Ok, so that was a full 2.25 hours of very fast-paced updates on all Apple software, with a little hardware thrown in for good measure. Information overload is putting it lightly. Here are the themes that stood out to me in the immediate aftermath.
Apple is listening to users
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Apple has been prioritizing form over function for a few years now. Those forms are often amazing and their decisions don’t always negatively impact functions. However, the butterfly keyboard and the previous Mac Pro are glaring examples of Apple pushing that line too far.
Today, I saw a swing back to reality. First, Apple not only delivered productivity features to the iPad, but they gave the device its own codebase. They made it clear that it will now have its own path separate from the iPhone. Many users and fans have wanted to see the iPad Pro’s super-fast hardware truly turned loose. Well, it looks like we are about to get just that.
Then came the Mac Pro reveal. I’m not a Mac user, so I didn’t feel the pain of Apple’s design decisions with the last Mac Pro. However, I’ve heard more than enough about them from other Apple fans who are pro Mac users. Going into today’s event, most of Apple Twitter was just hoping Apple wouldn’t screw this one up. Judging by the reactions I watched in real-time, not only did they not blow it, they actually knocked it out of the park. This was as close to device porn as I can imagine and it was the biggest mic drop from Apple for a long time. All I can say it it’s about damn time.
The iPad has grown up
While I obviously haven’t gotten my hands on the beta, I know enough about Apple to know that they will deliver the goods on what they showed at the keynote. The iPad is about to get a more interactive desktop, real multitasking, multi-window support and external file management, all in one big update. This is a huge shift that really finishes off the first steps we saw in this direction in iOS 11.
There are still plenty of details to flesh out, like what iPads will get what features and more details on how some of them will work. Apple also didn’t get into too much detail on the new keyboard shortcuts or even how external file management will look and operate in actual use. However, they wouldn’t have made a big deal about the fact that these features are present if they were half-measures.
If you are an iPad owner, today is a really good day. If you own an iPad Pro, get ready for your device to be unleashed. Again, it’s about time, Apple.
Apple didn’t completely forget about Siri
Siri didn’t get as much time or love as I hoped for today, but the digital assistant is getting some additional features that span across multiple devices. I can see that Apple is looking for ways to smooth the rough edges out and use its platform advantages to let Siri shine where it can. The new AirPods feature that allows Siri to speak text messages and allow an immediate response as soon as they come in is just such a feature. This is a perfect way for Apple to take advantage of the popularity of the AirPods in a way that Siri can handle.
What Apple needs to do next year is to go full throttle on adding AI and machine learning additions like this one to every corner of iOS. But this is a sign of Apple doing a better job of finding ways to apply Siri in a way that makes life easier for the user.
The AR Glasses weren’t at WWDC today, but they are coming
I didn’t put too much stock in Apple revealing their coming AR Glasses today, but I did think there was an outside shot. However, today did show how Apple is preparing for their release. Just look at the new Google Street View-like Look Around feature that was demoed in Maps. First of all, no one saw that coming. Apple has had mapping vehicles out doing more detailed mapping for over a year now, but this is the first time we’ve seen or heard anything about Apple developing something like this. It actually looked really nice, too.
The first thing I thought when I saw Look Around was that it was obviously developed with AR in mind. Sure enough, that was even a small part of the demo. What is the obvious next step? That same interface right in front of your eyes all the time, served up by a new pair of AR Glasses. Look Around was obviously made with the glasses in mind.
The other evidence I saw was the new enhancements coming to ARKit. If you can’t show your fancy new hardware platform to developers to get them started working with it, then you give them as much of the software as you can to get started with in advance. Apple has been on the forefront in AR since they first revealed AR Kit a few years ago and today showed that they are still committed to delivering the best tools in the category.
ARKit and these new features may be designed to work for the iPhone and iPad today, but that is just a starting point. The destination is going to be Apple’s AR Glasses. Today made it obvious that Apple is putting as much as they can in both developer’ and users’ hands right now so what they use with the coming glasses will already feel familiar.
The Apple Watch didn’t get full independence, but it took a step in that direction
Outside of the new App Store and independent apps for watchOS 6, today’s upgrades for the Apple Watch seem pretty pedestrian. However, the platform getting its own App Store and apps that don’t have to be paired up with an iPhone companion are still important steps on the path to complete device independence.
It will be interesting to see where Apple goes with the Watch for this year’s hardware update. Considering that we got the first major hardware design shift for the Watch last year with the Series 4, I think this upgrade will be more about the internals of the device, so there may be more enhancements that bring the Watch another step or two closer to being its own master at that event.
There will certainly be more to unpack and cover after this huge and information-packed WWDC Keynote, but these are some of the major themes I see emerging after taking it all in. If you have a different impression, I would love to hear from you.