Thoughts on WWDC 2016

Overall a little disappointed that no hardware was announced, but that had been forewarned. It’s remarkable that Apple had over 2 hours just to cover their software lineup and still had to leave a lot out. The overall impression is a company at the forefront of consumer OS pushing further out to leave their competitors looking stale.

I was hoping for a hint of a more powerful 2nd generation Apple Watch during the watchOS presentation, but what we got instead was almost as encouraging. The biggest problem with the current Apple Watch is that 3rd party apps are very slow to load. Having the apps in the dock already running and accessible with the side button is a very good thing, though it’s not quite enough for me to go out and buy the Watch again.

I zoned out of the tvOS presentation, but couldn’t fail to miss Eddie Cue’s mishap with the Siri recognition bit. It sort of felt like a peak behind the curtains. All Siri showings on stage in the past years had been flawless and often felt like real-time true recognition. Cue blew that apart by skipping ahead on his slides. He hasn’t covered himself in glory over the past couple of years and this compounded that impression. But this wasn’t to be his last lacklustre contribution – more on that later.

OS X is now macOS, as was much rumoured. A logical change to ensure uniformity in Apple’s software brands. Other than the very much welcome picture in picture mode for Safari videos (which I want to assume is applicable for all websites playing clips including Youtube) nothing really popped out (no pun intended) as being a killer feature. I don’t use Siri so it being on the Mac wasn’t a big deal for me, but it was interesting that Craig Federighi had to press the Siri button every time to activate it. No hands-free option? Having shared desktop with iOS devices was neat but, again, I personally don’t put any files on the desktop (because the combination of Alfred and the dock is so good) and I can’t be the only one who’s like this.

A lion’s share of the keynote was devoted to iOS 10, and I thought it was – with one painful, glaring exception – mostly excellent. iOS is where Apple’s bread is buttered, and it was clear that a tonne of engineering attention has gone into it. The new, less transparent UI design was nice, and all the changes made to the lock screen and the control centre looked immediately useful. It was going well until Eddie Cue struck again, this time to talk about Apple Music 2.0. Let’s not mince words here – it was another disastrous showing for the increasingly beleaguered app. There were so many things wrong with how Apple approached the Music presentation. It felt out of place at WWDC because Apple Music has no scope for developer input – it wasn’t like Apple was announcing an API for it. Cue brought out Boz Saint John to walk us through the new ‘improvements’ made to the app, but Saint John seemed to be mostly interested in geeing up the crowd who, let’s remember, are app developers, not clubbers. She actually looked a little unrehearsed, and her description of the Music app itself was strangely cursory and unilluminating. I was left none the wiser about how the app was made better. All this cried out for a separate, more intimate setting focused on Music alone. Apple could have done a town hall conference, invited a few dozen journalists and showed off Apple Music at leisure for about 45 minutes including live performances. It would also have made a much better use of Saint John, who definitely brought character to the stage. Ultimately it reflects badly on Eddie Cue, and I wonder how many more Apple Music disappointments he can afford.

The keynote finished on a couple of high notes. Good old Messages with its simple reliability was transformed into one of the most vibrant and full-featured messaging apps out there. It likely won’t dethrone Kakaotalk in Korea, but I’m already looking forward to using the drawing function and whatnot. Last but not least was Swift Playgrounds. It was right up my alley because I’ve been wanting to learn coding for a while now, and as an iPad Pro owner it was everything I didn’t know I wanted.

One last thing to note was the absence of any iPad-specific coverage of iOS 10. One of the most interesting things to ponder for Apple today is where they are going to take mobile productivity now that they have committed to iPad as a future of computing. It would have been nice to get a glimpse of how iPad could further improve, and I’m hoping there’s more to come this year.


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