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  • The Apple WWDC Report: About Meeting Expectations

    June 14th, 2016

    The crystal ball readers and rumor sites had a big day Monday when Apple CEO Tim Cook and crew delivered the WWDC keynote. Of of the things they predicted will come to pass, and there were a some added goodies that are welcome if not earth-shattering..

    One prediction that failed was the hope for new hardware. Refreshed MacBook Pros were expected by now. Last year a revised MacBook Air was released in March, with MacBook Pros arrived starting in May. Some suggest that Apple is losing sales and ground against Windows hardware, although it’s not as if people are rushing to upgrade PCs either.

    In keeping with predictions that Apple would rebrand the Mac operating system to conform to the company’s other platforms, macOS Sierra was announced. As expected, Siri will be include; also developer APIs for macOS and iOS will allow third party apps to link to Siri as well.

    One feature that might have traction is the promise of iCloud integration with the Desktop and Documents folders on your Mac, so you can access them from an iPhone and an iPad. All well and good, unless those two folders are positively huge — as mine are — and you must buy extra cloud storage.

    The other features slated for Sierra are potentially useful, but not must-haves.

    So the always buggy Continuity will gain a “Universal Clipboard” that allows you to copy text and photos on your iPhone or iPad and paste them on your Mac, and vice versa. I will assume this feature will depend on app developers adding support to their software, and that’s not guaranteed at all. Versions and other system enhancements announced over the years haven’t made their way into major productivity apps from the likes of Adobe, Microsoft and Quark.

    Sierra also adapts the Picture-in-Picture multitasking feature from iOS, allowing you to float a video from iTunes and Safari on your desktop while you’re working on something else. Again, I assume developers will be able to will add this feature over time if it catches on.

    While I lobbied for an enhanced version of Messages that supports more chatting systems, Apple chose, instead, to focus on the same fluff being attached to Messages for iOS 10. You’ll have text balloon animations, enlarged emojis (I can’t wait — or maybe I can), the ability to handwrite notes and other stuff that might attract younger people, but I suspect most of you are older than the target audience.

    One potentially useful feature of Sierra is Optimized Storage, which will help you in case you are running out of storage space. With loads of Macs limited by small SSDs, infrequently used apps will be moved to iCloud. You’ll also receive reminders to remove old installers, duplicate files and other stuff that’s stuffing your Mac to the gills. Third party apps have allowed you to look for duplicates and other unneeded files, so it’s nice to see Apple putting that feature in the macOS.

    I also hope that Apple will make iCloud storage more useful by increasing the free amount to, say, 25GB. Otherwise many of you will be forced to buy one of the paid plans to manage adding those less-used apps.

    I was hoping for some fundamental fixes for Mail, and maybe they are going to be there, hidden in the fine print. But I’m not holding out much hope for it.

    One of the most significant new features of iOS 10 may seem to be small potatoes, but it’s actually quite significant. So you’ll be able to remove most “first-party” apps just as you remove anyone else’s apps. That includes Maps, Contacts, Calendar, FaceTime and Music. Tim Cook made that promise a while back, and I’m glad it will be kept.

    You’ll also get all that silly fluff in Messages. But more significant is that yet another Android feature will make its debut in iOS 10, and that’s widgets. This will allow Apple and developers to put up those tiny app windows on the home and lock screens. It sort of reminds me of the failed Dashboard on the Mac. But it will give Android users one less reason not to switch to the iPhone.

    Apple also announced a long-awaited fix for Apple Music. With 15 million paying members — about half what Spotify claims — Apple Music is just shy of a year old. Spotify was founded in 2006. But after loads of early adopters complained that Apple Music had an overly-cluttered interface, things appear to have changed for the better.

    So beginning with iOS 10 and macOS Sierra, there will be a new section known as “Downloaded Music,” which performs the identified task. Another new feature, “Curated For You” combines the Connect social network feature with curated mixes. Or at least, that’s the promise. We’ll have to see, when it comes out, whether I should consider signing up. I tried it for the 90 day trial, and one day I realized I hadn’t used it in a while. So I didn’t renew.

    Maps also gets a redesign, with larger buttons and typefaces, making it easier for you to plan a trip and glance at the progress. A Maps API will allow developers to use the extensions feature to link their own apps. So you’ll be able to make restaurant reservations courtesy of OpenTable, and, if you’re so inclined, book a ride via Uber.

    In adding these goodies — such as they are — Apple has removed support from some older gear, such as the iPhone 4s. That’s actually a good thing as that old handset — where Siri first debuted in 2011 — was hardly up to the task of managing iOS 9.

    As with prior operating systems, macOS Sierra and iOS 10 are due this fall; the latter most likely when the rumored iPhone 7 arrives.

    Useful revisions were also announced for tvOS and watchOS.

    Developers are getting the first betas to knock around this week. Public betas will appear by July. This will give Apple more time to get them ready for public consumption. The Night Owl is already preparing to set aside an external drive on my iMac with which to test the early builds of Sierra. I will check whether my wife is willing to submit her iPhone 5c to such abuse. She doesn’t use it that much, and I can always restore it if the beta is too bug-ridden.

    My overall view is that this is pretty much an average, though interesting, set of OS enhancements. Nice features, but little or nothing that will advance the state of the art. In saying that, however, I definitely plan to upgrade.



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    6 Responses to “The Apple WWDC Report: About Meeting Expectations”

    1. Jim H says:

      Gene,

      Some time ago in the distant past I used to use a feature called “auto fill” or something like that. Then a notice came out that auto fill was an open line for hackers to have access to your data. Accordingly, I stopped using it.

      Time has passed, OS has been updated many times. Will auto fill come back, or has it and is it safe to use?

      Thanks,

      Jim

    2. Michel says:

      Gene,

      In my humble opinion, the most interesting feature is something under the hood that will impact all operating systems; and it’s call Apple File System. It has been long overdue. What is presented is not a complete solution yet but it is a valid answer since the failed integration of ZFS. What do you think?

    3. DaveD says:

      Sigh… No hardware announcements. After the live blog, I wasn’t disappointed on the upcoming releases of OS upgrades. It was good to see work on performance and some app remakes. It is quite understandable that there would be some new features to drive excitement. One item that got my interest happened after the keynote was a mention of Apple’s next-generation file system.

      While I will read on thoughts of the new OS from other people, my Macs and iPad are getting older. I began to see that in my situation rushing to upgrade is no longer the best approach. After a tough 2015 with OS X Yosemite and so far, a good 2016 that I have pushed back the upgrade to El Capitan until the final update comes out. I had upgraded the iPad to IOS 9, but out of necessity had to revert back to iOS 8.4.1. A lesson learned.

    4. dfs says:

      Seems like little more than a bundle of tweaks, only a few of which genuinely interest me. For inst., I gather that if you delete a “first-party” app. on iPhone it disappears on the Watch too, which gives that “starburst” presentation of your Watch apps a longer lease on life, although I think sooner or later it has to go in favor of something that can handle a large number of apps more gracefully). The one thing that sounds more basic is the revised file system, but I’m not at all clear how (if at all) this will affect the end user’s computing experience. I’d like to know more about this. The shunting of seldom-used files to iCloud may be a boon for those with storage space problems. But for those of us who have plenty of extra space this is a solution to a nonexistent problem and sounds a wee bit too intrusive. It also makes these rarely used files inaccessible to Time Machine and other backup solutions. I hope that those who want to opt out will be given the ability switch this feature off.

      Now let’s talk a moment about some issues Apple failed to address. I’m sorry that they don’t seem to have done anything to make FaceTime more telephone-friendly (except for allowing you to initiate calls with Siri). In the present FaceTime it feels like telephony was at the last moment tacked on an app fundamentally designed to do something else entirely, and the Sierra version will feel just the same. At the very least, I’d love it if I could switch off the video feed so I don’t have to look at my ugly mug every time I use it. And it sounds like iTunes is going to be as bad as ever. Nowadays Apple seems to see it more as a vehicle for pushing Apple Music in our faces than as a tool for us to manage our own media. And there’s nothing about implementing e-mail encryption, as some observers had hoped.

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