Apple WWDC Keynote 2013

Monday, 10 June, 2013

By Richard Gevers (Apple devotee)

As a person who uses Apple products to run my life for me, Worldwide Developers Conference 2013 (WWDC 13) has the potential to unveil some big changes that directly affect my life. The keynote address last night introduced some major changes to iOS, OSX, Macbook Air, Mac Pro, and introduced some big updates to existing functionality and apps (Siri, Safari, Maps) whilst introducing iTunes Radio, Apple's new music streaming service.

Here are some of the highlights from the keynote last night:

iOS 7
Introducing changes to the operating system that runs iPhones and iPads can be a risky business, since it serves over 600 million people and has frequently done extremely well in user satisfaction reviews. The look of the thing is impressive, but has stayed true to the original iOS feel? Only time will tell.

• Apple has introduced a Control Centre, which can be activated from within any app and gives you the ability to access settings such as wifi and brightness, and has a couple of useful features such as being able to access your music, and a built in flashlight.

• Camera and Photo apps have had a lot of work done on them, including a properly shared Photostream (group albums where members can both post and share photos, which is useful for events, families, travelling with people, etc), and a more native way of handling large numbers of photos.

• The App Store has been redesigned and something that will really ease my OCD is the fact that apps now update automatically, so hopefully this is goodbye to those little red numbers above the app store. It will also show apps popular with friends and popular in your area (like the new Discover Great Coffee App).

• Siri has been given more gender-diverse voices, and will pull data from Twitter, Wikipedia and Bing (Microsoft's search engine). I'm not sure how many people are using Siri in SA at the moment, but as area based data starts getting fuller hopefully it will get more useful soon.

• You will now also be able to Airdrop between iDevices (sadly only their most recent iterations, i.e. the fourth generation iPad and iPhone 5).

• Safari has been redesigned and fully integrated with iCloud tabs and iCloud keychain for password management, however it will have to be very impressive is use to make me change from my chrome app.

• Multitasking (running apps in the background) has had a lot of work on it, and your device will apparently be more clever about which background apps it gives attention, based on your usage, which should mean a smoother running device. There is also full screen previews when you flip between what apps are running in the background, no more the little dancing icons on the bottom of your screen.

• Generally the design looks very slick and modern, with new look messaging and a clearer and more simple and possibly cleaner approach to the homescreen and app icons.

Apple has basically run out of cats, and has now moved to a naming convention based on its native location in California. The new OSX version is entitled "Mavericks", which apparently has some significance in the surfing world?

• The smiley-faced Finder app has now got tabs (as seen in modern web-browsers for example), and each tab can have a different location and native view mode, which should make file management much easier and simpler.

• To assist with easier document management you can now tag documents (work, holiday, home, etc) and your tag headings will appear in the finder side-bar making it very easy to find files of similar nature or that are relevant to each other without having to create a web of subfolders.

• They have really improved the way multiple displays work, which is a feature that will greatly assist those of us who use that second screen at work or home. Each screen can be flipped individually, and you can full screen on without affecting the other (highly useful for report-writing and working with datasets, as well as a lot of other applications)

• Compressed Memory and App Nap should make your system more efficient and responsive. The former improves responsiveness and the latter stops background or inactive apps from using processor resources.

• Safari has been updated significantly inside and on top, and has a new sidebar and is optimised for Retina Display. Shared Links looks interesting, and the Reader mode has been improved.

• In Notifications your apps that push notifications on your iPhone or iPad can now push to your computer, and you'll have a notification section in your lock screen, as you have on your device. You can also interact directly with a notification (reply to mail, Facebook update, etc)

• Calendar has been redesigned as well, and has had more layers built into events, such as location (linked with maps), travel time and weather.

• There will now be maps on OS and you can send routes from your device to your computer, these all appear on your lock-screen. Apple Maps obviously hasn’t been a great success, but the link between the device and computer, and integration into the calendar is a really useful feature.

• iBooks will also be a part of OS now, so you can read and purchase across all your Apple products

• Not strictly part of OSX, but iWork for iCloud will now allow users to create documents in the cloud and on the web, and apparently this isn't limited to OSX or Safari.

• There is a new version of the MacBook Air. It has the same size and space options (11"; 13"; 128 GB; 256 GB) but has faster graphics and longer battery life (the 13" will apparently now last up to 12 hours on battery, its previous model lasting up to 7 hours), its flash memory has apparently been updated and it will support 802.11 ac WiFi (a Google search says this means faster wireless connections, better range, improved reliability, improved power consumption, good for gaming and HD video streaming in particular)

• Only using Apple laptops myself, I haven't had much time on the Mac desktop options (apart from annoying the "geniuses" (or genii) at the iStore) but the Mac Pro redesign is fairly major from the look of the thing. It is a black cylindrical structure built around a unified thermal core, (which to me sounds more like the description of a weapon) and only takes ⅛ of the volume of the previous Mac Pro. Twitter has had a field day with this. Here are the specs (from engadget):

o 12-core, 256-bit Intel Xeon E5 processor with 1,866MHz DDR3 RAM capable of 60GB/s data transmission
o PCIe-based flash storage
o Four USB 3.0 and six Lightning 2.0 ports (that can take up to 6 devices per port with 20Gbps throughput)
o Connections include HDMI-out 1.4, dual gigabit Ethernet jacks, WiFi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0 and the usual pair of 3.5mm audio in and out ports
o Dual AMD FirePro GPUs as standard, support 4K displays

• Improvements have been made to the AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule devices, with both supporting the new wifi ac, and more antennas.

Itunes Radio
• This is Apples response to services provided by Pandora, Songza, Spotify and a dozen others. You can basically create your own custom radio stations based on songs, artists, or your mood or the time of day, as well as sampling curated iTunes Radio stations, with social integration and ability to use across advices and computers. Given the wide-spread use of iTunes and it's impact on the music industry, this could have a huge impact on the internet-radio market, although it is very late to entry and will need to be very good to beat the likes of Pandora and Spotify who have a huge databases of licensed songs and millions of active users. Mashable provided the playlist from the event last night, which was pretty impressive.


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