Apple at WWDC 2014: What you need to know

It was Apple’s big day yesterday, and all the internet is buzzing with excitement, especially those Apple fanboys we all know and love. WWDC 2014 had indeed some exciting moments and revelations, so if you want to really know what the fuss is about, carry on reading.

So here’s a list with the most important things Apple announced, and whether they are actually important. Apple bullets used just because:

  • OS X 10.10 Yosemite (that’s OS Ten Ten Point Ten ) is coming this fall. Its highlights are:
    • A new look for OS X, which brings it up to speed design-wise with iOS. Flatter, cleaner look. In essence, it’s just a theme, so it won’t change any people’s lives.
    • The Notification Center got an update, and now you can use third-party widgets there. I don’t think they are dynamic though.
    • Spotlight gets a big update and now reminds us more of Google Do and the search inside Ubuntu’s Unity. A good upgrade indeed.
    • Safari now totally looks like Gnome’s Web browser, Epiphany, maximizing the chrome space. Its address bar is smarter, plus it has Tab View, a feature that gives a bird-eye view of open tabs, like the tab groups one already present in Firefox (which I never use to be honest).
    • The mail application also got an upgrade, and can now handle large attachments better by uploading them to iCloud automatically. Again, nothing the competition hasn’t done already. And speaking of iCloud…
    • We now have iCloud Drive, an attempt to match other products like Dropbox, OneDrive and Box. It also has a Windows client, which is super-nice of them, but 5GB isn’t what you call top-of-the-line anymore. If you want more space, you’re gonna have to pay for it.
  • Apple announced a family of technologies called Continuity, which actually makes work a lot easier. The modern user has several devices in his disposal, so Apple makes live a hell of a lot easier by allowing you to work seamlessly between devices. Handoff is a new feature of the operating system which makes the sharing between devices possible. You can start writing an email on your iPhone, and your Mac will know about it and will prompt you to finish it there once you are in front of it. Or write a document on your laptop, and continue editing it on your iPad. It’s a very cool feature that makes life easier for Mac users. You can also share files between devices using AirDrop, use your 3G connection as a Wi-Fi hotspot with ease, plus send and receive phone calls and SMS messages from your Mac. And what better way to show it off than calling Dr.Dre himself live from the exhibition floor.
  • iOS 8 was unveiled, as expected and it’s more of a refinement than something ground breaking. Here are the most important new features:
    • Interactive Notifications are now possible, leveling the playing field with Android.
    • Spotlight got an upgrade here as well, and it’s much more useful – it has essentially become Siri without Siri.
    • The default Apple keyboard got smarter – it learns from your typing habits and adapts its suggestions. Again, nothing the competition hasn’t already. The news here is that Apple will finally allow third-party keyboards, which is one of the main gripes of iOS users, who saw their Android and Windows Phone counterparts clicking away with Swype, Swiftkey and other popular solutions.
    • iMessages get audio and video chat. Again, nothing ground breaking here that its competitors haven’t done already.
    • iCloud integration. About time I’d say.
    • HealthKit is one central location for all your fitness/well-being information. Health and fitness apps are huge at the moment, and Apple capitalizes on exactly that. HealthKit will integrate with third-party apps and institutions including Nike and the Mayo Clinic.
    • Hands-free Siri. Google Now had this for ages.
    • Family sharing: Up to six members of a family can share iTunes purchases, and parents will be able to approve or deny purchases. Very handy indeed.
    • A brand new Photos app that will work with iCloud and save the edits you made on various devices.
  • It wouldn’t be WWDC without some developer love, and this time, the developer announcements were the best of the show. First of all, Swift – a new programming language. Swift promises to be faster than Objective C, more developer friendly and is clearly where Apple sees the future of iOS development taking place. To help with migration to the new language, Swift code can live right besides C and Objective-C code in the same app. From some of the code I saw, the language seems very clean and very easy to get into, so this will definitely give a boost to app development.
  • Next stop: Metal. Taking a cue from AMD and Mantle, Apple introduced a new 3D API to completely bypass OpenGL and offer developers a closer to the metal approach. Tim Sweeney, of Unreal/Epic Games fame went up on stage to showcase what this new API can do, and the demo was indeed impressive. Although I am traditionally weary of anything steering away from industry standards, maybe Metal will do to OpenGL what Mantle seems to be doing to DirectX for the PC: ignite innovation.
  • In another move to catch up to the competition, the iOS apps can finally talk to one another. Apple also introduces widgets for the Notification Center here as well, which means that you have more information at a glance.
  • Finally, Apple presented its vision on home automation; using your Apple devices to control things like home locks, security cameras and lights. So, a simple “Get ready for bed” command to Siri should do all the right things like turn off the lights, lock the doors and any other stuff you want. Apple will run a certification program for HomeHit (that’s how it calls the API presented here), and many partners have already expressed interest in joining.
And that’s about it. All in all, a solid presentation; Apple plugged quite a few holes and brought its software and services up to par with the competition so this is definitely a good thing. Furthermore, it presented some novel ideas that are truly interesting and we expect to see similar products coming out from the competition as well in the future.

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