no hardware at all arrived.
Still, the gauntlet was thrown down at another event, by another Apple executive last week. At the Code Conference, Apple Senior Vice President, Eddy Cue said (even when prompted by host Walt Mossberg to recant): “Later this year, we’ve got the best product pipeline that I’ve seen in my 25 years at Apple.”
So whether or not iOS 8 makes Apple your summer love, this hint surely means you’ll see something in September.