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2,000-ish Words on the WWDC 2017 Keynote

“These Go To 11”

The day job prevented me from attending and/or watching the WWDC keynote this morning. Apologies for the lack of hot takes and snark. But my meetings today did allow me to mainly avoid the internet and so I got to come home and watch the keynote on tape delay (on Apple TV), like an animal. So here are some unvarnished thoughts based on my notes:

The keynote was awfully long — roughly 2.5 hours — but it didn’t feel too bad, watching it. Apple (unsurprisingly) does a good job with cadence of their keynotes compared to their tech brethren. In today’s case, the announcements seemed to build towards a crescendo of a final reveal — “one last thing” to quote Tim Cook going out of his way not to quote Steve Jobs.

tvOS

My nits are that I’m not sure we really needed “six important announcements” to focus on — especially since the first, tvOS, was maybe two minutes of the two-plus hours. And the big takeaway there everyone already knew: Amazon Prime Video coming to Apple TV later this year. I’m also not sure we really need a demo for every segment. Do I need to see a demo of the new feature you just described and is pretty self-explanatory? If the show is going to run 2.5 hours as a result, no I do not.

Also, far too many dad jokes.

watchOS 4

The second segment was devoted to watchOS, and the new Siri watch face does look pretty compelling. Whether Apple will be good at surfacing the right data at the right time is another story. But this concept feels right for a smartwatch. Overall, it feels like Apple continues to slowly but surely keep figuring out how to make the Apple Watch more useful over time. It’s like we’re watching them figure out what product they should have shipped from day one in real time. (And the data exchange with gym equipment is a good idea, though it will take a while until gyms upgrade, etc.)

macOS High Sierra

The most interesting user-facing element of macOS — dad joke name aside — was what Apple is doing with Safari. Stopping videos that auto-play is a godsend. We’ll see what Facebook thinks about that (though I wouldn’t be shocked if Apple sticks to sites that have autoplay banners, versus videos in the Facebook feed). But in general, this is an ever-growing annoyance to me, so I’m glad Apple is doing this. Same with tracking, of course.

Everyone knows that Safari is the best browser when it comes to battery life (at least on a Mac). Apple continues to claim that it is also the fastestbrowser, which I’m sure Chrome and others will dispute. There are just way too many benchmark tests for so many different things at this point that you can probably find a test that will tell you anything. In practice, I still find Chrome faster. But again, a battery hog. We’ll see if “High Sierra” changes the speed equation…

Overall, I appreciate the focus on the “fundamentals” for this macOS release. APFS, H.265 video, editing for VR, etc. But I’m also not sure we’re ever going to get another truly game-changing macOS release. It is what it is.

iMac Pro

Apple made a computer for Darth Vader — cool. (Actually, that was also a dad joke. Sorry. Apple made a computer for Batman. Better.) It’s a little weird that they’re doing this and apparently a new Mac Pro (due next year), but hard to complain about that. After literally years of neglect, Apple is literally doubling down on pros. I’d be tempted to part with $5,000 (sorry, $4,999) just for the black (sorry, “space gray”) mouse/trackpad/keyboard. But I won’t, of course. I wonder how many will… And I wonder how much an 18-core Xeon iMac Pro will cost. Hold that thought.

Okay, I’m back. And no, you can’t price that 18-core iMac Pro yet.

Note that both machine learning and VR got shout-outs in talking about this machine. Also it can theoretically drive 44 million pixels. This will remain theoretical until December when it ships. Why it will take that long, I don’t know. Why Apple is announcing it now, I don’t know. I suppose because of the audience and because it must mean the new Mac Pro is even farther out.

As an aside, I’m more than slightly annoyed that the MacBook Pro, which I just bought six months agoand don’t love to begin with, already got an upgrade. Apple used to do this kind of stuff all the time — upgrade a just-upgraded machine — but it has been a while. Thanks, Apple.

iOS 11

Yes, it goes to 11, as the inevitable dad joke relayed. The notion of always seeing iMessage apps makes sense, as they’re currently way too buried in the UI. The fact that all iMessage messages are finally sync’d between all devices via iCloud may be the most finally “finally” ever. P2P Apple Pay looks cool, I guess. But I don’t know about the immediate “Venmo Killer” headlines…

We’re finally getting Dude Siri — well, I guess you could have gotten a male-voiced Siri before depending on which country you were in — but nice to see the option here in the U.S. (Update: turns out the male voice has been an option for a while, I just totally missed it somehow — regardless both voices are indeed updated.) He may give “Alex” a run for his money. In the brief clips, the new Siri voice — both male and female — sounded very nice.

People are now using iOS devices to take 1 trillion photos a year. That’s absolutely mind-boggling. The move to the “HIEF” picture format (from JPEG) was an interesting little aside. Looping Live Photos should be fun. The long exposure functionality looks very cool.

The new Control Center area also looks nice, but it also highlights what we should have but don’t yet: custom widgets for apps in this area. Please, please, please be saving that for the iPhone 8 reveal, Apple. Don’t make us wait until iOS 12. It looks like the concept is ready to roll…

The actual changes to notifications seemed entirely unclear from the demo. Can you now see old ones you dismissed previously? Or just old ones you never saw? Dunno.

Airport maps seem useful. Mall maps seem useful, if you’re living in 1987.

Do-Not-Disturb-While-Driving is a smart feature in that it’s not just about turning off notifications, but responding to certain ones — like text messages — that you can’t see a message now because you’re driving. I may turn this on all the time, even when not driving, for email.

Apparently getting 27 million people to use Apple Music has given Apple the courage to try to re-launch Ping. Okay, not really. But sort of. Music is getting a social layer. Again. What could go wrong?

180 billion app downloads. $70 billion paid out to app developers — the real amazing stat is that 30% of that number is apparently in the last year alone. App Store review times may be cut to 1 to 2 hours, which sounds great. Phased app feature roll-outs also sounds great, but no details on how that will actually work.

The new App Store looks like Apple Music, which I like. Some people will find it too heavy-handed, but I find the old App Store paradigm very stale — because it was. The idea of creating a reason for people to come back to the App Store each day makes a ton of sense to me. And it will benefit both Apple and app developers. I like this move a lot. Almost as much as I like App Store games finally being separated from all other apps. Remember what I said about “finally” above? This may be the most finally “finally” yet.

The machine learning and augmented reality stuff is obviously the right focus for Apple with iOS 11. How will it actually work in the real world, in developers’ hands? We’ll see. The AR stuff did look awfully legit.

iPad

The new 10.5″ iPad Pro looks great. Nothing to complain about. Crazy to think that it can get so much brighter (50%), but I always think that about the iMac too, and yet Apple keeps doing it. The real crazy thing here seems to be the new 120 Hz refresh rate. Hard to know for sure without seeing it in action live (as they noted, the cameras streaming the keynote can’t even pick up the difference), but in practice this could and should be an awesome new element of this iPad — in scrolling, with the Apple Pencil, and with certain types of video.

Mainly, I’m just happy the leather iPad covers are back. (And the new leather sleeves complete with Pencil holsters look great.)

But the real star of the entire show in my book were the iPad-specific features of iOS 11. Not to beat the dead horse, but: finally.

As someone who has been trying to use the iPad as my main computing device forever, with varying degrees of success, many things announced today were exactly what I’ve been looking for. A few:

  • The ability to have many apps in the “dock”
  • The ability to quick switch apps via this “dock”
  • The ability to pull apps out of this “dock” to run alongside other apps
  • The new “spaces” ability for iPad apps
  • Drag and motherfuckin’ drop (looks awesome for URLs)
  • The cool new keyboard trick to quick-type numbers
  • Files!
  • Files that work with third-party file storage systems!
  • All the stuff you can now actually do with the Apple Pencil
  • Instant screenshot markup!
  • Quick-cropping of screenshots!
  • Instant notes via Pencil tap
  • The ability to search your handwritten notes
  • A built-in document scanner that looks like magic
  • “Rediscovering the joy of drawing” I believe was said while writing an email in a demo — I don’t care, I’m all in.

I loved every single aspect of this. It’s almost enough to make me forgive Apple for killing the iPad mini. Almost.

HomePod

Yes, this was the “big reveal” — even though most everyone knew it was coming. But it was a little different than what most people expected, I suspect. Mainly because I think Apple is smart in their positioning with the device as being very heavily predicated around music. That can and probably will change in the future. But for now, that makes a lot of sense to me, for Apple. Or, as Tim Cook put it, “We’d like to reinvent home music.”

I’m torn on the name. It’s either brilliant or brilliantly creepy. It sounds like something from Alien, and the teaser video doesn’t help. Well, at least until you realize that the thing looks a lot like the ill-fated Mac Pro.

7-inches tall. A 4-inch woofer. An A8 chip, which is great and makes sense given the aspirations here beyond music. The “spatial awareness” stuff seems at least 1,000 times better than the similar Sonos feature (which involves playing insanely loud noises to get oriented). Basically, everything about this device seems like a Sonos but 1,000 times better.¹ Beyond the price, of course!

We’ll see how the audio quality, where Sonos does excel, of course, stacks up. And Apple’s own history with the iPod Hi-Fi doesn’t exactly give a ton of confidence here. But I think this may be right place, right time for Apple to sell a ton of these. Especially because “if you love one, you should see it with two,” Phil Schiller quipped at one point — and you can, for only twice the price, obviously!

Beyond all that, the most interesting aspect of the HomePod may be how Apple is not only messaging it, but intentionally limiting it to start. If I heard it right, Siri on the device won’t be able to do everything Siri can elsewhere. Instead, she’ll/he’ll be limited to a bunch of things that won’t require a screen (since the device has no screen). And again, the main focus will be on music — “who sings this?” “what album is this?” — that kind of stuff.

I understand why Apple is doing this. But I wonder if this won’t be frustrating for users who are used to Siri doing certain things on one device, but can’t on another (the same is currently true for Apple TV, of course).

Fin

Anyway, I’m about 4x-5x past my normal 500-word threshold. As you can probably tell if you read all of that, the highlight of the 2017 WWDC keynote for me was the iPad-specific iOS 11 features. I’m cautiously optimistic about the HomePod because I think the positioning is smart and the timing is right (versus the iPod Hi-Fi), but we’ll see. The iMac Pro sounds cool, but I’m unclear why it was announced six months early unless the Mac Pro is reallyfar off. And all the dad jokes sounded anything but cool.

Most blokes would have stopped at 10


M.G. Siegler | “These Go To 11

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