This week Apple is hosting its annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California. It is Apple’s opportunity to preview new technologies for Macs, Apple TVs, Apple Watches, iPhones, and iPads that will make it into consumer hands this fall. The week kicked off yesterday with the always anticipated WWDC keynote address. From iOS 11 to a new iMac Pro to numerous software upgrades for MacOS and WatchOS, there were no shortage of announcements. Here are a few highlights:
Augmented Reality (AR)
Apple has hinted for months that they are serious about the AR space, and their plans were brought into a bit more focus with the debut of ARKit at the WWDC keynote. In the presentation, Apple demonstrated new technology that will allow third-party apps to recognize planes or surfaces in the real world. Once recognized, users will be able to then place virtual objects and other interfaces over the live images of the real world. While most people are familiar with the concept from the Pokémon Go app, AR has useful applications beyond gaming. For example, this tech could enable the overlay of property data when you point your device at a home for sale, or display historical data about a point of interest on a nature trail.
Apple also unveiled its answer to Amazon Echo with the announcement of the HomePod at the WWDC keynote. While it will be a Siri-controlled smart-home hub, Apple interestingly emphasized the music experience HomePod will offer, promising that “just like iPod reinvented music in our pockets, HomePod is going to reinvent music in our homes.” At just over 7” tall, the device has better audio specs than other hub style speakers, and likewise is able to analyze the room it is in and adjust the output accordingly. Due to ship in December of this year, it will retail at $350 — considerably more than the Amazon Echo or Google home.
Machine learning is the notion that a software application can perform actions and make decisions for which it was not specifically programmed. Such technology has been used in medical applications for years, in helping to diagnose patients based on medical imaging, tests, etc. For example, a system may be fed a collection of medical images and patient outcomes to determine correlations between the two. Apple announced it is making an enhanced framework available to developers, lowering the barrier to creating solutions to very data-intensive challenges, on our mobile devices.
While not as glamorous as AR capabilities, we were also excited to hear about changes to the file management system. Since its inception, iOS, the operating system for iPhones and iPads has hidden from users the file system with which users are familiar on their laptop and desktop computers. In iOS 11, that file system is still hidden, but Apple is providing a new system-wide file management solution that will benefit users and all devices that deal with files. In addition to working with local files on the device, users will be able to access, all in one place, files stored on iCloud, Google Drive, Box, etc. Prior to iOS 11, third-party developers have been left to implement similar file access capabilities themselves. Since Apple is making their solution available to developers, you can expect to see more consistent and comprehensive file management features in many more apps.
Apple always does a top-notch job with WWDC. The new San Jose venue is terrific, the mood is more relaxed than in years past, and we have a terrific week of learning ahead. While the WWDC keynote address is crafted to appeal to the general public, with some nods to attending developers, the rest of the week is devoted to a deep dive into the tech that will drive user experiences across Apple’s platforms for at least the next year. With Apple garnering almost $6B in app store revenue in 2016 alone, there is big financial incentive for Apple to keep developers happy, and inspired across its platforms.
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