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Developers are excited to get started after WWDC 2014

By Brian S Hall / June 9, 2014


Developers are excited to get started after WWDC 2014

Another year, another Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), and this may have been the most important event yet. The full implications of the week-long conference won’t be felt by users for months, but for the thousands of developers in attendance—and the thousands more who linked in from afar—the message was clear: Apple wants it’s “World’s Most Valuable Brand” title back. Here are the five biggest stories out of WWDC 2014:

1. I am Superman

CEO Tim Cook rattled off numbers that proved Apple’s hardware dominance. He openly and repeatedly mocked Android and Microsoft. But it was Apple SVP Craig Federighi—”Superman,” as Tim Cook labeled him—that garnered most of the buzz.

Per Mashable, “Superman” delivered 70% of the keynote. He did not disappoint, providing a joke-filled and thoroughly captivating presentation that incorporated a live phone call to Dr. Dre (“the newest Apple employee”), an in-depth examination of Safari and iMessage, and all the plumbing that supports the new iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite.

Federighi revealed that very few companies, if any, offer the breadth of software applications, services, tools and platforms to equal Apple. In just under 2 hours, Federighi sailed through a laundry list of new technologies and developer tools that reveal Apple’s strong position not only in mobile computing, but in the cloud.

  • iOS Widgets allow apps to place select media-rich content onto the user’s notification screen.
  • CloudKit and other new cloud-based tools, services and storage benefits enable app developers to fully leverage iCloud for synching, hosting, authenticating and delivering a seamless experience across Apple devices.
  • Xcode 6 developer environment.
  • Swift, a new programming language for developing iOS and OS X applications.
  • App extensions, which liberates apps from the notorious Apple sandbox, allowing them to communicate with one another.
  • Playgrounds, part of Xcode, it’s an interactive means of testing new code.

Apple has a reputation of being closed, distant from the public, austere—the corporate version of a MacBook. Federighi was exactly the opposite and the developers loved it. This could be a downside for Tim Cook. The next time Apple has one or two middling quarters, the tech blogosphere will start demanding that Federighi be named CEO.

2. The remote control for your life

Microsoft spent the better part of two decades doing everything in its power to place Windows at the center of our computing world. A brilliant strategy, until the world jumped to mobile. Apple dominates this new world, and at WWDC 2014, they made it abundantly clear they intend to keep it that way. This was most fully revealed with both HomeKit and HealthKit.

HealthKit

Apple intends to make iPhone the center of our quantified selves. HealthKit is the repository of health and fitness information we track, store and analyze inside our iPhone. This includes everything from blood pressure readings to insulin levels to steps walked and calories consumed.

It’s not just about aggregating health data, however. HealthKit lets apps share their data with one another, which could lead to innovations in wearables and long-term health improvements. The company has partnered with Mayo Clinic and Epic Systems to help medical practitioners access this data and make recommendations to their patients.

HomeKit

HomeKit is a “framework for communicating with and controlling connected devices” in the home. With HomeKit, ‘smart home’ devices can be monitored and controlled via iPhone or Siri. These can be door locks, lights, thermostats, you name it. As with HealthKit, the HomeKit API lets developers integrate and share data across different apps. This could lead to, say, a user telling Siri to lower the temperature and turn on the deck lights at bedtime, and it all works seamlessly.

Both of these mini-platforms could pull in numerous device makers across multiple industries. With CarPlay, iBeacons and a possible push into payments, the iPhone is set to become the remote control for our life.

To achieve all this, however, Apple had to do something extraordinary—they had to open up. For developers who use Apple’s coding language, APIs, iCloud, etc, their apps can now talk with one another, creating more robust and seamless experiences. Apple even made their NDA with developers less stringent. As one developer tweeted:

3. Developers rule

I am old enough to remember the happy surprise when I discovered a program that was available for Windows AND Mac, especially when it was more than an afterthought of it’s Microsoft counterpart. Those days are long gone.

Apple made it clear that developers can create exceptionally great apps, build powerful new services, and make money doing it, without ever leaving the Apple fold. The copious tools, services, APIs and protocols that emerged from WWDC 2014 include:

  • Beta testing for up to 1,000 users
  • Extensions for inter-app communications, freeing developers from Apple’s notoriously limiting sandbox restrictions
  • “Continuity” to support seamless experiences between iOS and Mac devices
  • Metal for delivering more graphically intense games
  • Improved analytics in iTunes Connect for developers to track sales, discounts, retention and other variables
  • 4,000 new APIs
  • New photography and imaging tools
  • Free iCloud storage for developers
  • SpriteKit to make game development easier still
  • Core OS tools to ensure user security

According to TechCrunch, every developer they spoke to “has been ecstatic about the amount of issues Apple is fixing with this round of updates.” Perhaps, this should not be surprising during WWDC week. Still, Apple’s message was clear: our size and our platforms offer developers the greatest potential to succeed, and now we are giving you the necessary tools to capitalize on this opportunity.

4. Macintosh matters

The bulk of Apple’s revenues are from iOS devices. Apple has sold hundreds of millions more iPhones and iPads than Macintosh computers. Yet, the Macintosh played a surprisingly prominent role at WWDC 2014. According to Apple’s Yosemite preview site:

“We’ve created new tools—even a new programming language—for app developers to build the next generation of apps and games. And that will make the Mac experience even richer for you.”

The OS X Yosemite interface is now similar to iOS 7, and the design emphasis on translucence is noticeable. Notifications have been improved, Spotlight will now scan for content within your computer and the web, and that’s not the half of it. Even bigger changes are likely to bring iOS and Macintosh closer together, including:

  • iMessage and SMS are now available on Macintosh
  • Phone calls can be taken on the Mac
  • AirDrop now works between iOS and OS X devices
  • “Handoff” lets users start a task on one device, such as mail on iPhone, and pick-up right where they left off using their Mac

It’s not just about helping to sell more Macs, of course. From the keynote to the many OS X sessions, the vision was clear: Continuity across devices and platforms. That’s the long-term goal, at least.

5. The amazing world-changing, life-altering app

An underlying theme throughout the conference was the amazing power, resilience, innovation and potential of apps. The company announced the winners of its annual Apple Design Awards, which showcase the potential of apps in “creative, powerful and compelling ways.” This year’s winners include:

  • Threes – an addictive puzzle game optimized for iOS 7
  • Storehouse – “The easiest way to create, share, and discover beautiful stories.”
  • Monument Valley – “An illusory adventure of impossible architecture and forgiveness.”
  • PanoPerfect – a student-made app for sharing panoramic photos.
  • Yahoo News Digest – a strong Flipboard competitor.

If awards weren’t enough, take another look at the video Apple used to kick off the entire conference. If that doesn’t let you know where Apple’s loyalties lie, you’re not looking hard enough.

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