As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Apple held its annual Worldwide Developer Conference a couple of weeks ago and made some huge announcements about the future of their software and hardware (though, predictably, not the iPhone). I won’t go into all of the announcements here. If you’d like a roundup of those, check out my other site, Prosumable, where I summarized all of them. However, more important than the individual announcements themselves is what Apple’s changes as a whole indicate about the direction the company is moving in. And that’s what I want to get into today.
WWDC is a chance not only to get a preview of what’s to come for all of our favorite devices but also an opportunity to peer behind the veil into the mind of Apple: their process for iteratively adding value to each of their devices, their priorities in creating new devices, and their vision for what the future of technology should look like. This year was particularly insightful, I think, because it represents the culmination of a few moves that Apple’s been working on for a while but kept under wraps. Here are my big-picture takeaways from this year’s keynote and what I think they mean for Apple’s future:
The iPad can actually be your computer now. With iOS 11, Apple is giving the iPad a proper file management system, significantly more powerful multitasking and window management, and a platform-wide drag-and-drop feature that couldn’t be more intuitive. All of this results in a user experience that is truly desktop-class. Apple’s been trying to market the iPad as a laptop replacement for a long time by highlighting what you can do with the powerful apps that developers have created for the platform, but now those apps are supplemented by a full-fledged operating system that pushes the iPad to new limits and makes it a true laptop alternative. Since I started using iOS 11 on my new iPad Pro, my MacBook Pro has been sitting unused on my desk, and I don’t miss it. For casual users, the iPad has been a viable option for an everyday computer for years; now, it’s an option for everyone.
The iMac can actually be your pro computer now. Over the past year or so, there has been an increasing amount of outcry against Apple for allegedly ignoring its professional users. Scandalous tell-alls written by pros who’ve ditched the Mac for Windows have gone viral and been used as evidence that the company has given up on power users. Apple recently invited select members of the press to an event on their campus where executives fessed up to making major blunders with the Mac Pro and promised that Macs for professionals were on the way, but this didn’t convince everyone. Now, with the announcement of more powerful iMacs and the all-new iMac Pro, the company is putting to rest any doubt that pros may have had that they are still a priority in the eyes of Apple. As I’ve argued before, Apple cares deeply for their professional users; pros are Apple’s past and future. And they made that very clear with their Mac hardware announcements at WWDC.
Privacy is more important than convenience, but innovation is possible. In a world where Google and Facebook are hungrier than ever for user data, Apple has emerged as the technology company that prioritizes the privacy of its users, going so far as to protect consumers‘ data even from the company itself. This has earned the trust of the public, but it has also created some serious hurdles in software design and innovation. It turns out that sacrificing users’ privacy makes way for shortcuts in the development of new technologies and applications (especially when it comes to artificial intelligence), so it often looks like Apple is falling behind the competition in these areas. At several points during the WWDC keynote, Apple executives discussed their commitment to protecting user data and how they’re staying innovative and competitive despite the limitations that come along with that commitment. Developing a more powerful, proactive Siri assistant that recognizes a user across his or her various devices without violating that user’s privacy is no simple feat, but they’ve accomplished it. Privacy and innovation can go hand-in-hand. In fact, Apple argues that their way ultimately results in better technology, and I would have to agree with them.
Augmented reality is all fun and games for now, but its future is much bigger. Tim Cook has been hinting at Apple’s augmented reality ambitions for years, but we’ve never seen anything come of it until this year’s WWDC. At the event, the company displayed a very basic application of its new ARKit, a set of development tools that will make augmented reality accessible to anyone who makes apps for iOS devices. For now, the technology is being used to create games that can be virtually placed and played on surfaces in the real world, which is cool but not all that practical or mind-blowing. But with ARKit, Apple has suddenly made every iOS device an AR portal and made every iOS developer an AR developer. It’s only a matter of time before the collective genius of the iOS developer community creates applications for augmented reality that completely change the way we interact with our devices and go about our day-to-day lives. I have no idea what the applications will be, but I’m excited to see what the future holds for AR.
Apple is listening. Throughout its history, there has always been this narrative that Apple doesn’t ask consumers what they want and then give it to them; rather, Apple creates something and then tells consumers, “This is what you want.” The company is known for always being on the cutting-edge of where technology is going and how people want to use it. This story rang true for a very long time, I’d say for as long as Steve Jobs led the company. But Steve’s final Apple project, the company’s new Apple Park campus, is complete, and they have a new leader in Tim Cook. He has a different approach to leading Apple, and that showed more than ever at this year’s WWDC. Announcements like a file system on the iPad and the new iMac Pro may seem sudden to consumers, but these are things that have taken Apple years to develop and implement, all while consumers have been requesting them and lamenting that “Apple doesn’t listen to us” when they aren’t delivered. The truth is that Apple is listening to their customers and taking their concerns very seriously, and we are beginning to see the amazing things that the company is creating to fulfill their customers’ wants and needs.
These are just a few of my key takeaways from watching the event and reflecting on it over the past couple of weeks. While the announcements themselves are exiting, and I’m really enjoying trying several of them out myself, I’m even more excited about what these announcements say about Apple’s mindset and where the company is going. There will always be haters and skeptics out there, but I think that if there’s WWDC is any indication, the future of Apple is bright. And with the announcement of the tenth-anniversary iPhone right around the corner, I for one can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
Thanks for checking out my thoughts on this year’s WWDC. Have an opinion about the event or my analysis of it that you’d like to share? I’d love to discuss it with you! Let’s talk on Twitter, via email, or in the comments section of this post. I’m always happy to talk tech. Thanks for reading, friends. I hope you have a great week!