Dr. Mac's Thoughts on WWDC

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #127

As you may recall, Apple kicked off its annual Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco last week with one of the longest keynotes in recent memory — nearly two and a half hours — offering up a roadmap for the next generations of its three major operating systems, namely OS X, iOS, and watchOS. The whole affair was streamed live by Apple and available on Apple TV, iDevices, and any other device with a decent Web browser. But before I give you my thoughts on all the stuff Apple revealed, here’s how I watch an Apple keynote:

Dr. Mac’s First-World Guide to Watching a Streaming Apple Keynote

Note the redundant tech: An AppleTV, an iPad, and a MacBook are all running the keynote. Why? It has been my experience that one or more of the delivery mechanisms will fail during the presentation. With three devices (four if you count the iPhone in my pocket) all within arm’s reach, I won’t miss a word unless the whole feed or my Internet connection goes kablooey.

That being said, all the tech turned out to be overkill; this keynote streamed beautifully on whichever device I happened to be looking at for the entire two hours and 25 minutes.

OS X El Capitan Revealed


First up was OS X El Capitan, the next generation OS for the Mac. Just as Snow Leopard improved on Leopard and Mountain Lion all but perfected Lion, El Capitan (named for a peak in Yosemite National Park) will focus on improving Yosemite. I’m glad there are no big marquis features — like Handoff, Continuity, or Mission Control — this time around. Instead, like Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion, El Capitan will focus on making everyday activities faster and easier.

Two other things got my attention. First, the Finder finally gets some love with new window management tools called Split View and Spaces Bar, both designed to make it easier to manage the plethora of windows that constantly clutter your screen.

The second is that Safari will have a global mute button! That means when a web page starts spewing noise at you, you can silence it with a click even if you don’t know which window or tab is making the noise! You can even quickly find the window or tab that's making the noise.

Also of note is that El Capitan will include Metal, Apple’s advanced graphics acceleration technology introduced in iOS 8, which will provide up to 50% faster system-level rendering and a smoother, more fluid experience overall.

Finally, El Capitan will sport dozens of refinements such as swiping to delete a Mail message (as you can in iOS) and the ability to resize and move the Spotlight window at long last.

Next: iOS 9, watchOS 2, and "One More Thing."

iOS 9, watchOS 2, and "One More Thing."


iOS 9 Revealed


Next up was iOS 9, which is aimed at making your devices more intelligent and proactive via powerful search tools, proactive assistance, and improved Siri features. The best part: Unlike intelligent assistants on other platforms, Apple makes it happen without compromising your privacy.

A big deal for some is the Maps app gaining public transportation information for major cities. Sadly, my town (Austin, TX) isn’t on the list. Yet. The Notes app now accepts graphics and PDFs and includes finger sketching and checklists. The News and Wallet apps replace the Newsstand and Passbook apps respectively. And Apple Pay will gain support for Discover, store reward, and additional credit and debit cards.

The best part, at least for me, were the slick new multitasking features for iPads: Slide Over, Split View, and Picture-in-Picture. They do what it sounds like they do and I expect them to make it much easier to be productive on an iPad.

iOS 9’s iPad Split View with Safari on the left and Maps on the right.
Photo courtesy Apple, Inc.

watchOS 2 Revealed


After the iOS 9 reveal came watchOS 2, the first major software update for Apple Watch, bringing third-party watch faces and complications, expanded communication capabilities for Mail, Friends, and Digital Touch.

The big deal for developers (after all, this their conference) are new APIs that provide access to key Apple Watch technologies like the Digital Crown, Taptic Engine, and complications. So, third-party Apple Watch apps will start sucking less.  

Finally, the big news for non-developers was that the Apple Watch operating system is now officially known as “watchOS,” with a lower case “w” and a capital “OS.”

Then There Was “One More Thing…”


After 90 minutes, Tim Cook took a page from the Steve Jobs playbook and uttered those immortal words… “We do have one more thing…” It was, of course, Apple Music, the new subscription music service with 30 million streaming tracks, a live radio station, humanly-curated playlists, deeper Siri integration, and more.

I'm looking forward to all of these improvements and I'm tickled that, for a change, the focus is on making existing features better, faster, and easier to use instead of adding even more new features that work intermittantly (I'm looking at you, Handoff...). The show was a little long -- especially the Apple Music segment -- but overall I give it a B+. And for those who keep track of such things, this keynote was also notable for:

  • The best keynote video ever (Backstage)
  • Ending Phil Schiller's streak of 50 consecutive keynote appearences. I kind of missed him.
  • The first keynote with a presenter who wasn't a dude (and not just one, but two).   
  • The first WWDC keynote since Steve Jobs' passing to feature the old, "There is one last thing..." trick. 

If you missed it live, you can still watch the keynote on YouTube (assuming you have 144 minutes to spare). And if you’re wondering when you can get your hands on all these wonderful updates, here's the timetable:

  • Apple Music will be available on June 30.
    Free three-month trial; after that it's $9.99 a month (single user) or $14.99 (family plan for up to 6 members).
  • Public betas of OS X El Capitan and iOS 9 will be available in July.
    Suffice it to say that once you’ve installed a beta operating system on a Mac or iPhone, it can be difficult to revert to the previous version. Beta means pre-release but it also means “possibly riddled with bugs.” Only install a beta OS on a device you don’t mind erasing.
  • Final versions of El Capitan and iOS 9 are set to arrive in the fall.

And that’s all he wrote…