Apple’s annual developer conference saw chief executive Tim Cook and head of software engineering Craig Federighi dominate the stage. Apple showed off new operating systems, including iOS8 and the newly-minted OS X Yosemite, as well as HealthKit, its first foray into fitness tracking, and HomeKit, a connected home platform. Not to mention tools for developers and a new programming language called Swift. Tim Bradshaw, Richard Waters and Sarah Mishkin give the rundown and reaction from the Moscone Center in San Francisco.
Here’s our curtain-raiser for today’s WWDC:
Apple is hoping that new apps and services can cause as much excitement as its hardware as it prepares to unveil the next versions of its iPhone and Mac software on Monday.
In the run-up to the event, shares in Apple rallied to their highest point since the iPhone 5 went on sale in autumn 2012.
Alongside confirmation of its $3bn acquisition of Beats, the headphone and music-service maker, Apple’s head of internet software and services, Eddy Cue, told the Code conference in California last week: “Later this year, we’ve got the best product pipeline that I’ve seen . . . in my 25 years at Apple.”
The stock closed at $633 on Friday, up about 8 per cent in the past month. According to data from BTIG Research, that marks the biggest share-price rise in the month preceding a WWDC event since 2010, when the late Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone 4.
We’ve already spotted Phil Schiller, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi, before a smiling Apple PR chap ushered us away from the VIP section for “causing enough trouble already”. What could he possibly be talking about?
Also spotted in the audience: Silicon Valley godfather Ron Conway of SV Angel, Dave Morin from social networking app Path, Shakil Khan of music app (and Beats Music rival) Spotify and Aaron Levie of “sexy enterprise” company Box. I think they’re called frenemies…
The playlist so far includes Coldplay and Lorde. Pretty much as you’d expect.
They also get a rather nifty WWDC jacket…
Right, it’s time already. I’m sure they’ve just pumped the music up even louder.
Here we go. Starting with a video full of develop jokes. Pizzas, beards, that kind of thing. Then we get a real developer talking. Turns out he’s a sensitive artist type. That should go down well with the 5,000 developers in the audience.
Tim Cook takes the stage to plenty of applause after a long video celebrating the wonder and (yes) magic of apps.
As expected, Cook says we’re going to hear about OS X and iOS today, especially how they have been engineered to work “seamlessly together”. He starts with Macs: installed base is over 80m, a record for Apple.
More than 40m copies of the latest OS X, Mavericks, have been installed since November. The fastest adoption “ever of any PC operating system in history”. And yes, he’s going to compare to Windows: Windows 8 shipped a year before Mavericks and is now on only 14 per cent of PCs (followed by a big sigh of sympathy from the audience…)
Here comes Craig Federighi, Apple’s head of software engineering, who gets a big round of applause. The man known as “hair force one” was a surprise hit at last year’s WWDC.
He confirms the next release of OS X will be called Yosemite. First, design: yes, it’s flat.
As expected, it’s taken its design cues from the overhaul of iOS last year. Simpler, cleaner icons, translucent panes that take on different colours as they move around. They’re still “fundamentally Mac”, he says.
He points to the trash can, which still carries a screwed-up piece of paper in a simple grey bin. “You wouldn’t believe how much time we spent crafting a trash can.”
A redesign of the search function: click on the magnifying glass and a simple search box appears in the middle of the screen (does that remind you of anyone?) As you start typing in a word it suggests apps, documents, web pages. All very Google Instant.
Next: iCloud Drive. This is new: a file system for iCloud, even for iOS. “You can store all of your own files … and order them with folders and tags.” It’s a Google Drive and Dropbox rival, and even works on Windows.
Federighi is giving a lightening fast tour around Yosemite. Next up: Mail Drop. Send an attachment of up to 5 gigabytes and it won’t bounce back.
Spotlight (the search function) uses Bing to do its searches, filling in details automatically in a pane that looks a little like the “Knowledge Graph” windows that appear on the right hand side of Google results pages. Apple replaced Google with Bing in Siri on iOS last year, so this is another step away from the old alliance – though it still always feels startling when Apple and Microsoft get together. My enemy’s enemy, and all that.
Big cheer for AirDrop, the wireless file-transfer system built into iOS, can now send files to Macs too. Weird that this wasn’t in place to start with…
More neat features in OS X Yosemite:
- instant connection to an iPhone to use it as a WiFi hotspot.
- text messages to people who aren’t on iMessage – “your green-bubble friends” – now show up in the Messages window too
- Caller ID shows up on your Mac when your iPhone receives a call, and you can use it as a speaker phone.
All this relaying stuff between operating systems could come in handy if, say, Apple were to come up with a wearable device that wants to show up text messages or caller ID from a phone too….
Tying Macs, iPhones and iPads together more tightly is a great idea, but it’s all in the execution: how seamless can they make it feel? As a demonstration, Federighi calls Dr Dre (45 minutes in and Beats finally makes an appearance…) from his Mac, talks to him on speaker phone.
Developers get OS X Yosemite today, the rest of the world gets it in the fall – unless you want to sign up for a public beta, for the first time. The update is free.
Now we go back to Tim Cook. “Next up is iOS.”
More than 800m iOS devices sold: the breakdown is iPod touch 100m, iPad 200m , iPhone 500m units. 130m people have bought their first Apple device in the last 12 months.
“Many of these customers were switchers from Android,” says Cook. “They had bought an Android phone by mistake and then had sought a better experience… and a better life.”
It’s revealing that Cook is trying to mount a direct attack on Android. Nearly half of Apple’s customers in China in last six months switched from Android, he says. But Apple is going to come out worse from any attempt to play the numbers game against Google. Nearly half of all personal computing devices sold around the world (PCs, smartphones and tablets) will carry Android, compared to 15 per cent for Apple (that’s a Gartner estimate).
“Today we are announcing iOS 8…. This is a giant release,” says Cook. “It has great end user features but it also has incredible developer features, so you can extend your experience and build apps that you couldn’t do before.”
Here comes Craig Federighi again to talk about the end user features. “I missed you guys,” he says after five minutes offstage.
Some new features in iOS 8:
- Improvements to notifications: pull down to reply to a text or Like a Facebook post right from the notifications bar, rather than switching between apps, including from the lock screen. You can also flick notifications away more easily to dismiss them. (Much of this is playing catchup with Android.)
- Double tap the home button to get to recently contacted people, as well as active apps.
- New Mail gestures to flag, save and delete emails. (Reminiscient of Mailbox, the Dropbox-owned email app.)
More catch-up with Android: As you type a message, auto-suggest will try to guess at what words you’re going to choose next and offer them up. But Federighi plays up the privacy, in an (unspoken) put-down to Google: “None of your keystrokes leave the device.”
Improvements to Messages sound a lot like WhatsApp and Snapchat:
- self-destructing photos or audio messages
- “tap to talk”, to send a short voice or video message. (Remember the old “Push To Talk” in pre-smartphone days?)
- share your location
- rename group chat threads, or switch specific conversations to “do not disturb” mode
“Super easy, super powerful – send a message with just a swipe or by raising it to your ear.”
Federighi is back to talk about enterprise. All but two of the Fortune 500 use iOS, he says. He talks about the iOS device enrollment programme as an example of the things Apple has done to make its gadgets more IT department-friendly. Devices are set up automatically out of the box. Some scattered applause – “Yes, our enterprise guys out there” – which gets a sympathetic laugh from everyone else in the room.
Federighi is moving onto sharing content between groups of users: ways for a family to swap things like photo streams and calendars. From iTunes: up to six family members can now get the same content with one purchase (big cheer for that) as long as they’re all covered by the same credit card.
But kids won’t be able to use mum’s credit card: Federighi shows off the parental control feature, which is one upshot of the Federal Trade Commission settlement that’s meant to put an end to the uncontrolled under-age spending.
Apple’s big new push into health applications is called HealthKit – not the rumoured HealthBook – with a corresponding app simply called Health. It will provide a single view for health and fitness information from a variety of apps, from Fitbit-style wearable pedometers and heart-rate monitors to internet-connected scales, blood-pressure readings or even glucose monitors for diabetics.
Nike, which recently killed its Fuelband wristband, is among the first developers to integrate Healthkit into its apps.
Federighi gives the example of healthcare provider Mayo Clinic, whose app integrates with Healthkit. When the user enters their health information from another app, Healthkit automatically updates the Mayo app. If certain limits are exceeded, such as weight, the Mayo app can notify a doctor to get in touch with the patient. “We think this is going to be really important for healthcare,” says Federighi.
This from the CEO of WhatsApp:
That’s it with the new features on iOS. Now we’re getting to the behind-the-scenes stuff: a developers’ eye view of iOS 8.
Some big cheers for an update of the App Store: things like an “explore” tab, related searches, editors’ picks – all things to get around one of the store’s biggest problems, which is finding things you might want. Also a way for developers to bundle apps together and sell them as a package.
Federighi is now showing off apps that take advantage of a new SDK for writing apps that work with the iOS 8. Third-party apps will be able to share services with other apps, or with notifications and other things in iOS. It’s called Extensions, and it’s getting an enthusiastic welcome. This should give app developers a way to embed their services deeper in the iPhone and iPad experience.
One additional use of Extensions: developers will be able to add their own virtual keyboards to iOS is they don’t like the one that Apple provides.
Now, as the FT’s Tim Bradshaw reported last week (sorry Tim, not meaning to make you blush) – HomeKit, the platform for the Apple smarthome. Tell Siri you’re ready for bed and the system will make sure the garage door, the thermostat is turned down, etc.
Time to get the earplugs out again: we’re about to get some video games. It’s to show off a developer platform called Metal, which Apple claims will bring console-quality gaming to mobile.
(Actually, no need for the earplugs – we’ve just seen blossom blown from a tree and hundreds of fish in a koi pond, to a soothing soundtrack. All very Zen.)
One of the biggest cheers of the day for… a new programming language! (yes, you know you’re in a room with thousands of developers when that happens.) It’s called Swift. “Python gets utterly crushed”, apparently (was that meant to be a pun?)
Basically, Swift is designed to be much faster and easier to use, to bring a bigger group of developers to the Apple platform. It’s available in a beta version today, and apps written in Swift will work on iOS 8 and the new OS X when they launch, says Federighi.
Now Cook is back to wrap up.
Cook sums up the theme of the last two hours: “Operating systems, devices and services working together in harmony”.
The word “seamless” is much over-used in the tech world, but with things like Extensions, the tighter linkages between iOS and OS X, and new platforms like HealthKit and HomeKit, this is now central to Apple’s strategy.
It’s over. What we didn’t get: new hardware. No iWatch and no new Apple TV (again – it feels like that’s become the refrain for all Apple events).
But Apple gave a stronger sense of the underpinnings of the developer ecosystem that will no doubt one day stitch these and other devices together.
Another point to note about today’s event: it was the Craig Federighi Show. There was no Phil Schiller and no Eddy Cue, who are often in support. Instead, it was the software chief who bounced up and down to the stage between demos and comments from Tim Cook.
At one point, summoning Federighi back, the CEO referred to him as Superman. And Federighi seemed to be having fun, joining in the jokes about his hair and pacing the stage in a very relaxed way. A real coming-out party.
Developers on Twitter are going particularly nuts over Swift, the new programming language.
The new gaming engine Apple announced today, Metal, will improve rendering by 10x, it says. That would come in handy for bigger screens…
The FT has earlier reported on Apple’s plans to update its TV box with new gaming capabilities. The new hardware was expected earlier this year but now looks set for an autumn launch.
“Huge for developers, massive for everyone else” reads the slogan on the iOS 8 information page, now live.
It’s all too much for some developers.
That’s it from us. It may have been light on catchy headlines, but this feels like one of those Apple events that will reverberate around the tech world for a long time to come.
Unlike Steve Ballmer, Tim Cook didn’t have to dance around the stage to convince a passionate crowd that Apple really cares about developers. A batch of new developer tools, a new programming language, thousands of APIs that make it possible for app makers to tap into the Apple platforms: Apple is handing over more of the keys to the kingdom for developers who choose to throw their lot in with its ecosystem.
The Apple CEO didn’t miss the chance to take digs at Android over its relative lack of security and fragmentation. Next up: the Google IO developer conference in three weeks.