Apple’s highly anticipated World Wide Developers Conference got under way Monday in San Francisco, with CEO Tim Cook unveiling iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 Yosemite.
For many Apple fans, there was no single blockbuster item. But the Cupertino, Calif., company’s partners are calling the new technology and software features impressive.
“I think my take is that we didn’t see any actual product releases in the sense [of] what people want to see at these events,” said Michael Oh, CEO of Tech Superpowers, an Apple partner based in Boston. “The content wasn’t initially exciting and shocking, but it actually it ended up being very exciting to see. I saw some things that have the potential to make some exciting apps."
The new operating systems are available now in a beta version for developers, with the final version being released this fall.
Cook’s main points at the event, which included audience of more than 6,000 app developers and media members, was to stress the importance of app and software development. He also continually stressed that the strength of Apple’s products lies in their ability to communicate and work well with each other.
“Operating systems, devices and services all work together in harmony across all of our products,” said Cook. “They’ve been engineered to run seamlessly with each other. ... Apple engineers platforms, devices and services together. This is something only Apple can do."
One of the top features highlighted at the show was Handoff, which allows users to pick up what they are doing on their OS X Yosemite-run Mac and carry it over to their iOS 8 mobile device and vice versa.
A new AirDrop feature, meanwhile, can work between iOS and OS X. When Apple mobile devices are in range of a Mac, the computer can notify the user when he or she is receiving a phone call. The user can then take the call right from the computer if desired. To demonstrate the feature's capability, Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, made a call from his desktop to “new Apple employee” Dr. Dre. This was the lone acknowledgement at WWDC of Apple’s Beats Electronics acquisition.
“The announcements were very impressive. It was an organic presentation of many announcements for Mac OS X and iOS 8,” said Raul De Arriz, national government sales manager for Small Dog Electronics, Waitsfield, Vt., one of the top Apple specialists in the country. “The ability to have the devices talk to each other and interact with each other, that was very impressive and changes the way people work. I was very impressed with the convergence of connectivity between the devices and enablement. This is the way it should work. It’s very organic and very forward in terms of the integration of the many devices.”
Apple also updated many of its popular apps, including Apple Maps, Photos and Mail, and unveiled a health-care app called HealthKit. The app can monitor blood pressure, weight and calories and securely share the data with other third parties, including Apple partner Nike. In addition, Apple unveiled a partnership with the Mayo Clinic and illustrated its vision of patients remotely sharing medical information gathered through the app with their physician.
A new HomeKit app, meanwhile, turns mobile devices into a remote control for the home. Items such as lights, security systems, thermostats and other household electronics can all be controlled from the app.
Apple also debuted an API for developers of Touch ID that exists on the iPhone 5s, which has partners excited over possible advancements to the feature.
“As soon as Touch ID came out I thought that would be great if my bank integrated it,” said Oh. “Now Apple is finally letting developers take advantage of TouchID. Digital security is a huge deal; it seems silly to have Touch ID only be active to get into the phone. Apple is laying the groundwork for several features that could become really big for users.”
The news that got the loudest ovation from the crowd of developers, however, was Apple’s new Xcode programming language, called Swift. Cook described Swift as “the mother of all releases for developers.”
Apple’s Federighi described the new software as fast, modern, safe and interactive, and said he believes it will lead to better apps being developed faster.
“Apple isn’t sleeping at the job here,” said Tech Superpowers’ Oh. “It’s a developers’ conference and you can’t forget that. They gave developers a whole new set of tools. HealthKit, HomeKit, iCloud Drive, Touch ID. They are making developers continue to be intrigued by Apple. Android just can’t intrigue them the same way because they just don’t offer these things.”
Apple’s app ecosystem has always been its strength, and while partners did say they would have liked to see new hardware announcements, they believe Apple’s focus on app development is part of what makes the company successful.
“The developer-focused announcements were mind-blowing,” said Small Dog Electronics’ De Arriz. “Apple unloaded a candy store of stuff for developers to better develop iOS and OS X. Apple creates really well integrated apps that talk between platforms. Swift will allow developers to create apps that can be made in record time. Apple is really shining where they are strong, which is in the software.”
PUBLISHED JUNE 3, 2014