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Apple’s WorldWide Developer Conference 2014

This year, Apple marked the 25th anniversary of one of the largest developer conference in the world, the WorldWide Developer Conference. And like clock-work, they have announced quite a bundle of new innovations focused primarily on developers. Yes, Virginia, no new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, or what the analysts are waiting for, the iWatch.

The two-hour WWDC keynote is usually used to announce upcoming OS X and iOS versions, but this year, Apple added another segment purely for developers, but it gives consumers a view of what is to come.

Mac OS X 10.10 aka Yosemite

Starting with Mac OS X 10.10, aka Yosemite. With Mavericks, Apple found that most of modern Macs have upgraded to the latest and greatest version. Apple wants to continue this trend by offering the next version, 10.10, for free, as well, with a public beta program to boot.

The next Mac OS X will come with an iOS 7 look, i.e., mostly flat interface. The UI looks so simple and clean, in both white/clear mode and in dark mode. As Apple loves to put in over a hundred new features in every OS release, Yosemite isn’t far behind. Enumerating some of the features that were revealed at the keynote, we have the following:

- Notification Center improvements — a new Today view, like iOS 7 and Widgets, both from Apple-created apps and third-party apps.

- More powerful Spotlight — improved search for both local and internet content (using Wikipedia, Bing, Maps, Yelp, among others) and better layout for presentation of results

- Faster Safari — new and improved rendering engines for Javascript and HTML5 (among others).

- Better Mail — better Mail application with built-in viewers and annotating features and an iCloud-based mail attachment feature (MailDrop) that supports up to 5GB of attachments.

- Messages — a unified messaging system that integrates SMS and phone calls from your iPhone.

- iCloud Drive — the return of Apple’s cloud-based storage, now with support for all file types (instead of being restricted only to iWork documents) and works on Windows as well.

- HandOff — seamless transfer of active supported apps from Mac to iOS devices and vice-versa.

- AirDrop — now works between OS X and iOS devices .

- Hey, Siri — Apple’s always-listening feature, ala “OK, Google”

- Extensibility — support for third-party app communications

- Instant Hotspot — instant iPhone tethering with complex pairing procedures.

These new improvements are now available, in beta, to developers, and those who are in Apple’s Appleseed program.

iOS 8

Whilst there is no indication of a new iOS-based product, Apple outlined their new mobile iOS, iOS 8. The features presented at the keynote are not mostly revolutionary, but evolutionary. Logical next steps for a powerful mobile OS.

Features such as:

- Improved Photo handling with more powerful editing features

- Better Messages — Group Messaging enhancements, such as, Do Not Disturb, Leave and Add/Remove participants. Attach Audio (Push-To-Talk), multiple Photos and multiple Video to Messages. Share Locations. iPad can now use iPhone to send/receive SMS and make/receive phone calls.

- Interactive Notifications — Works on both Apple-created apps, such as Messages and Mail, and third-party apps, such as Facebook. Also works on Lock Screen.

- Keyboard improvements — QuickType – predictive typing that learns from your behavior, whilst keeping everything local (for privacy reasons). Support for third-party keyboards (with better control for those that require network connections).

- iCloud Drive

- Health Kit and Health App — A central place to track activity and health, with capability to interface with health providers

- Better Spotlight — similar to OS X, uses more data sources, both local and internet

- TouchID improvements — now available for third-party applications

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These are just a tip of the iceberg in as far as iOS 8 features are concerned. More will be revealed when it gets released, along with the new iPhone, come Fall.

Developer Tools

The last leg of the WWDC keynote was the most surprising. Apple usually reveals new development tools and improvements to their API/SDKs, but this time, it is different. Starting with new API/SDKs, Apple announced improved 2D and 3D, dubbed SpriteKit and SceneKit, respectively, to provide developers with better control of the device’s graphics. Apple also provides better support for game controllers.

Just like before, Apple’s OS X and iOS frameworks are now more cohesive, allowing developers to easily port OS X apps to iOS and vice-versa.

With Apple pushing for iCloud more, CloudKit will allow developers to take advantage of data sharing via iCloud-connected applications… for FREE.

Lastly, but definitely not the least, Apple introduced a new programming language called Swift. This is Objective-C without the baggage of C — making it extremely easy for developers to create applications.

Wrap-up

Apple did not disappoint PERIOD. To haters, specially from the Android camp, iOS 8 seems just another catch-up attempt for Apple. As I have mentioned, Apple’s iOS 8 is the natural progression from iOS 7 — with polished implementation of useful features taken from other platforms, such as Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone. Remember, Apple rarely invents, but consistently innovates.

Apple is also standing firm on the close-integration of both computing platforms, OS X and iOS, which sends a clear signal to Microsoft that their all-in-one OS approach isn’t the way to go. With the new features that cross between OS X and iOS, it looks like Apple has done it again. Now let’s see how Android and Chrome OS do this…

Apple also highlights Search using Spotlight, with Spotlight using Apple-preferred data sources, including Google search results. However, just like Siri, Apple clearly moves Google search from the primary source of information to ‘just one other source’. Did you see DuckDuckGo search engine support? Yes, it is there.

Apple being Apple, they introduced features found on Android since God knows when. As an example, third-party keyboard support — a feature that a lot of users asked for — was baked in iOS 8 without sacrificing privacy (users need to allow apps to connect and use the network). Another example, QuickType, the predictive typing feature, is also privacy-aware, meaning it works on the device and does not send any data to Apple’s servers.

There are far more features that Apple ‘lifted’ from other mobile OS, but Apple did a better implementation and integration with its core OS without sacrificing usability and more importantly, user’s privacy. Again, taking a jab at Google and its Android eco-system.

The new OS X, iOS and Developer Tools will usher to better third-party applications and better, overall experience for consumers. Now it is time for developers to take advantage and allow us, consumers, to have a better life (as opposed to those using other platforms — haha, this was from the keynote!).

Now I download the OS X beta and iOS 8 beta — unfortunately, I cannot give you more information without violating my NDA. Just wait, I am sure there are others who are willing to violate their NDAs.