In case you missed it, last week was Apple’s annual World Wide Developers Conference. The highlight of the week was the main keynote, which took place Monday morning. Unfortunately, I had to work during the keynote, but I watched most of it later in the week. There were four main topics in the keynote: OS X, iOS, watchOS, and Apple Music.
First up was the latest version of the Mac operating system. Named El Capitan (for a landmark in Yosemite national park), Apple said that this update would focus on “Experience” and “Performance.” Basically, what this means is that it’s a relatively minor update, one that will focus more on bug fixes and small features than large ones. I think this is good; it’s a welcome rest from the breakneck update pace we’ve seen – and suffered from – over the past few years.
Next up (as to be expected) was iOS 9 – to be available this fall. There’s a couple key parts to this update. First are some features focusing on “intelligence.” These includes improvements to Siri, but also a brand new Spotlight search function. This replaces the current search in iOS, but also tries to proactively serve you apps and information it thinks you might need right then: everything from the apps you use each morning to news stories relevant to your location. The next huge feature focuses on the iPad. The iPad is finally getting a split screen view – the ability to run two apps at once. This is huge, but unfortunately it’s not available on all iPad models. iPads from the previous two years can run one app full screen and have another app at iPhone width “slide over” from the side. The iPad Air 2 can also run two apps simultaneously that each take up half the screen. Hopefully this will greatly improve productivity on the iPad. There were two more quick things that are important. First, iOS 9 will only take 1.3gb to download, instead of last year’s ridiculous 4.6gb. The final thing wasn’t even mentioned in the keynote, but I think it’s super important: iOS 9 will be available to all devices that have iOS 8. Normally, Apple drops one old model each year; I’m hoping this change means that iOS 9 won’t slow down older devices as much.
Apple also unveiled the latest version of the Apple Watch software: watchOS 2. This version will allow developers to create native apps that run on the Watch. Previously, developers could only create apps that technically “ran” on the iPhone and projected their interfaces to the Watch. This was a cumbersome, temporary arrangement, one which meant that all third-party apps were pretty slow. Apple is finally giving developers what they were promised last year.
The last part of the keynote was dedicated to Apple’s new music streaming service: Apple Music. This service will replace both iTunes Radio and Beats Music. For $9.99/month, you get unlimited streaming of everything Apple Music has, including many playlists handmade by music experts, not algorithms. This was one of Beats Music’s key selling points, and Apple is making sure that it doesn’t go away. The second part of Apple Music is an enormous, worldwide radio station called Beats 1. This is set up like a traditional radio station, with DJs and interviews as well as music. It will be broadcast from three studios worldwide (in LA, New York, and London). I’m actually kind of excited to try Beats 1; it sounds intriguing. The final part of Apple Music is called Connect. This is almost like a social network for music artists. Connect allows artists to post photos, videos, lyrics, and even demos directly to Apple Music. Fans can follow artists to get access to this bonus content. Apple seems convinced that this is the next big way for people to follow their favorite artists, but I’m not sure that people will adopt it in place of Twitter, Instagram, and the like.
So as you can see, Apple had a lot to talk about last week. They released updates to their big three operating systems, and also unveiled their new attempt in the music streaming industry. Unfortunately, there were no updates to the Apple TV, but I’d still say we still got plenty of cool new stuff. I guess we’ll just have to hope again for a new Apple TV next year. ••