In a very Canadian affair, Apple took to the stage at its developer’s conference to announce what’s new in its software platforms. Along the way, Canadian artists Drake, Weeknd, and even Poutine would make an appearance at the announcements. Along the way, the event would start with some really funny and end with music. Here are the 8 most important things about WDDC 2015 (to me, anyway).
#1 – An OS Update (not upgrade)
The 10.11 version of OS X, dubbed El Capitan is usually a big deal, but this time around wasn’t the big splash like Yosemite was. Apps are being updated to align with iOS 9 (like notes). New is an interesting split view (Windows 8 does that!). Mission Control is also going to get a newer interface. Safari will include a feature that allows you to pin sites to the interface (something Chrome included a long time ago). El Capitan should be released this fall.
#2 – Siri gets an upgrade
Catching up with Google’s Now, Siri is getting more contextual. The “Proactive Assistant” means to learn more about your use of the device. The automatic nature of these tools are incredibly useful, but may also be incredibly intrusive (if actions taken are based on incomplete information). For Siri to be more useful, this technology needs to know us better, so this is a step in the right direction. I’m still not sold on the usefulness of this tool for reliable use, but it’s clear Apple loves it.
#3 – iOS 9 is coming
In another update, Apple will release a new version of iOS that includes some key changes. Notes will be updated (presumably in line with OS X) to include features such as drawing. Passbook will now be called wallet (not to be confused with Google Wallet). The new “Low Power Mode” seems like a curious move on Apple’s part. They’re simultaneously admitting power issues while helping them with this new model. The question will be if this is a setting or another app. iOS 9 should be available in the fall for iPhone 4S and newer devices.
#4 – Apple Pay Expands to the UK
I really was hoping for a Canadian announcement here given all of the northern references. But, expanding to the UK is a good step for Apple Pay. Apple appears very committed to the payment service, so this is all great news. I sense Canada may have actually been the plan, but was pulled out at the last minute.
#5 – Apple attacks news (again)
Moving past NewsStand , Apple is releasing News, a new way to read the news. So far, there is no release date, but it should be available in the US. Reminiscent of Facebook’s recent foray into news, Apple appears interested in controlling and curating news content the same way. It looks beautiful, but will probably only appeal to those who don’t know what RSS is.
#6 – Apple Watch gets another update
Not entirely unexpected, the watch continues to be refined software-wise. Many (like me) are looking to the next iteration to see a more compelling product.
#7 – Apple Music
The big announcement of the night, Apple will release a music streaming service called Apple Music. They’re really attacking every sort of music service with this offering. The Spotify-Like Music service will have curated playlists. The radio station Beats 1 will be available worldwide. It’s not clear what this will cost or how it compares to other services, so we’ll have to see this in action to know better if we’ll like it. Apple Music will be available on June 30 in over 100 countries. Perhaps even more surprisingly, it will appear on Android in the fall. Will this look like iTunes on Windows?
#8 – Swift Goes Open Source
A big play to the crowd, Apple’s programming language Swift will be made open source by the end of the year. This should further remove barriers in iOS programming, such as they are. I have not done anything with the language yet, but I plan to give it a try.
A special mention has to go to the online streaming of this event. Every year, Apple improves this service, and this year saw many improvements for those of us who cover the process. They did a great job of highlighting the keynotes and offering useful visual elements.
Overall, I wasn’t blown away by these announcements, but this is often on par with what Apple does. There’s a healthy dose of catchup with other companies mixed with a smattering of new stuff. Apple continues to be hamstrung by country restrictions.