Sunday, June 8, 2014

Introducing The New & Improved Apple Ecosystem

WWDC 2014
Earlier this week, Apple held their 25th developers conference and their first media event of the year. This year Apple’s focus has been shifted towards developers rather than the media because this is a developers conference. As expected, Tim Cook did not unveil any new hardware but he was following the tradition of introducing the world to new versions of their software for both mac and iOS. The new iteration of Apple’s Mac operating system is called OSX 10.10 Yosemite and for iOS its just following the numbering scheme, iOS 8. Both of them have a bevy of new features with them and visually there isn’t much radical change on both Mac or iOS. But instead there is a lot more attention paid to the miniscule details as well as behind the scenes.
iOS 8 featuresAlrighty, first let’s talk about iOS8 because everybody loves Apple’s mobile operating system (ok, maybe not everybody). This year iOS did not receive a major design overhaul like iOS 7 did but instead Apple is polishing up the corners and making the experience utterly better; its something like the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, although there wasn’t any major changes visually but most of the work was done behind the scenes like optimizing the antennas. One of the new headline feature of iOS8 is iOS 8 widgetsExtensibility, as the name suggests this new feature allows developers to extend the functionality of their application to other apps. And yes, as you have heard iOS8 can now support third party keyboards and not only that, extensibility also allows developers to create widgets for users to pin on their notification center. To long time iOS users this is like a moment to celebrate because they can finally share their safari pages to places other than facebook and twitter. Again, this is more of a developer first feature and by the time iOS 8 is out you’ll be able to share your files to dropbox and even Google Plus! Speaking of third party keyboards, Apple has not neglected their own homegrown keyboard, this time around they are adding predictive suggestions which will try to guess what you’ll type next. This is not the first time we’ve seen this feature on virtual keyboards but maybe Apple’s solution works more intelligently. Yet another big improvement in this version of iOS is the more optimized and smarter notification panel. In previous versions of iOS, you could see the notifications pop up and you have the option to either hide it or tap on it to perform an action but now you could pull down that banner from the top and interact with it without leaving what you’re currently doing, talk about powerful multitasking. This is something like the interactive notifications on Android but Apple is stepping things up by allowing developers to manipulate the interaction the user can perform.
“I asked Steve Jobs about widgets on iOS 2. He said they were just getting started. 6 versions later we have them.”
Healthkit is yet another big feature on iOS8, although it might not look that grand now, but when the “accessories” come in the Fall. This new feature will be the thing that runs and powers them all. At the current state, Healthkit is just a simple health app but in time other apps will be able to connect with Healthkit so you will be able to see all of your health data right from the app itself. Next up is the new Spotlight Search which is basically siri, but without the siri. Spotlight Search now, not only searches items on your phone but it also expands the search to the iTunes and the internet. Finally, iCloud Drive is also part of iOS8 and you can say it’s deeply integrated into the operating system itself but we’ll have to wait and see. Basically, iCloud Drive is like Dropbox but it’s just made by Apple and apparently it works with devices ranging from your iPhone all the way to a windows computer. The pricing for the storage is pretty much a bargain with 5GB of free storage and for $0.99 a month, you’ll get 20GB of cloud storage from Apple.
OSX Yosemite FeaturesThe big headline at this year’s WWDC, isn’t just about iOS 8. The new version of Mac dubbed OSX Weed OSX Yosemite also brings in a couple of new features which are directly related to iOS8. A slight visual overhaul was also introduced with this release but nothing too groundbreaking, its still unmistakably Mac. With Yosemite, Jony Ive is stretching his reach by implementing his flat iOS7 look and feel into the mac. Gone is the opaque windows and in is the translucent backgrounds and windows which gives the user a sense of the content. Craig mentioned that both the iconography and the font has been remastered to make it look on par with the new “flat theme”. The big and shiny new feature on Yosemite is definitely continuity which basically combine the power of both your iOS and Mac devices. It’s something like what Microsoft is doing with windows devices where you can save your settings and all but Apple’s implementation is a lot more practical. One of the features under continuity is called Handoff and it allows you to continue your work from where your left it on either your Mac or iOS device. It’s a bit like the collaborative work on Office 365 and Google Drive but a little bit more personal. And probably the most coolest thing Apple has announced since siri is called instant hotspot. With this feature enabled, your Mac will automatically connect to your iOS device when it is nearby and the best thing is that if you have a phone call on your iPhone you can answer it directly from your Mac and you can do it vice versa on an iPad too! Similar to iOS8, iCloud Drive is also baked right into OSX Yosemite and your iOS and Mac photos will be automatically synced into the cloud.
As I said earlier, this year’s WWDC is entirely focused towards developers and a new dev feature allows developers to let users beta test applications. In an Apple first, Developers now have the option to sell their apps in bundles so that users can save some money buying an app bundle. Other new developer inclusions is that developers now have access to use TouchID on their apps, the CloudKit API allows devs to access iCloud and the HomeKit API to allow developers to create secure apps to manage home automation services. Other than that Apple also announced Metal which is a new proprietary API made to be an alternative to OpenGL so that developers can make 3D games work smoothly. Finally, probably the most unexpected announcement of the day was the introduction of Swift which is a new programming language. According to Apple this new language is faster compared to modern programming languages and developers won’t have to worry about their existing code not playing nice with Swift because Objective-C and Swift uses the same LLVM compiler. From what I see, this new programming language is a lot simpler and judging by the response by the developers this is quite a compelling new programming language.
Jony Ive and Craig Federighi Hair Force One
Well that’s about it for the highlights of Apple’s WWDC 2014 keynote (if you would like a full rundown of the event do check it out here), both iOS8 and OSX Yosemite is now available to developers for testing and the full release will be available for consumers in the Fall when new hardware is introduced (*cough* iPhone6). iOS 8 will be supported by all iOS 7 devices except the iPhone 4 and OSX Yosemite will grace all Macs which supported OSX Mavericks. From this keynote itself, we can see that Apple is beginning to accept the fact that if you can’t beat them you’ll have to join them. As what everybody is saying this is the start of a more open and developer friendly Apple. Stay tuned in the coming weeks where I’ll hopefully write an article about the iPhone6. As always, do follow us at the usual places (TwitterFacebookGoogle+ and Instagram) so you don't miss any future coverage.