What's Coming Next, from the Apple Developer Conference

Apple kicked off WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference) today, with a Keynote that showcased some of the upper tier of talent and management within Apple. As a former WWDC speaker, I watch the keynote and most sessions through the remainder of the week religiously. Here, you see what's coming in the fall releases of the four operating systems: macOS, watchOS, iOS, and tvOS (for Macs, Apple Watches, iPhones and iPads, and Apple TVs respectively).

In the fall, Apple will release macOS Sierra (the name for the new version of the operating system that powers the Mac). But macOS is the new name for OS X, which has likely been obvious to anyone that pays attention to such things for months. And macOS isn't just about new branding, it's now using Continuity, a feature that syncs data between all your devices, to provide users with lots of great new options when using iPad, iPhone, and a Mac together. It's all about Continuity. The desktop now syncs across Macs (e.g. home and work), to a folder on an iOS device, and you can unlock your Mac with your watch (similar to the Knock app that's been around for awhile). You also get Apple Pay on supported websites, using your fingerprint on an iPhone to authenticate and complete transactions (the whole process can take seconds).

With macOS you also now get Picture-in-Picture, multi-tabbed apps, and Siri. Overall, some impressive new features that will likely delight users in the fall, when macOS Sierra ships.

The Mac isn't the only operating system in Apple's lineup to get new options. iOS 10, the operating system that powers iPhone and iPad, comes with a new lock screen and home screen experience that can play live video, has better music controls, and more. Siri, which processes 2,000,000 requests per week, is now getting opened up to developers, providing voice control options within applications, a potentially powerful option for developers to tap into. QuickType now has more relevant, contextual options. We also get new facial recognition technology for Photos in a feature simply called People. That same deep learning technology also provides object and scene recognition which is either super-cool, or if you forgot to leave your tin foil hat at home, creepy. I like it myself. You also get Moments, which are similar to Facebook's Moments app.

There were other new app options mentioned, that are applicable to both macOS and iOS:
  • Notes collaboration, live photo editing, and split view on Safari on an iPad.
  • Maps is now proactive and has a few great new usability options, like zooming ahead to see traffic. You can search along a route to see food and gas stations. These are also available in car play, so you can see maps on your instrument panel rather than looking at a phone. But most importantly, Maps is now open to extensions from third party apps, like Uber or Open Table.
  • Music got an update, getting clearer, and easier to use. One great option is to browse downloaded music, rather than all music in playlists. This means that you won't kill your data plan to stream music when, for example, you're in a foreign country. And you can see lyrics.
  • News got prettier and now looks like Flipboard. Subscriptions are added, and you can get notifications on the screen of your watch.
  • When iOS 10 ships, the Phone app will get voice mail transcription. And there's a VoIP API, so you can have an app like WhatsApp run when the phone is locked. Cisco brings Spark to the iPhone using this API, so that enterprises can replace desk phones with iPhones, the way many high tech companies have already done.
  • Messages is the most popular app used on an iPhone. Rich links, which have been available in Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and HipChat will come to Apple devices in the fall. As will bigger emoji (cause you need larger icons to display that poop emoji). Messages will also highlight text that can automatically be converted to emoji and do so if you tap the text before you send the message. You'll also be able to use Bubble Effects to display emotion, and be able to do hand written texting (including over photos, which brings features from popular apps like Skitch to Messages), as well as full screen animations (called Effects) and drawings (as was already possible on Apple Watch). You'll also be able to play Music that people send you straight from your Messages screen. And Messages gets an API, which includes an App Drawer so you can put things like JibJab and Giphy images straight into Messages using Apps and artwork.
  • Then there's HomeKit, which competes in a rapidly changing ecosystem of solutions. Apple has a new Home app in iOS, which shows you your house, and all the compatible devices within your home. Unlike with an app like Wink, you can then control items when the screen is locked, rather than launching an app. This also give Siri the ability to control your home, and to make use of geofencing to control scenes around your home for supported types of devices.

The watchOS will also ship in the fall with some new features. These included faster app launches, a Dock (all Apple tools need a Dock), new app controls, a Breathe app to help you breathe better, the SOS app to contact emergency services and update your emergency contacts, and of course better fitness tracking.

AppleTV gets some fun new options, most notably single-sign and better Siri.

Swift, now the number one project on Github, will also come to the iPad in the fall with Swift Playground, a new app that "will revolutionize the way people learn to code" and expands the ability to ship apps without a desktop. This comes with eBook types of apps to learn to code. And Byte, a new character that is reminiscent of Logo for anyone who learned to write code in the 1980s. Byte does expand options the way developers do in IDEs, and hopefully makes getting into writing apps a more inviting process for those who've never used, for example, a case statement.

Apple also touted differential privacy as a stark differentiator between them and the competition. Coming on the tail end of their standoff with the US government to unlock that iPhone recently, this is sure to strike a cord with some users.

Overall, my favorite thing is that so many previously closed apps got APIs. Sure there are tons of enhancements that will improve usability and basic workflows on devices. But a number of apps now have API integration, and with Siri able to access the inside of 3rd party apps, voice control and interoperability over secure channels will unlock so much potential for apps in the future. You'll be able to control your home with your voice using HomeKit, have developers integrate with your favorite Apple apps (like Maps), and be able to exchange data more freely on devices. For example, a demo was provided with a group food order so each person could complete their own order for a meeting (a specific pain point I've had over the years).

These updates unlock a ton of new potential. And the new features address many of the limitations with iOS that cause me to put down my iPad and pick up my MacBook every now and then, bringing us one step closer to being able to use tablets as our only computing device. And that is the future state we're likely to see unfold more and more as the finer grained features are discussed during the rest of the week at WWDC.