While I was very impressed with the quality and presentation of Apple’s WWDC presentation today, the actual content was a bit up and down. While the Mac was up big and iOS got it’s share of love, I have to say that iPadOS was unfortunately down. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Let’s take a look at some of the highs and lows in detail.
High- the Keynote itself
Apple’s presentation was professional and polished, just as we expect from them. However, that wasn’t a given with the difficulties posed by a worldwide pandemic. Everything flowed and since there was no need for stage elements and transitions, The Keynote went much faster, as well. I can’t imagine that Apple will do a virtual show in the future, but I could see them adding more video segments to future shows to keep the action moving.
Low- iPadOS 14
I had high expectations after last year, but Apple didn’t have a lot to show us for tablets today. The new Apple Pencil features with Scribble, handwriting recognition and digital editing are impressive, but that was about it. The rest was mostly window dressing.
I find it a little strange this is that this is the highlight feature for iPadOS 14 because it’s pretty niche when you think about it. I doubt that more than 50% of iPad Pro owners have Apple Pencils and I know there aren’t more than 30% of all iPad owners that do. How many of those that do have a Pencil are interested in handwriting recognition? Again, it’s great but it’s niche.
We did get a couple of other things of note. We will be able to change the default browser and email apps going forward, which is a long time coming. It’s a modest start down that road, but it’s a start. We also got a new Search interface upgrade, which looks good and should be more useful than the previous Spotlight Search. Other than these, we got new app sidebars and updated Widgets. That’s pretty much it.
Well, about that last bit. What we really got was the hand-me-down Widgets from iOS 14. What we didn’t get is he ability to move them around the screen like on iOS. We also didn’t get the new App Library feature on iPadOS.
These omissions seem like such a big miss on Apple’s part. The two OSs are so close to each other in design and functionality. These features, Widgets especially, seem to be tailor made for the larger screen of an iPad. Maybe it will come in a future Beta, but I’m not holding my breath
Medium High- iOS 14
The upgrades to the Home Screen alone are worth this rating. It’s been a LONG time coming, but Apple has finally given us some flexibility in how we set up our apps and surface important data right up front and center. We can also organize apps much more easily on secondary screens using the new App Library feature. Things should only get better once third party devs are free to make their own Widgets, as well.
Add to this the arrival of another long awaited feature with picture in picture and offline translation in the brand new Translation app you have a pretty sturdy trio of features holding up iOS 14. It’s a solid update.
Medium- watchOS 7
Sleep tracking alone is another step forward for the Apple Watch platform. Add in translation via the Watch, a new Shortcuts app, and improvements to Complications and Workouts and you have another solid, iterative update to watchOS.
Medium Low- Siri
Siri got a new voice last year and a new, low impact interface that doesn’t take up the whole screen this year. Neither of these changes addresses Siri’s real issues. One of these days, Apple needs to get around to those problems. I would have called this segment Low if it hadn’t been for the additions of new language enhancements and on-device voice dictation.
Mount Everest- macOS and the Mac
There were complaints from some of the old timers about the new design language across macOS, but I can’t blame Apple for wanting to bring more unity to its software asa whole. I’m sure they are hoping to bring some new users over to the Mac through OS and iPadOS, so this makes sense to me.
However, the star of the show was the Mac’s transition from Intel chips to Apple Silicon, as they termed it. The term ARM was never mentioned. This segment stole the show and it looks like Apple has a realistic plan to move the entire line, Pro hardware included, over to ARM in just two years. Apple says it will have hardware out late this year, so the real show begins pretty soon.
The progress we saw on stage looked great. All of the presenters’ app and OS demos were done on a developer kit powered by an A12Z processor, and it all looked fast and fluid. Apple has been seeding kits to major developers, so Microsoft and Adobe have a jump on the field in getting their pro apps ready to go. Now other developers will be able to get their hands on kits and get to work, as well.
Until I see anything indicating otherwise, macOS 11 and the Mac specifically are the stars of WWDC 2020. I usually tune out and catch up on other sections of the presentation during the Mac portion, so this is saying something for me.