WWDC Reaction

Not a single new product announcement was made, but that was the best WWDC keynote I have seen in years. This is the Apple I love. Rather than just throwing new stuff at the wall to see what sticks, they are focused, thoughtful, and deliberate. What was announced today signals iOS’s transition from a mobile operating system to an operating system that is mobile. OS X and iOS now trade more than just looks and random features. The two systems are now partners, yet for distinct purposes. iOS is still iOS. OS X is still OS X. Instead of a cool demo of features, we got a cool demo of workflow. And workflow matters. More than a new feature or new app, it makes the new features and new apps fit in context.

Looking back on my wish list post, I got a whole lot of what I wanted. Not everything, but a damn good amount. And I also got a whole lot that I didn’t know I even wanted in the first place. Well played Apple. Well played.

First a recap. Here are the features I had on my wish list. Then let’s look at today’s announcements in greater detail.

Inter App File Access – Not as I expected, but yes, we got it.

System Wide Sharing – Also yes, exactly what I wanted.

Default Apps – Still an elusive feature. Though many of the other features announced today may well make this less important.

Customizable Notification Center – Basically exactly what I had hoped for nearly down to the letter.

Keyboard Caps – Well no, not exactly, but – and who the hell saw this coming – we now get third party keyboards on iOS. For real. Point moot.

Goodbye Newsstand – Still seems to be there with little to no changes. Oh well.

Install from Anywhere – Okay, so I considered this under the unlikely category, and we still don’t have it per se. But, we did get Test Flight, which may well alleviate the issue I had mentioned in the previous post with beta testing. [1]

Healthbook – No book, just Health. But its real.

So yeah, not bad. Now, on to the actual announcement.

OS X Yosemite

Interestingly the version number seems to have disappeared entirely, most likely because OS X 10.10 is a bit of a mouthful. After some jokes on various places in California they could have chosen[2] including OS X Weed, they settled on Yosemite. Looney Tunes jokes aside, Yosemite is looking to be a stunning release.

Design

Very iOS 7. We knew this had to happen sooner or later as OS X was running the risk of looking dated. I like the new look, although the translucent windows make me think Vista, though I am sure it won’t be as garish as that was. It looks like it will bring the Mac in line without going so far as to make it merely an iOS clone. Kind of like what Lion tried to do a few years ago, but this feel more careful. Dark mode looks really nice. I may even prefer it.

Spotlight

Power users already used Spotlight as a launcher, but now that role is much more explicit. It looks a lot like Alfred to be honest, which I am sure is not an accident.

Notification Center

It was one of those functions from iOS that never really felt home on the Mac. This looks like it will go a long way towards making it more useful. And the ability to add widgets is great. I assume this means Dashboard is dead, which is just as well given it was basically abandoned years ago anyway.

iCloud Drive

Yes. About time iCloud gets a real file system. I appreciated the simplicity of the previous incarnation, but it was too limiting to be useful. This is why Dropbox has continued to be so successful, more so than iCloud for this purpose.

Mail

Assuming it works better with Gmail, and they did hint at improved stability, another solid update here. In particular the ability to email large files via iCloud. Third party mail apps have had this a while, so nice to see Apple finally get on board. Double points for encrypting the data.

Safari

The war between Apple and Google continues, as Spotlight and Safari both now seem hell bent on keeping you from actually landing on their page. Safari can also markup images before sending them very much like Skitch.

Continuity

This may be the most important consumer level feature they showed off today. Finally, iOS and OS X will have the ability to easily coexist and work with each other like never before. AirDrop was always a strange feature in that it could not cross the OS divide. No longer. That makes it much more useful as I bet most people tend to use AirDrop with themselves rather than with others.

Being able to start a task on one device and transfer it to another mid way is going to open so many possibilities. I constantly shift from one device to another.

SMS and phone calls on the Mac was actually something I could do with my old Treo back in the day through an app called BluePhoneElite. It wasn’t reliable, but it worked. I cannot tell you how many times I need to cross the room to see something on my iPhone. Now I can take action straight from the device I am using.

There is so much here that I don’t think anyone knows how this will really impact users until we start actually using it. But this is why we use Apple’s devices. The OS, the device, all can now fade away and leave us with the tasks we actually are trying to do front and center. The seamless connection between the devices has always been a promise of Apple’s ecosystem, but this really ups the ante.

iOS 8

No dramatic change in design here, but a clear refinement of what iOS 7 began.

Notifications

Notifications are now actionable at long last. It continues the march of multitasking for iOS. Even better is the ability to add widgets to Notification Center, just like on iOS. As I stated in my wish list post, no reason to clutter up the home screen. Notification Center has the opportunity to become more than just a place where we go to clear messages. I have always been annoyed that OmniFocus couldn’t use it like Reminders could. Now, assuming Omni takes advantage of it, it can.

Spotlight

As with the Mac, power users have considered it a launcher forever, so this makes sense. And again, routing around Google as much as possible.

Keyboard

I did NOT see this coming. Not only do we get an Android-like predictive keyboard, but we are getting an Android-like third party keyboard market. Wow. Sometimes it makes sense to borrow from the competition. I have literally heard people say this was a reason they left the iPhone. Huge news on the keyboard front.

Messages

Three words: Leave group chats. Such a pain. In fact, knowing how awful the experience was for those on the other end pretty much kept me from ever using group SMS to begin with. Location sharing is big too. Find my Friends is a bit creepy for many users. Short term sharing makes a lot more sense for many people. And how amazing it is that we have come full circle and now can have a voice call in a text message.[3]

iCloud Drive

See above. This has been such a problem on iOS. In an attempt to make file management easier, they ended up making it hard. If this works as advertised, it should go a long way toward fixing that long standing issue.

Health

I really wish this got more than 2 minutes of stage time. I use a whole bunch of fitness devices and apps, and this is something that has been rumored for a while. From what we have seen it looks very nice, but what I really want to know is if it can go more than just collecting the data and actually connecting all these services and moving around data that has been trapped up to this point in a single platform.

Family Share

I see screwed up Apple ID issues all the time, mainly because people are trying to share their purchases among the household. Problem is that sharing Apple IDs usually leads to unintended consequences[4] and makes a mess to unravel. This is a new feature I will very likely put to good use in my own household. The option for parents to approve purchases seems a clear attempt at fixing the in-app purchase mess.

Cloud Photos

Another area where I want more information. It appears Photo stream is dead, and good riddance. What a confusing, terrible feature. If this works as advertised, it will be a huge breakthrough for photo management. But what about Aperture screams me and half the photo taking world. The tiny preview we saw of the Mac app did not go far enough. I need to know more. Thankfully we will get some reasonable options to pay for additional storage through iCloud.

Siri

Works with Shazam, but still limited. Although opening it up to be used with my home automation makes up for that pretty well.

For Developers

This is the Worldwide Developer Conference after all. And wow they they pull out all the stops for the developers this year.

App Store

Bundles and betas. Developers with multiple apps can now bundle them together to sell at a discount. Developers can also invite users to beta versions of their apps right in the app store. I assume this means they no longer need to give up one of their 100 device slots just to get their users the beta versions.

Extensions

Finally. iOS has been a locked down platform since the beginning. Inter-app communication was limited to URL schemes and bookmarklets. They worked, but were hardly ideal. And regular users had to jump through crazy hoops to make their apps work the way they do on the Mac. Just off the top of my head Evernote, 1Password, Instapaper, and OmniFocus can all stop using insane workarounds and finally tie in directly to the OS. I can’t decide which feature, this or Continuity is more important to this release.

Touch ID

You know this one had to happen. Once Touch ID becomes ubiquitous on iOS devices, and we assume it will, being able to use if for more than unlocking and purchasing apps becomes a no brainer.

HomeKit

As someone who does have a whole bunch of home automation devices installed, I cannot wait for this to be available. In particular, controlling my apartment via Siri. Sometimes it is annoying to have to find the app and then give it a command, and the fact that I need 5 different apps is pretty annoying. Clearly someone at Apple has the same issue.

CloudKit and Metal

Both are for developers with no immediate user facing features. The game demos they showed were pretty impressive though.[5]

Swift

Yeah, this was the OMG moment of the presentation. I actually had similar out loud reaction to the crowd in the room when I heard where this was going. No one saw this coming. A whole new programming language is a massive announcement. I don’t really know Objective C that well but will definitely try my hand with this. And how cool is real time previewing as you code? I would not have guessed that this would be the biggest announcement of the show, but damn did they surprise us this time.

Stray Observations and Conclusion

Craig Federighi is officially the new Steve Jobs when it comes to on stage presentations. He has been great in his last few appearances, but he completely ran the show today. Just the right amount of build up and humor. Job well done. And props to Tim Cook for realizing he is not the presentation guy and allowing the right person to take command of the stage.

I absolutely loved this announcement. No new hardware even though we all expected at least something. But no one cared. This fall is going to be amazing when all this stuff finally ships, and we get new hardware to go along with it.


  1. A bit light on the details at the moment so not sure exactly how far this will go.  ↩
  2. This could become a long running routine.  ↩
  3. The ability to talk to someone without actually having to speak to them is surprisingly appealing to me.  ↩
  4. I wonder how many marriages have been ruined by accidental iMessage syncing. Yikes.  ↩
  5. But not the speakers. This was the most boring part of the presentation. So glad it was limited.  ↩
WWDC Reaction was last updated June 2nd, 2014 by Michael Truskowski