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.
The worst-kept secret in Apple's recent history (post iPhone 4 leak) has been the multi-billion dollar acquisition of Beats by Dre. It finally was announced, yesterday, just days before Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference. This gave the newest Apple employees, Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, a chance to participate in the Re/code conference. Iovine spoke with his new boss, Apple's Eddy Cue, on a range of topics.
I'm always on the lookout for quality headphones, and since I'm also a huge Star Wars fan, when I saw the SMS Street by 50 Star Wars line ($199.95) at the Consumer Electronics Show, I was very excited, and snapped a photo! 50 stands for 50 Cent, the rapper turned branding sensation, and he is apparently a Star Wars fan, too. At CES, he was paired up with a couple of Stormtroopers to announce these new headphones. The phones are available in Light or Dark Sides, with Vader, Stormtrooper, Rebel Alliance, or Boba Fett variations.
Apple has announced it will televise its WWDC Keynote, which will take place at 10 a.m. Pacific time on Monday. Specifically, the announcement will stream to Apple TV users via a channel that will appear Monday morning. And visitors to Apple.com can watch it using recent versions of Safari on a Mac or iOS device, or Quicktime 7 on Windows. If you have the WWDC app and an iOS or Mac OS developer account, you should have access the keynote as well as all the videos of the conference sessions, once they are posted.
Apple has switched processors before. Apple switched Macs from the original Motorola 68000 series of CPUs (Central Processing Unit) to the PowerPC RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) chip codeveloped by IBM and Motorola, and later to the Intel x86 family made popular by Windows PCs. But it was not without controversy, and they had compelling reasons to do so, such as performance and availability. As if by clockwork, there is another rumor that Apple might do it again, this time with the ARM chip used in their iOS product line. Apparently, according to Apple Insider, Apple is testing a MacBook Air type device running with an ARM chipset.
Apple's WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) is less than a week away, and while most of the anticipation is around the rumored Beats acquisition, Apple may have "one more thing" to surprise us with. Apple TV is due for an update; and rather than focus just on entertainment, according to the Financial Times via MacRumors, it looks like Apple is working on a Smart Home platform, and the Apple TV could be one component of that. TV-based competitors like Time Warner offer "Intelligent Home" that lets customers control smart devices such as lights, thermostats, and webcams from apps. Apple already has a section on its online store labeled "Connected Home."