It’s like a Diwali mela, except it costs $1,600 to get in. The Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is Apple’s showcase event of the year where, people from all over the world apply to get in, a lucky draw throws up your name, you pay the aforesaid amount and then line up outside.
When I arrived at the WWDC in San Francisco, many things became clear.
One: Apple loves lines. With about seven thousand people queued up outside, the block looked like a siege had just taken place. Two: people love standing in line. It was early morning when I arrived and thousands were waiting patiently with big smiles plastered all over their faces. Maybe they hadn’t figured out that they had paid already and were guaranteed entry. Three: people attending the WWDC love to clap. Every single announcement was greeted with thunderous applause. Even the 55-year-old handlebar-moustached guy wearing a motorcycle jacket sitting next to me was on his feet, clapping in glee when they announced the Minnie Mouse watch face for the Apple Watch.
So, what did they announce, what didn’t happen and how does all of this affect our daily life? Here’s a dive into everything that the WWDC was, and wasn’t.
Apple seems to take this one very seriously. A rewrite of the OS itself has made it seven times faster than the previous one. The activity tracker app got a major revamp with Activity Sharing. You can now compete with family and friends plus comment, encourage and take down your competition.
The all-new Breathe alerts the user once every hour and then guides you through a deep-breathing session, while soothing haptic vibrations take control on your wrist. There are also new quick-reply buttons with pre-written responses, as well as Scribble.
You can now draw your response and the watch translates it to text.
One can more or less ignore this as Apple TV doesn’t have much for India. No official launch and no Indian content. But one feature stood out that I wish every company would bring in. A single ID that works across different channels and services. No individual subscriptions and logins.
Yes, that’s what osX will be called now. The biggest deal was Siri coming to your notebooks and desktops. And in a very powerful way as it’s integrated deep within. Need to look up the last file you were working on? Or one that has a particular phrase or task or person? Just ask Siri and it’s done. Then there’s Handoff, with universal clipboard. Copy something on your iPhone and paste it into your Macbook automatically.
This was the mother of all announcements. An all-new lock screen with Raise to Wake feature. This wakes up the phone’s lock screen when you pick up the phone and gives an overview of notifications and updates. A major revamp of music includes lyrics for every song. The new HomeKit app lets you control all the connected accessories around your house. The photos app now uses deep learning to identify and classify people and objects in photos, and categorises them into the appropriate folders and tags. Voicemail gets text transcription of all messages. But like in other places, it’s Siri that is smarter here too and can now be used across multiple apps. You can use it to send WhatsApp messages, book Uber rides, make Skype calls and more. Messaging got a facelift too, with full-screen and bubble effects, and the showstopper – three times bigger emojis as well as an emoji analyser. Write a message and it’ll tell you where you missed an opportunity to use an emoji instead!
But does the world need more emojis?
Well, it looks like we are going back to the time of caveman drawings. Most people have lost the art of messaging and writing already. Now that emojis are bigger and automated, I’m not looking forward to the kinds of messages I’m going to start getting in a few months.
No hardware hints and announcements?
Nope. No new Macbook Pros (they should be announced in a month’s time, though), no Siri home speaker like Amazon Echo (once again, I’m pretty sure this one is also a matter of time) and no iPad Pro mini (come on Apple, I can’t be the only one asking for this).
No iMessage for Android?
I was very sure of this one. But it didn’t come. What did come was a large number of people telling me it would never happen. Vijay Shekhar Sharma of Paytm said it made no sense as iMessage was for people to buy and get entrenched in Apple devices only. I’ve had a wager that iMessage for Android will be live in 365 days from today. 100 (Paytm rupees) is on the line.
What about the nine-year-old girl who was the youngest app developer there?
Yes, she exists. Her name is Anvitha Vijay and I met her. She’s sharp as a needle, spunky and should be a billionaire by the age of 12. I was both inspired and intimidated.
That was WWDC 2016. Apple’s answer to those who seem to think it may have lost the innovation edge. Apple’s grooved right back into the lead (for now)!
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3
From HT Brunch, June 26, 2016
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