WWDC 2017 overview
WWDC 2017 is the most important Apple event of the year as the software dictates There was a mix of hardware and software updates. Apple put a lot of focus on virtual reality, augmented reality and prepping their operating systems for handling larger amounts of data. There was work done to further optimise video and photo usage on device.
WWDC 2017 had bad news for online advertisers and a number of consumer electronics manufacturers. Online advertising using retargeting or autoplay video is going to be blocked in Safari. The new HomePod speaker took aim at ‘casual hi-fi’ like Sonos, Bowers & Wilkins and Bose.
Developments that Apple showcased at WWDC 2017 indicated that it is working very hard to try and understand user intent, which is one of the first pieces it needs to put in place to develop the experience of a truly programmable world. What do I mean by a programmable world? A ‘web of no web’ where device intelligence behaves as if it understands user intent like a good valet. It is moving in a stepwise manner towards this.
What was more surprising is how Apple has gone big on VR and AR creation and consumption. Whilst video post-production houses probably have the most to complain about when it comes to Apple’s Pro equipment, they are not name checked. Apple has started to move to address their concerns. The external graphics support in macOS implies that a furture Mac Pro will have the software to match hardware.
More details by platform:
The name High Sierra implied an OS update that might seem incremental to consumers, but has major technology changes under the hood.
- Data – Apple File System as default (many features similar to Sun Microsystems’ ZFS). Faster for file swaps and giving a faster computer experience
- Video – better quality video algorithms with smaller file sizes and integration with
- Graphics – upgraded Metal API – Apple had been using it on machine learning applications within the OS. Metal 2 has been used to accelerate system level graphics and provides access to app developers. There is OS support for external graphics accelerators. The external graphics developer kit is based on AMD Radeon card.
- MacOS supports VR through Metal for VR. Steam, Unity and Unreal supporting VR on the Mac. Apple seems to believe that VR and AR content is the desktop publishing of the 21st century, they have gone hard on making the best creators platform that they can
- Autoplay blocking – which will impact advertising network video views
- Intelligent tracking prevention – positioned to target advertising retargeting and cross-site tracking
- Uses machine learning to improve searching and photo recognition and integration with photo-editing
- 50 media partners integrated into TV app
- Amazon is coming to Apple TV. Interesting move of detente between Apple and Amazon
- Machine learning APIs – to help adoption of CoreML on device for third party apps
- ARKit – to aid AR in apps. Clever work done on scaling and ambient light. This about providing a market for the content which which would be created on the Mac
- Chinese specific features: including support for QRcodes, SMS spam filtering. Chinese users have a particular set of contexts and these innovations could become popular in the west
- Interface tweaks in control centre and the lock screen.
- Improving discoverability of app stickers and apps – much needed
- Automatic synchronisation of Messages across devices, delete once, delete across all devices
- Person-to-person payments as an iMessage app. Obvious competitor would be WeChat in China and PayPal in the west
- Improved expressive nature of the voice.
- Follow-up questions, presumably to improve context
- Provides translation services
- Siri integration into a wide range of apps including WeChat and OmniFocus They’ve tried to use on-device learning to try and improve context and being helpful. Siri knowledge is synched across devices. Uses web history to improve Apple News and custom dictionary spellings
- Indoor navigation for airports
- Better image compression to save space on device. New depth API that can be accessed by 3rd party apps
- Video autorotates a la Snapchat / Snap glasses
- Apps now reviewed in less than 24 hours
- First app redesign in nine years. Tweaks to improve discoverability and merchandising of apps including in-app sales
- The biggest feature in watchOS 4 is the Siri-powered face. The Siri-powered watch face provides contextual information on the ‘home screen’. It takes into account past habits, time, location etc. Apple’s language around this was interesting, they described it as an ‘Intelligent proactive assistant’.
More details by hardware
- iMac – improved displays, brighter and support for 1 billion colours. Moving to Kaby Lake Intel processors. Up to 64GB of RAM on the iMac and 2TB SSD. Discrete Radeon graphics cards on larger iMacs. – big focus on VR development.
- MacBook – Kaby Lake processors. Pro machines get updated graphics as well. The MacBook Air gets a processor boost.
- iMac Pro – single piece machine with workstation specification including 10Gbit Ethernet. Presumably as an interim measure until the Mac Pro arrives next year. How upgradeable would the iMac Pro be, which is a key consideration for workstations
- iPad Pro – 20% bigger screen, 120Hz screen refresh rate. Doubling default memory sizes up to 512GB