Apple special events are fewer in number than they used to be, so we tend to get excited about the prospect of anything new and “keynote-worthy” when events are scheduled. Occupying two hours today with the announcement of OS X Yosemite, iOS 8, and a collection of new under-the-hood software development kits, the 2014 Worldwide Developer Conference keynote was exclusively devoted to software. Our editors had similar feelings about the value of what was announced, but different opinions about what wasn’t announced. Read on for our views in the latest iLounge multi-editorial.
| Jeremy Horwitz, Editor-in-Chief: To start with the positives from WWDC 2014, this year’s improvements to OS X and iOS look great. “Continuity,” Apple’s term for sharing everything from files to cellular phone calls between devices, sounds completely awesome — long overdue but impressively implemented. Why not let Macs and iPads take or make phone calls using a nearby iPhone? Why not keep working on an iPhone-composed email or document as soon as you’re close to a bigger-screened device? Soon, you can, and that’s fantastic. Along with related services (iOS-to-OS X AirDrop, improved iCloud photo synchronization and editing, object-based e-mail image/document editing, and 5GB attachment-sharing), the overall experience of using iOS and OS X devices is getting better and better. With Apple, you always know that your 2012 or 2013 device will do even more in 2014, which is wonderful.
But WWDC is supposed to include new Apple hardware announcements. Historically, it was the site of three major iPhone unveilings, the forum where Mac Pros and some MacBook Pros debuted, and also is a great opportunity to publicly bump existing products. Years ago, Apple had to pre-warn the press when it was going to focus a WWDC keynote exclusively on software and services. Apple has obviously changed. There’s been a drought of new hardware, and frankly not much to get excited about for months. Going into this event, we would have been glad to see anything new — an Apple 4K monitor or iMac, a 12” MacBook or iPad, or even low-power Bluetooth 4 Mac input accessories. WWDC 2014 effectively put the last nail in Tim Cook’s claim that Apple would be releasing “amazing” new products “throughout” 2014 — it’s now June, and there’s been nothing amazing this year. Even the software announced today won’t be ready for full public consumption until “fall.”
Under Cook, Apple events have become too infrequent, substantially predictable, and sometimes downright dull. The WWDC 2014 keynote thankfully had a happier energy and fewer low points than we’d expected, but also less meat and — despite claims to the contrary — no huge surprise just waiting to blow people away. Apologists will suggest that this is a developer event, and that developers were gifted with the new Swift programming language, Metal graphics technology, and various kits for health, home automation, and cloud content synchronization. That’s true. From a consumer-facing standpoint, however, the improvements Apple is delivering will be hard to spot for months. It’s unfortunate that there’s no amazing new product ready for Apple customers to play with right now.
| Phil Dzikiy, News Editor: As an Apple user, I’m looking forward to both iOS 8 and Yosemite. The continuity stuff is very welcome — especially phone calls and Caller ID on Mac. For me, Family Sharing will be the most useful feature in iOS 8. It looks like a great solution to a lot of little issues that pop up when you’re in a family of multiple iOS users. The tweaks to messages look helpful, as well. How many times have you wanted to drop out of an annoying group chat?
As someone who covers Apple for a consumer-focused site, I really would have liked to see any of the new hardware rumors come true, and we expected to at least see a MacBook update. But nope, nada. I understand it’s a developers’ conference, but I wanted to be surprised — a shift in what’s become the normal Apple timeline would be fantastic — and it didn’t happen. I’d like to think something is coming before the fall. But that’s probably not the case.
Down the road, the biggest impact from this WWDC will likely come from the introduction of Swift — an opening of the gates.
| Nick Guy, Accessories Editor: While the lack of any new hardware is disappointing, if not expected, I’m impressed by what Tim Cook and company presented on stage. He’s made it clear that OS X and iOS won’t be merging into one operating system at any point in the future, but this new software shows how the two can be even more intertwined than ever while maintaining their individual identities.
I see Continuity as the single biggest feature of the many introduced. Without towing the Apple company line, it really seems like it will allow people to work more efficiently. The idea of walking in the door typing an email on an iPhone and finishing it up on a Mac is appealing to me, as is answering a call from my iMac, or any of the other tasks you’ll be able to do. There are plenty of other iterative improvements that people have been clamoring for, like the improvements to group texts and widgets in Notification Center, and I appreciate those too.
Would I have liked to have seen new Macs, an iWatch, or an updated Apple TV? Of course. But when Apple decides to finally ship out some new hardware this fall, I feel that it’s going to be a big, big event. Without any big changes rumored for iPads or iPods, expect an event to show off a larger iPhone, plus lots of Mac hardware, and whatever else Apple has up its sleeves.
| Jesse Hollington, Applications Editor: Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is always a bit of a mixed bag in terms of what to expect, and while the company has used it as a platform in the past to debut new hardware products, it’s often been at least somewhat developer-relevant hardware, such as the Mac Pro. While it was interesting that nothing at all was announced in terms of hardware, the OS X and iOS announcements themselves were certainly enough to make for a very full keynote.
OS X by itself received a face-lift and a couple of relatively minor updates, however Apple’s new ‘Continuity’ feature brought together aspects of OS X and iOS that should dramatically improve user workflows, making it far easier to seamlessly use both devices at once. ‘Continuity’ is a feature that addressed some of the minor pain points that many of us have likely felt when using both platforms, such as starting a message on an iOS device and then feeling it would be better finished on a desktop, or eaisly transferring pictures and files between both devices without waiting for iCloud to sync things up.
iOS 8 also showed a great deal of interesting promise in this area by itself, and this is the first iOS update that brings the platform on par with Android in terms of the “openness” that most users are likely to actually care about, such as inter-app sharing of data, and support for “widgets.” While it remains to be seen how readily these new features will be implemented by developers, Apple’s debut of its new development language, Swift, shows that the company continues to be serious about making the development path as easy as possible.
Readers, share your thoughts on the WWDC 2014 announcements in the Comments section below!