wwdc14

Apple

Commentary


Today, at its annual developers conference, WWDC 2014, Apple laid out the first step in its latest plans — new versions of its mobile and Mac operating systems, iOS and OS X, respectively. The second step will come in the fall, when the company unveils new hardware designed to make the most of these new systems, including new and larger iPhones.

Dozens of new features were rattled off, some new, and some that were catch-ups to similar capabilities in competing platforms like Android. Our crack Re/code reviews team will test and evaluate these in the coming months, but here’s my first impression of the whole package.

To my mind, the overwhelming theme at WWDC was that your digital life can be better if your phone, tablet and laptop all have the familiar Apple logo. Unlike in the past, it wasn’t just about a better laptop operating system, or a better phone-and-tablet platform. It was all about the advantages you get if you use Apple hardware, software and services for everything.

The biggest new features were about making iPhones, iPads and Macs work seamlessly together, so that people on Planet Apple have no reason to leave, and those toting other brands might be tempted to fully join the Apple tribe.

The most important of these was something called Continuity, which lets you seamlessly start a task like composing an email on, say, your iPhone, and pick right up where you left off to complete it on a nearby Mac, by just clicking on an icon that automatically appears. A Mac owner with an Android phone — or an iPhone owner with a Windows PC — won’t be able to do that.

Continuity

Vjeran Pavic

Another example: The iCloud Photo Library, which automatically puts all your photos from all your Apple devices into one cloud repository — even versions you edit on one of your Apple devices — and makes it easy to grab them on any of your other Apple devices.

Another: You’ll be able to answer and place calls made with your iPhone on your Mac, and use the bigger device as a speakerphone. Or, when searching for a Wi-Fi network on your Mac, you’ll automatically be given a choice of using your iPhone as a Wi-Fi hotspot, and the Mac will automatically set that up, without your having to touch the phone or fiddle with its settings. The Mac won’t do that with competing phones.

One more: AirDrop, a feature that formerly allowed you to wirelessly send documents from one Mac to another, or from one iOS device to another, will now work interchangeably with Macs and Apple’s mobile devices.

This approach might seem obvious for a company with three big lines of computing devices. But, with a few exceptions, Apple has typically focused on the two platforms separately. Yes, it has slowly added some iOS-style features to the Mac, such as Notifications and iMessage. And it has migrated some Mac things, like iWork, to the iPhone and iPad.

But this time it really stepped on the gas to paint a picture of networked and cloud-based tasks that can be effortlessly shared and handed off, with no set-up or complex steps, between its various devices.

At the same time, the company took a big step to keep developers in the fold by launching an entirely new, simpler and quicker app-development platform, and changes to its App Store to make selling apps easier.

The big motivator, of course, is Google’s Android platform, which now dominates in market share the modern smartphone market Apple created in 2007 with the first iPhone. Despite its smaller share, Apple continues to sell a lot of profitable phones and tablets, and many developers still choose to make iOS versions of their apps first, or at least at the same time as they launch Android versions. Apple wants to keep it that way.

Some of the many features Apple showed today are catch-ups to those already on Android. For instance, Apple will now allow widgets — small onscreen objects that show information without requiring users to open apps. It will let users replace its standard keyboard with third-party keyboards they might like better. It is adding predictive typing — essentially guessing from context what word you mean to type next — to its own built-in keyboard, something competitors have offered for a while.

Others are still iOS- or OS X-only. For instance, you can finally swipe away an email you’re working on in iOS while you search other emails for some information you want to include. And in OS X you can annotate email attachments like photos and PDFs, and even sign documents received in email, right in the Mail app.

For iOS, Apple showed off software hubs for integrating health-and-fitness data, and for controlling home-automation devices, meant to make the iPhone and iPad indispensable for those budding fields. And the company took a step toward becoming the indispensable payments platform by opening up its Touch ID fingerprint-recognition system to third-party developers.

In one important case, Apple is looping in Windows users. The company is finally adding a face to its iCloud service with something called iCloud Drive, which allows you to store files in and retrieve them from the cloud. It’s like Dropbox, or Microsoft’s OneDrive, or Google Drive. But, while it works on Windows — a platform Apple fears less and less as it becomes a mobile-first company — it doesn’t work on Android, which is now Apple’s most dangerous competitor.

Vjeran Pavic

The overwhelming purpose of Apple’s latest software is to make it irresistibly attractive to use all of its devices and services as a unified digital ecosystem, not to mix and match.

But there’s a big caveat in all this. The unifying software foundation Apple unveiled today will only work if its next round of hardware devices is truly compelling. The next iPhones, iPads and Macs can’t be seen as mere sequels to current models. Apple needs exciting new hardware, preferably in new categories.

There was no hint today of anything as bold as what Microsoft and Google showed at last week’s Code Conference — a service that translates languages in real time during video calls, and self-driving cars that don’t even have steering wheels.

If Apple doesn’t wow the world with new hardware, consumers may drift away from Planet Apple, after all.

More Posts From Apple’s WWDC 2014




20 comments
Drawde99
Drawde99

PS

Comparing a self driving car to a smart phone is just plain stupid!

flyingdutch18
flyingdutch18

Icloud Drive would be a huge hit if 1) the storage in Apple Servers is encrypted and not accssible by Apple itself (unlike Google Drive) and 2) it is accessible for upload and download from all platforms (like Google Drive).

Agsystems
Agsystems

I rarely comment on these boards - but this is some weird commentary coming from Walt - sounds like he wants to appease the Android crowd. Off course the platform vendor wants its tools to work better with their hardware - why you don't ask Microsoft why the keyboard cover doesn't work with Ipad or Sansung why their Gear watch doesn't work with the HTC or iPhone? Really....

phil28
phil28

I really thought this was a very good column, pointing out a serious effort to move away from the walled garden and to make Apple devices work better together. It really makes sense. 


However, I'd also like Apple to fix a few things they have ignored in Mavericks before rolling out new problems. Apple Mail is still not working reliably with gmail in Mavericks. According to an Apple top level service guy, it's a known problem and his advice was to use something other than Apple Mail with Google. 

Karl Snow
Karl Snow

Walt you really tried to waltz on a thin ice today seemingly with an android in your hand. But, you ain’t no dancer today. Or are you just plainly clueless when asking “What’s Apple really up to?” You really don’t seem to grasp it anymore.


I enjoyed a lot (many laughs also) reading your article but stumbled upon some mismatches in your reasoning, or simply put stupid wording of things. Here are the best ones:


Walt on seamlessly working together (IOS & OSX): On Apple planet (mostly Apple). But when some get tempted then they join the Apple tribe! (tribe? …some minority group on the planet?). - Walt, wrong (stupid) reasoning or are you simply trying to downplay Apple? ;-)


On Apple’s Continuity: “A Mac owner with an Android phone — or an iPhone owner with a Windows PC — won’t be able to do that.” 

Hehe, Walt, what did you expect. Why don’t you cry over not being able to use Apps from Apple on your Android? Oh, you are. That’s the most stu…. uttered nonsense in a long time!


On the “Big motivator”: “Google’s Android platform, market share dominator in the modern smartphone market Apple created in 2007 with the first iPhone. Despite its smaller share, Apple continues to sell a lot of profitable phones and tablets…..” - (hmm, yes, just over 800 millions of them!). You don't even mention a word about the Big motivator in profit share in the modern smartphone market, no, not a word. That would fit better when mentioning the Big Motivator, wouldn't it?


Oh, Walt, sharpen up will you, this article of yours was not worth reading, except for the few laughs.

Daniel Harris
Daniel Harris

Although I like the look of these changes coming in the next version of OS X (I own a Macbook Pro Retina, but also run Windows 8.1 on a number of devices, a Dell Venue 8 Pro and a Surface RT) the feature of being able to continue an email on another device is something you can already do, and in a more universal way.


For example most email clients save an automatic draft, which is automatically there on your other devices if you're using something like Gmail, Office 365 or Outlook.com.


I'm more drawn to (and do use) services offered by Microsoft such as Xbox Music and OneDrive. Not just because I have a range of Microsoft/Windows devices in addition to my Macbook, but because they are making an effort to make these services available on a range of devices.


The new changes overall seem great for those who do have a range of Apple devices, and I'm a fan of the new visual style so i'm pretty excited to get my hands on it, but it won't be tempting me over to an iPhone or iPad anytime soon.


I think iOS would need to change drastically for me to even consider making a switch, but then again there are billions of people running these devices and they are happy as larry.

Maurits
Maurits

The Health Hub and Home Hub will prove to be new "categories" over the coming years. New hardware categories do not seem to be a must at this point, it's just what the analysts want to write about.

NB
NB

 I'm not sure I agree with Walt's  last statement: "If Apple doesn’t wow the world with new hardware, consumers may drift away from Planet Apple, after all.". 


I bought my first Mac in 2009, a Macbook Pro, I still have it, it's my main computer and it works better now than it did then because of new operating systems like OSX Mavericks that I installed on it. Reading through the spec requirements of the new OSX Yosemite, I'm positively surprised that, 5 years after I bought my mac, I will still be able to run a new OS on it. My mac came installed with Leopard, then upgraded to Snow Leopard, skipped Lion and installed Mavericks. Think about it ... that's 4 iterations of an operating system, 5 if you count with Yosemite, not all Windows based machines can handle that after 5 years...


The Apple world is not cheap, that's a given, but it's an investment in the long run. My 2009 Mac still outperforms a 2 yrs old Windows machine in most cases, even for heavy duty stuff like video editing. From a user experience standpoint, it just runs smoother and causes me no trouble with things like malware or viruses. Also, with OSX mavericks, it runs faster and smoother than it did back when I had Leopard. 


I would have loved to see new products or new gear announced but, on the flip side, I was very positivelly surprised by what was annouced at WWDC. I will get a shiny new OS for FREE (let's think about that for a moment...). That OS will make my platform of choice work better together, and I come out of it feeling that the premium that I'm paying for being on Apple's world is worth it, as I don't have to upgrade to new hardware every other 2-3 years and I'm confident that my 2014 iphone and 2012 ipad will still be supported for a couple more iterations ! 


Finally, does it really matter that Apple is playing catch-up in some of the features ? I don' think so. I think both Android and iOS are very valid platforms and it is a matter of preference as most apps are available in both environments, most of the time with the same look and feel. I picked iOS because I feel it's a more polished experienced, compared to Android. Also, I can hardly feel a performance difference between my original ipad mini and my iphone 5S (I don't play games, where the different would be more noticeable), again that speaks a lot about the why I will stay with Apple, they make sure most of their older products will run their operating systems as smoothly as possible. My 2012 ipad miniW still performs very nicelly on 2014 operating system and with iOS8 supporting the ipad mini, I can rest assured that the hw will live well until late 2015 or even longer! Oh and I still have a 2010 original ipad that also runs fairly nicely on most new apps, even though it's running ios 5.


So, will I leave the Apple world if they do not announce new products ? NO! Two reasons: 1) because they are invested in their platform and continue supporting customers like me, who cannot afford to buy the latest and greatest hardware every other year, while still delivering a great user experience in older machines. 2) they have one of the smoothest and more polished user experiences out there.

Consulting Economist
Consulting Economist

Mossberg should know better, imputing motives to Apple. Last time I looked his mind-reading abilities were no better than those vouchsafed to ordinary mortals. I suppose his corollary is that Apple shouldn't improve their ecosystem for those who choose it freely in the marketplace until they can improve it for competitors as well. Shame, Walt--you're smarter than that.

Jubei
Jubei

Self driving cars are now what companies that have nothing to do with the automotive industry to impress Walt and his crew. Really? Then Apple should announce Self Driving Busses, or perhaps Flying Bikes. Riiight.

zato
zato

 "If Apple doesn’t wow the world with new hardware, consumers may drift away from Planet Apple, after all."


What's happened to you, Walt?  Re/Code sounds more and more like an anti-Apple propaganda site. 

JerryP
JerryP

1. I don't agree with the caveat. With these software updates existing Apple devices will be tremendously improved, with additional incentive to get their PCs. 


2. Apple doesn't hint (they mis-lead, redirect); you know this.


3. Competitors promoting skunk work projects are nice, bold will be when they are in consumer hands.

essmu
essmu

I never thought I would but I was switching platforms from Apple to Google today to better be able to use Google Glass. Couldn't get the iPhone working seamlessly with the Glass App. Good example of how exciting new hardware (which Apple didn't deliver for a while now) eventually makes you switch platforms despite pretty high switching costs.

Kendall
Kendall

The self-driving cars are a decade (or more!) away.  The current ones only can only drive in one city because Google painstakingly mapped it.


What Apple has shown will help people in three months, not three decades.

Consulting Economist
Consulting Economist

A related example of Apple Bashing, though I have not seen it from Mossberg, is the claim that Apple is deliberately obsoleting their hardware whenever an OS upgrade comes out that takes advantage of features of newer chips not found on their older hardware. Here the corollary is for Apple to refrain, and let competitors get the advantage of newer chips. Again, I never attribute malice to such Apple bashers when simple stupidity is an adequate explanation.

mknopp
mknopp

@Jubei That was exactly my thought. What in the *$^@ does a self-driving car have to do with anything dealing with Apple or Microsoft. Google is a stumbling bumbling company who only manages to survive because of the boatload of cash they made from their search monopoly. They throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks.


As for Microsoft's translating service. Why should Apple be worried about this? They FEATURED it running on iOS8.

JohnR
JohnR

@zato Maybe he's trying to please the android crowd.  I don't know.

There are more android users switching to iOS than the other way around as of now, so Apple seems to be doing fine.

MathieuLLF
MathieuLLF

@Kendall but Apple didn't really show much new, it was more of a play catch up to what other platforms already offer...

Daniel Harris
Daniel Harris

@Consulting Economist I don't know if it's stupidity, rather than ignorance or an incorrect sense of entitlement.

Consumers feel entitled to lots more, for a lot less these days. They want their phone that is years old to still run the latest OS.


Microsoft got a bashing from consumers when they announced that Windows Phone 7 devices would not be able to run WP8.


It's unfair to expect a company to hold back new devices just to keep support for older ones. Like you say holding themselves back could also give competitors the advantage

Apple are better than most for supporting older devices too, for example the iPad 2 still runs iOS 7, that's pretty good going.


People forget there is a cost involved in supporting these legacy devices.

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