Back in the last century we would wait a few months after a new product was introduced to read about it in Macworld magazine. Apple seldom made the news back then. These days we can see Apple’s latest and greatest in real time, live on stage, in slickly produced product keynote presentations broadcast all over the world. WWDC 2017 may have been the longest ever.
More Taste, More Filling
If you follow Apple with any zeal then you’ll know the WWDC keynote presentations come with some news, some numbers, and a modest list of features for macOS and iOS, both due later in the year, the latter with the introduction of new iPhone models.
2017 was different and it didn’t take long to figure it out. Some presentations drag here and there but this one didn’t have many speed bumps. It all started with the easy ones first. Appetizers, if you will. CEO Tim Cook divide up the show ‘n tell into six categories, and saved the newest rumored product for last.
tvOS – there wasn’t much to say and if you sneezed and wiped, it was over. Amazon Prime video is coming to Apple TV. Some other things, too, but who cares? That’s the big one. Nope. No Apple streaming television service. No new hardware, either.
watchOS – next up was Watch spokesperson and Paul Bunyan University drop out, Kevin Lynch and watchOS 4. That’s right. 4.0. While every other smartwatch company struggles to sell anything, Apple has sold about 30-million or so, and watchOS is about to hit version 4. What’s new?
Watch comes with new faces, including a Siri face, a Kaleidoscope face, and cuties from Disney and Pixar with Jesse, Woody, and Buzz Lightyear. The interface has been tweaked but apparently not the stupid app launcher. Music app is redesigned to be easier to use. There’s also a two-way data exchanged with the gym equipment you don’t use.
macOS High Sierra – Think macOS Sierra, but with recreational medicines built in. This version looks more like a polished version than something to make old hardware obsolete a few years earlier than you like. This one should work on iMacs and MacBooks going back to 2010.
What’s new? Faster Safari (fastest ever, says Apple), Mail search with Spotlight (search isn’t the only problem in Mail, though), and a bunch of useful goodies in the updated Photos app; especially if you love filters and facial recognition. The big news is hidden. Apple says APFS is coming. Apple File System promises to bring better data protection, faster copying, and faster graphics to some Macs thanks to more Metal support (if you have to ask it doesn’t matter). Faster is better.
The Mac – or, rather, a few new Macs; specifically a crazy powerful iMac Pro due later in the year, but immediate updates to the MacBook and MacBook Pro models to accommodate Intel’s newest Kaby Lake CPUs. MacBook gets options for Core i5 and i7 CPUs, while the MacBook Pro just gets the new CPUs and greater differentiation in pricing.
iOS 11 – this is where the lion’s share of the presentation went. No new iPhones, of course, but iOS and the iPhone account for most of Apple’s revenue and profits, so it gets the most engineering effort. Apple might be getting too big with too many products to push them all into a single show, but they tried. iOS gets more Messages options and is easier to use. Control Center is a single pane. Again. Apple Pay goes peer-to-peer so you can pay someone. Siri gets more languages and countries and an improved voice. Much improved with better understanding of context. Siri sounds like Alexa’s sister. Or, brother. Your choice.
Even Camera app gets an improvement include HEVC which is higher quality and better compressed videos, and HEIF for higher qualify photos at half the size. Maps continues to feel the heat of competition but now has more navigation tools and a Do Not Disturb While Driving Option (which can be turned off if you’re in the car but not driving). The App Store gets a big makeover so we’ll need to reserve judgment until we can see the pig’s makeup.
Apple tossed around the industry’s buzzwords with great abandon– machine learning was everywhere, so was AR (augmented reality), and virtual reality (not as much). One of the niftiest demos was iOS 11 on iPad Pro. Add a good keyboard, drop in the new Files app, and an iPad might do what a lightweight Mac can do for much less.
The last two items in the show were not actual surprises but had a few.
iPad Pro – the rumored 10.5-inch iPad Pro debuted with improved screen, faster CPU, and combined with iOS 11 promise to make the device more valuable than last year but at a slightly lower price tag.
HomePod – honestly, Apple’s executives just dreamed up that name seven minutes before the presentation. Siri-in-a-Can is the right name. It’s an unobtrusive cloth trash can packed with tweeters, woofer, and microphones, so it should sound good, but listen to you. Yeah, Siri and Wi-Fi are inside, but Siri wasn’t the start of the show. It was Apple Music (which actually makes money for Apple, while Siri does not. HomiePod is seven inches high and made of a 3D mesh fabric. It has an Apple-designed A8 chip, a seven beam-forming tweeter array (not from Twitter), a 4-inch Apple-designed woofer, six microphones, Wi-Fi with MIMO, and multiform speaker support. We’ll need to hear it, of course, but not bad at $349 and far more capable than anything else at a less price. But no touchscreen. Voice only. But no individual voice recognition.
As noted, the whole presentation shebang ran just short of two and a half hours, featured a few Apple women on stage, and had to be the fastest paced Apple show I can remember. Apple folk pumped up the privacy and security capabilities a notch or two, and I’m certain the Mac folk who claim to be professional and all that were quieted down by the more aggressive price tag on the upcoming iMac Pro.
All in all, not a bad show; something for everyone, and worth watching again.