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The Apple WWDC Report: About Meeting Expectations

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.