The dust hasn't even settled on Apple's mega-acquisition of Beats by Dre and Beats Music. The subscription service has been regarded as a better interface than iTunes Radio, Apple's internally developed answer to Pandora and Spotify. Now, Amazon wants to get into the act. Not satisfied selling music, books and movies, they now offer a streaming service called Prime Music. The service has over one million songs, including popular Grammy winners, so this is not a rehash of your father's old playlist.
Apple's WWDC 2014 brought a new version of iOS 8 but no new hardware. However, developers are talking about resizeable iPhone screens in the simulator. But that could refer to a "split-screen" feature, as seen on some Microsoft Windows 8 and Android devices. This feature would make it easier to copy and paste from one app to another, or just to view multiple apps simultaneously. Still, all signs point to larger screens (4.7-inch and even 5.5-inch) in the works, if only to keep up with the Android "phablet" trend.
Say "Bonjour" to the next iPhone, perhaps, thanks to French website NowhereElse.fr. The site has published photos of the alleged metal case for the next iPhone, with room for a 4.7-inch screen. Additional changes include moving the lock button from the top to the side. Apple has, to date, shied away from larger iPhone sizes because of concerns about usability in one hand. This change might be to address that concern.
Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference has come and gone. While there were plenty of surprises, like a whole new programming language called Swift, new hardware was conspicuously absent. Indeed Apple's hardware chief, Phil Schiller didn't even take the stage at the WWDC Keynote. However, Eddy Cue has been on the record days before WWDC saying "Later this year, we've got the best product pipeline that I've seen in my 25 years at Apple." All of this points to a flood of hardware releases in time for the Holidays. So what can we expect?
With the addition of Beats and Dr. Dre, Apple continues to push the idea that they know how to party. Music and musicians have always been a part of Apple, going back to Steve Jobs' love of the Beatles and Bob Dylan. It was a major dream come true for him to have them finally on iTunes, and featured in a number of Apple commercials. Jobs wasn't the only "Apple Steve" who was into music. Steve Wozniak started the unprofitable (by design) but impressive US Festival in 1982 and 1983, like Woodstock with (slightly) fewer drugs.
As an app developer, I was pleasantly surprised by the WWDC announcement of App Bundles. A developer will be able to group together a set of apps and offer them at a special combined price. Think back to the old pre-Office365 days when a consumer might buy Microsoft Office versus buying Word, Excel, and PowerPoint separately, and get a better price by doing so.
Everyone asks me right after (and often during) an Apple keynote "what was the best thing they announced?" Since this event was all about software, and there were so many new features announced, I had to ponder it all and let it sink in. And I thought, "What would my wife care about?"
WWDC's keynote with Tim Cook and company has come and gone, and what is striking is not what was announced, but what was not announced. A new version of Mac OS and iOS is always to be expected at WWDC. WWDC is when and where developers go to learn direct from the source. I've attended a few times and it's been a great way to learn about new frameworks and tools. It's a no brainer that Apple would use that venue to reveal the next generation of their mobile and computer-based operating systems. But Apple usually has one or two hardware announcements at WWDC. With a captive audience of 5,000-plus Apple computer owners, plus countless more watching the live stream, it's a great opportunity to sell hardware. Maybe not a new phone but usually there is a refreshed or all new MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, or the Mac Pro or Mac mini. Last year it was the dramatically redesigned cylindrical Mac Pro. Before that it was the MacBook Pro Retina. After all, in a crowded room, it's likely that someone is celebrating a birthday that week. So, with such a broad product line from Apple, there is always some device ready to be updated.
As expected, Apple introduced HomeKit, a platform to standardize new and existing home automation systems. They didn't announce any new hardware, but that's probably for the best. Rather than stifle competition, HomeKit can help encourage competing vendors like Lowes, Schlage, Google's Nest and others by making it easy to work together. Lights, locks, thermostats, garage door openers from different manufacturers can now be controlled by Siri or third-party apps, as long as the devices leverage iOS 8 and HealthKit.
While iPhone Lifers are interested in iPhones, iPads, and iPods, the "halo effect" means Macs are important too. As customers become Apple users for the first time, they appreciate the quality, performance, design, and finish that Apple provides; and when it's time to purchase a computer, a Mac often ends up on the short list. Of course, iOS app developers have to use Macs, so iOS and Mac devices are linked together. Finally, Apple has been combining the best features of iOS with Mac OS, and vice versa. With that in mind, let's look at the Mac news from today's WWDC keynote.