This year’s WWDC showed a lot of what Apple is up to. And if there was any thought that Apple was taking it easy, all of that was blown away with everything that was announced. While not showing their hand with any new hardware, they gave developers plenty to think about with iOS 8, OS X Yosemite, and Swift. These releases have also brought Apple’s two major platforms, desktop and mobile, closer together while still focusing on each platform’s strengths. Underneath all of the improvements to iOS and OS X, though, there are signs that Apple is getting ready to move in new directions.
Many like to compare Apple to other companies such as Google or Samsung. While the similarities among those companies abound, each has their own way of doing things. For some, it’s a matter of ‘open’ vs ‘closed’. With the advent of reason technologies, we also see a difference with how each approach their devices.
Samsung, as well as a few others, have struck first and announced ‘smart watches’, wrist-worn devices that have computing capabilities. These devices are given their own connectivity and an OS capable of running applications. Yet, while able to communicate with other devices, they remain largely self-sufficient.
Apple, meanwhile, has shown that the iPhone is now the center of a person’s digital hub. Introduction of new APIs such as HealthKit and HomeKit only add to this idea. Instead of just allowing ‘normal’ communication between devices, users can have their iPhones work as the central system connecting their surrounding devices. This doesn’t mean other devices don’t get additional features. Just look at the new capabilities for SMS and phone calls in OS X Yosemite. While these are great enhancements to the desktop, they still require an iPhone.
Developers have also taken note of changes to iOS development in Xcode 6. With the new storyboards, Apple has opened up the possibility for creating content for multiple screen sizes with as little work as possible. Not only does this add fuel to the larger iPhone rumors, but it also means that developers could likely create interfaces for smaller screens. And with Extensions, one app can securely access a functionality from another without leaving the current application.
One thing not mentioned at WWDC, but found by several people already, is the ability to create ad-hoc connections from iOS 8 to Apple TV. These connections use Bluetooth instead of wi-fi, and testing has shown the response time to be much improved over that from a wi-fi connection. With reduced latency, AirPlay mirroring an app to your TV now seems like a much more attractive option when you want to game.
Put all of this together. What do you get? Let’s imagine it.
After a run through your neighborhood, you’ve just come home. You glance down at your iWatch, noting your pulse, step count, and calorie count. You’ve been impressed with the accuracy of those measurements ever since the iWatch came out, but the real value has come from the data that your iPhone collects.
Taking your shoes off, you walk into the kitchen for a bottle of water. After opening one, you take your iPhone out of your pocket and open the Health app. Your endurance has been building based off of the distances that are recorded with your run each day. And since HealthKit provides a way to combine all of your health data together, you’re able to see how your daily routine impacts your overall health.
Since it’s been a long day, it’s time for some down time. As you walk into your living room, you activate Siri. “It’s time to relax,” you say to your digital assistant. Thanks to HomeKit, your phone knows this cue. Right away, your wireless lights turn on to a dim setting as your Apple TV brings up one of your favorite TV shows to watch. You take a second to remember how you used to have to use a remote to work with Apple TV. HomeKit changed all that.
But if watching a show isn’t enough, why not play a game? You used to have game consoles, but you’ve since sold them off. Why pay hundreds of dollars for a dedicated game console when you can play a game through your much cheaper Apple TV? You AirPlay from your iPhone, bringing up a great 3D game created with the Metal framework in iOS 8. The ad-hoc network is so responsive that you forget that the game is running on your iPhone and not on your Apple TV. Who even needs a game console anymore?
Can Apple bring us to this scenario? WWDC showed us the ground work for it. They have created the software that would be needed to allow this sort of future. All that remains is the hardware. And if Tim Cook’s words are anything to go by, we have barely begun to see what Apple has ready to surprise us with this year.