Apple’s WWDC: Instant Analyses

by John Kirk   |   June 13th, 2013

Introduction

Through the graciousness of Techpinions and Apple Inc., I was able to attend the Apple World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), held this past Monday, June 10, 2013. I have a couple of in-depth articles that I’m working on, but since we, here at Techpinions, are far more about perspective and far less about the latest news coverage, I’m going to give those articles a little time to “breathe” so that I can develop them further. I’m very excited about these upcoming articles and I’m looking forward to sharing them with you in the very near future.

In the meantime, since the WWDC was so broad and so far-reaching, I thought that I would go through the conference video, step-by-step and provide some “snap” analyses of some of the less well known – or perhaps less well appreciated – aspects of the keynote speech. If you have additional insights, please let us know in the comments, below.

Overall Impression: Apple events are incredibly well-organized. The presentation was two hours long and it was packed full. The pace of the presentation was fast and furious as Apple tried to deliver as much information in those two hours as they possibly could.

Apple’s Philosophy

“Only Apple could do this…” – Tim Cook

00:10: If you want to know how Apple sees itself or, at the very least, how Apple wants the world to see them, watch the video that opens the conference. There’s a lot of depth to this short video. Expect to read much more about it, here, in a future Techpinions’ article.

Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers

03:20: 6 million registered developers. 1.5 million new developers in the past year alone. Sold out the developer’s conference in 71 seconds.

07:40: 50 billion Apps.

That’s a lot of zeroes (50,000,000,000).

375,000 apps designed specifically for the iPad. Competitors? In the hundreds. One of Apple’s key differentiators.

575,000 million accounts, most with credit cards attached. Don’t underestimate the value of this. It’s HUGE. Think iTunes. Think iTunes Radio. Think payments. Think BIG.

“More accounts with credit cards than any store on the internet that we’re aware of” ~ Tim Cook

08:48: Apple paid developers 10 billion dollars.

5 billion of that paid just in the last year … three times more than all other platforms combined.” ~ Tim Cook

If there is one thing that the analysts are overlooking, it is this. If you want to truly measure which operating system is doing better, don’t look at the number of sales, look at the number of developers and the number of dollars being paid to those developers. By that measure, Apple is running away from the pack.

OS X: Mavericks

With Apple, it’s not about gathering the latest features together, it’s about having features that work the greatest together. Apple doesn’t strive to be the first, they strive to be the best.

iCloud Keychain

36:15: Apple will suggest, retain and maintain your passwords and credit card numbers. I’ll have to see how this works in practice before I make a final judgment, but this was the first of many times when I thought, “Aha!”:

- My mom could do this, moment #1

Apple’s Technology Philosophy

An aside about Apple’s technology adoption and legacy philosophy. Apple is quick to discard the old, slow to adopt the new. It’s a weird mix that confuses many observers. Google aggressively moves forward. Microsoft aggressively retains backwards compatibility. Apple moves forward conservatively and discards the old aggressively.

Weird, right? Get used to it. It ain’t going to change anytime soon.

MacBook Air

In the age of the iPad, what is the future of the notebook?

48:00: (Hint from Apple: “It’s the MacBook Air”.)

The new MacBook Air is almost identical to the old MacBook Air except that it contains Intel’s newest Haswell processor. The key difference is battery life:

– 9 hours for the 11 inch MacBook Air
– 12 hours for the 13 inch MacBook Air

TWELVE HOURS! Yikes.

Of course, no retina display. As Renee Ritchie of iMore is fond of saying, smaller, better battery life or retina display…pick two.

There was no mention of the MacBook Pro at the event, but rumor has it that it too will appear with a Haswell chip AND a retina display in the next 3 to 4 months.

By the way, is Apple seriously going after the PC market too? Stay tuned. More on that from Techpinions, yet to come.

Mac Pro

“Can’t innovate anymore, my ass.” – Phil Schiller

52:15: Some say that Phil Schiller’s comment, above, was defensive. Hmm. I would say that words like “defiant”, “decisive” or “determined” would be much more aptly employed to describe the true tenor of his remark.

The Mac Pro has incredible design, power and speed, all housed in a teeny-tiny casing. The numbers being thrown around to describe the device were pure tech porn to the nerds attending the convention1.

However, while the Mac Pro will undoubtably be great…will it be great for anybody? Sure it will be perfect for someone like Pixar. But how many Pixar’s are out there? Will it truly be practical for many others? Not so sure. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Designed in California, Assembled in USA

01:39: This is Apple’s new tagline. Apple is now making the Mac Pro in the United States and they’re naming their OS X software after locations in California (starting with “Mavericks”). This is about as politically correct as it gets.

Expect to see this new tagline…like…ya’ know, – A LOT.

The Mac Is Back

60:00: One. Full. Hour.

Spent on the Mac.

If you thought that the Mac was dead, you were dead wrong. And it you thought the Mac was going to become the iPad, then get used to disappointment.

iWork In The iCloud

Create on your Mac, edit on your PC, present on your iPhone.

62:00: Sort of Apple’s take on Google Docs. I’ll have to wait until I get my hands on it but, without a doubt, a fascinating new direction for Apple.

Is iOS Both The Best AND The Most Popular OS?

69:30: Tim Cook seems to think so.

You can bet your life that I’ll be “liberating” large parts of this portion of the keynote for use in constructing an Insider’s article on this topic in the very near future.

If you can’t wait and want to have it served to you straight from the Cook’s kitchen, go have a look at the video starting at the 69:30, mark.

Apple’s Design Philosophy

“True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence of clutter and ornamentation. It’s about bringing order to complexity.” ~ Jony Ive

75:10: If you want to understand what Apple’s design philosophy is, go watch this video…

…then watch it again.

And again.

Tim Cook And Company Relish The Challenge

79:45: If you want to see a happy Tim Cook – a genuinely happy Tim Cook – just watch the video, starting at the 79:45 mark.

Apple may be under pressure from Wall Street but, if they are, Tim Cook and company seem to relish the challenge. I’ve never seen Steve Job’s captains look more upbeat, more excited, more confident or more determined than they did in this presentation. A lot of humor. A lot of enthusiasm. A lot of energy. A lot of optimism. Lot’s and lot’s of of optimism.

iOS 7′s Icons

81:15: Saying that iOS 7 is doomed to fail just because of the look of the icons introduced at the World Wide Developer Conference, is like saying that a bride is doomed to ugliness just because of how she looks, sans makeup, when she’s having her wedding dress fitted.

Let’s all take a deep breath, step back and give this thing a chance to unfold, shall we?

I’m not saying that there has been a rush to judgment…

…I’m saying that there has been a “gush” of judgment – most of which will, hopefully, be flushed away by the tides of time.

My take: They say there is nothing new in iOS 7. But there’s also nothing new in a cake or souffle. It’s not new ingredients that count, it’s how the ingredients are put together that makes a meal a masterpiece.2 Let’s give this cake a little time to bake and see if it rises, okay?

Gestures For Moving In And Out…

85:10: Universal gesture from left edge of display for moving in and out of apps…

- My mom could do this, moment #2

Control Center

87:20: A universal gesture, available from anywhere, even on your lock screen.

- My mom could do this, moment #3

Multi-Tasking

88:00: Simple. Powerful. Simply powerful.

And as Ben Bajarin reminded me, this may be an even MORE powerful feature on the iPad.

- My mom could do this, moment #4

Siri

101:45: New interface; new voices; new commands; answers more questions; hooks to wikipedia, twitter and Bing….

Hmm. Definitely a wait and see kind of deal.

iOS In The Car

103:25 Very quiet introduction. May be a much bigger thing than people realize. Need to wrap my brain around it. Go see Horace Dediu’s initial thoughts on it, here.

Automatic System And App Updates

105:35: - My mom will love this, moment #5

Music Match And iTunes Radio Integration

106:00: Hmm. Not hearing much buzz surrounding this. Yet I think it could be huge.

Music Match iCloud integration makes it easy to recover your music from the cloud. iTunes Radio makes it easy to discover your music from the cloud. Music Match costs $24.99 per year. iTunes Radio is free with ads…or free without ads if you are a Music Match subscriber.

Hmm. Music discoverability…built right into your existing music app…integrated with iTunes…easy, one-button purchases…that play on your iPod, iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple TV. That’s not a big deal?

Now the discoverability portion of the product is a complete unknown. That will make or break this service. Will iTunes Radio be another Ping…or will it be the next big thing?

- My mom could do this, moment #6

Activation Lock

112:05: If an unauthorized person tries to turn off “Find My iPhone” or wipe my device, they won’t be able to reactivate it. A powerful theft deterrent.

- My mom could understand the importance of this, moment #7

1,500 New APIs

112:55: ‘Nuff said.3

“Biggest Change To iOS Since The Introduction Of The iPhone”

115:05: By my count, Tim Cook and company said words to this effect on three – perhaps four – occasions.

iOS is not just a coat of paint. It is designed to be a “comprehensive end-to-end redesign of the user experience.”

Apple’s goal with iOS can be summed up this way:

It’s like getting an entirely new phone, but one that you already know how to use.

That is one truly ambitious goal. Only time – and the market – (and definitely NOT the critics) – will tell if Apple was able to pull it off.

Apple’s Signature

116:45 Final video and Apple’s future Ad campaign. A branding campaign, not a product campaign. And what does Apple want their brand to stand for?

– This is what matters.
– The experience of a product.
– How it makes someone feel – delight, surprise, love, connection.
– Does it deserve to exist?

This is our signature…and it means everything.

(M)ore than just words…values we live by… ~ Tim Cook

If you don’t get Apple after watching this video…you just don’t get it.

  1. Nerds like me []
  2. Tip o’ the hat to Jean-Louise Gasse, for the analogy. []
  3. One possible caveat: An API to integrate with 3rd party game controllers? Hmm. Start packing your bags, game console makers. []

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?
  • Defendor

    Generally our views coincide so much that I have little to argue with in your excellent articles. But with this WWDC, our views are diverging.

    On iOS 7, I am reminded of a couple of things Steve Jobs said. One was about saying no a thousand times, to keep from going off track. The other was about Microsoft having no taste. After seeing iOS 7, I think that without Steve Jobs to say “No”, Apple has no taste anymore.

    The rush to judgement is only a good thing if any of filters back into Apple to fix some of this, but I have no faith that will happen. Apple has long had an “Apple knows best” philosophy, that I still think is present. But lacking the excellent instincts of Steve Jobs.

    On Mac Pro: Cool Halo Product.

    But it is the first time that I remember a long lead time, early announcement on Apple HW that wasn’t something that needed new software (first iPhone, iPad). I often commended Apple the short announce to ship window. The long lead time, I often characterize as act of desperation, when you have nothing, but you are trying to get people to wait, and not buy competing products. So I see it the same way when Apple does it.

    So my take away from WWDC info, is an Apple showing questionable taste, and desperation with long lead on a HW product to try and stop buyer defection.

    • benbajarin

      I think you bring up some interesting points and I have a few to offer as well. I’d be curious if you have a strong critique of the added functionality of iOS 7 rather than the aesthetic? This I think is a bigger deal philosophically than simple design aesthetics. In design for this something like the icons were done last, the methodology is thought out first and its the part I think is key.

      I also think we should take some of the design aesthetic with a grain of salt. Perhaps somethings will still change. Perhaps devs will give feedback and some things will change. I think, like John pointed out, we do need to wait until its final to fully judge it.

      To your last point, I don’t actually think those in the Mac Pro community were going to go actively looking for something else. This is not a big market, Apple only sells low hundreds of thousands of these things every quarter. I think its interesting that they put the engineering and RND into something that ships so little volume. This was more about re-stating their commitment to this community than anything else. That I think is actually a big deal.

      • Defendor

        Mainly it is the aesthetics, that I don’t like, but my take is, good aesthetics aid in interface discovery, and I think the the new aesthetics impair that. So the new aesthetic is also a functionality detraction.

        I have watched various videos/anims at Apple and more on other pages.

        The only things I like is the new Multi-tasking, and the tab viewing in Safari. Kudos for that.

        Aesthetic issues aren’t just the home screen bad icons, and bubble gum colors. Nearly every application looks worse to me. The new Phone App aesthetics challenge my gag reflex.

        In all the videos I haven’t seen a single case where I think the translucency rises above the level of gimmick. It isn’t like I am going to forget the other half of my screen still contains icons, and the bleed through is again potentially harming legibility, so another functional detraction.

        Here is an example image from Apple. What purpose does translucency serve here? I can’t see one. But I can see that it is harder, more distracting to read the song title because of the unstable background. I think this UI element would be better without translucency. So this looks like functionality impairing gimmick:

        http://movies.apple.com/media/us/ios/ios7/f34c5445-5a9c-4b3a-9556-8efe89147559/shared_controlcenter/shared_controlcenter_endframe.jpg

        So while there are some functionality improvements, the aesthetics everywhere look pretty bad to and they, arguably, can also impair functionality.

        The iOS 7 reveal has completely changed my plans from highly certain I was going to buy an iPad (and likely a Mac Mini) to highly certain I won’t buy either. While their may be small tweaks, the direction is clear and it is not where I want to go.

      • steve_wildstrom

        Apple has two reasons to invest in this market. first, although sales volumes are very small, as Ben notes, margins are very high, so the Mac Pro contributes a nice piece of profit. Second, and more important, Apple;s hold on some key “halo” markets was slipping. HP was courting Hollywood very aggressively and Apple’s hold on graphic designers, video producers, photographers, etc., was slipping because of out-of-date hardware.

    • FalKirk

      First impressions can be deceiving. I’m not judging iOS 7 one way or the other until I – and the developer community – and, I guess, ultimately, consumers – give it more time.

      • Defendor

        There seems to be too much momentum away from where I want to go, to expect an outcome I would like. But until a small alternative tablet drops with high PPI, my decision isn’t final.

        I have already seen the CoM link before, but my concern isn’t where the fault lies. Ultimately it lies at the top. What happened to mediocrity being unacceptable for public demo at Apple?

        BTW I had a better, more detailed reply but Disqus ate it. At times the entire comment section disappears, if editing, my message is lost.

        • FalKirk

          “BTW I had a better, more detailed reply but Disqus ate it.” – Defendor

          Disqus eat all my genius replies. Only my mediocre stuff gets through. :)

          • Defendor

            I guess that does kind of sound like the dog ate my homework. :)

            But intermittently here, the whole comment section disappears. Not a huge deal when reading, but if you are writing a post when that happens, it is gone.

          • steve_wildstrom

            We feel your pain, since it happens to us too. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, Disqus is the worst commenting system around, except for all the others.

          • FalKirk

            “I guess that does kind of sound like the dog ate my homework. :)” – Defendor

            Oh, so sorry! I sincerely wasn’t aiming a tongue-in-cheek insult at you. I was genuinely laughing at myself. If ONLY I had Disqus to blame for some of my lame comments!

            Please forgive the unintentional slur. Your comments are truly top notch.

    • Rich

      They could be trying to stop *investor* defection, since I personally think many investors have excessively short-term views. I don’t believe they need to worry much about people who own Apple products.

      As far as taste goes, Cook bragged a lot, but so did Steve Jobs – I remember him doing it. And referring to Phil Schiller’s “Can’t innovate anymore, my ass,” I really don’t blame him for saying that. I too am tired of people doubting Apple when the doubters, like investors, have excessively short-term views (actually, the doubters may *be* investors).

      I’m sorry Defendor, I don’t buy the “Apple’s losing it without Steve Jobs” stuff.

      • Defendor

        I am not sure how my comment on taste, is related to the bragging of any Apple staff. I didn’t say I cared about what anyone at Apple says. I care what they do.

        My concern is with the poor aesthetic design taste, demonstrated all through the iOS 7 preview.

        I do think Steve Jobs was a huge factor in the design aesthetic during his years. My estimation of that importance, was greatly increased by this iOS 7 preview. I really can’t imagine such a jarring preview during the years that Jobs was active at Apple.

        While I used to disregard the “Apple needs Steve Jobs” stuff in the past, WWDC was something of an epiphany for me.

        I don’t necessary think Apple is losing it. I think there are many great products in their future. But I do think the “Taste Playfield” is now leveled without Steve Jobs.

        • joshalfie

          You are obviously entitled to your opinion, however, design and taste is always based on perspective. It seems like you share the design taste of Steve Jobs when it comes to skeuomorphism, many would argue against. I for one would.

          I feel the design seems more modern and welcome the change.

    • FalKirk

      Defendor, you might want to read this short article:

      http://www.cultofmac.com/231674/apples-designers-werent-in-charge-of-ios-7-icons-overall-design-still-a-work-in-progress/

      The key takaway is that Jony Ive had the marketing team – not Apple’s own designers – do the icons because he wanted a break from the past. Further:

      “…the teams working on different parts of iOS 7 within Apple didn’t collaborate much during the design process. That explains why there’s little visual consistency between apps.

      The good news is that iOS 7 will probably change quite a bit before it ships to the public this fall.”

  • Rich

    To me, Apple rules, that’s all.

  • James King

    Reading a lot of criticism re: the Mac Pro but I personally think it is one of the most significant feats of engineering Apple has done in a long time. In fact, I think the Mac Pro might be more awesome than most people think. I don’t think it is just a computer, I think Apple conceptualized it to be chained with other Mac Pros to make cheap super computers. A few hundred or thousand of them chained together and you might have something amazing on your hands.

    • jfutral

      I think the Mac Pro is a clear differentiator between Apple and other PC makers. If any other vendor tried to make this I feel like they would be trying to force a square peg in a round hole. Apple (from what I can tell by observation only) designed this based as much on how they expect it will be used.

      Joe

      • unhinged

        Apple is the vendor that forced a triangular hole into a round peg. :)

  • Dark Templar

    I would agree with Defendor on this subject. As I pointed out before in another post,
    I am among those who think that the elegance of iOS lies precisely in
    the visual richness and attention to detail of skeuomorphism and this
    is, among other things, what differentiated iOS from the other mobile
    operating systems. iOS 7 provides features we expected for some time (Control Center, Multi-Tasking, Gestures), but was it necessary for this evolution to be accompanied by a such radical change in design? Evolution in design, yes, but this ? Let us not forget that an excellent mobile operating system must be an excellent balance between design and functionality.

  • Dark Templar

    Oh, and by the way, the MAC PRO is really awesome, from a design perspective but also technically speaking (I’m a graphic designer, so I do need computing muscles…) It’s like a some object from the space :)

  • Dark Templar
  • Defendor

    After watching more videos, and thinking about it some more, it now appears to me, that the badly drawn icons, and arguably ugly pastel color palette, are just distractions, from a more serious and fundamental flaw in iOS 7.

    iOS 7 no longer has an intuitive user interface!

    I will preface buy stating I don’t use an iOS device currently. But when I look at iOS 6 screen shots and video, it is immediately obvious where the buttons are, and what you must do. I Grok iOS 6 instantly without using it.

    But when I look at the new iOS 7 app screens shots, I don’t get it. It isn’t obvious what to do. In the video they talk about the interface receding, tapping the screen here, or sliding from there. But none of this is obvious. The app screens are largely bereft of controls, and those that are present have no dimensional cues that they are, in fact, controls. Or worse, controls are invisible requiring gestures.

    I am a computer nerd, I would adapt, but that nerd in me also would like file system access, native MKV playback, changing the OS skin, unrestricted app installation, etc… like you can get in Android.

    But I have a strong additional factor to consider. I plan to make another attempt to connect my aging computer-phobic mother to the internet via whatever tablet I purchased. Without any question in my mind, iOS WAS the clear choice for having the best chance of presenting something she could get a handle on (she could never manage a 2 button mouse in Windows).

    Now the flat interface has taken a massive step backwards in providing the visual cues needed to intuit how to interact with applications. I really don’t think that case can be made anymore. If I don’t get it instantly, just by looking at it, I don’t think she has any chance at all.

    So not only does iOS 7 convince me that the “Taste Playfield” has been leveled between Apple and the rest of the industry, I think the “Intuitive Playfield” has been leveled as well.

    While these moves may not harm Apples success, I am quite dismayed with the change in direction.

    • benbajarin

      This is an important conversational topic. I wonder the degree that many of these common use cases with smartphone functionality is intuitive enough. Something like the good enough philosophy of products.

      What I mean by that is that there are many features or actions which remain the same in iOS 7. Basic functionality remains the same but additional functionality is added if people so choose.

      They did add some new gestures, which I think is interesting and may take a little learning. There are actually quite a bit of multi-finger gestures, specifically on iPad, but I rarely use them.

      I’m just wondering, to your point, if we are at a point where even the least techie groups can advance with a platform. One must conclude that advancing computing is necessary and like the platforms approach of course. But I’m thinking about how the learning curve for these consumers was once high, but is now lower as they have matured.

      Also, this is a snapshot of the world today. Obviously, the mass market of the future will be 10 times more tech literate than today.

      • Defendor

        I don’t really expect much problem for the young, computer savvy, and current iOS users. Which is why I don’t really expect the interface becoming less intuitive, will harm Apple sales.

        My concern is of a more personal nature involving what is an extremely tiny and shrinking niche, of aging computer illiterates like my aging Mother. She doesn’t use any computer UI/Internet at all. So she isn’t getting more computer literate as time goes by.

        iOS is no longer my “Go To” solution for her. Perhaps the likely best choice for her now may be a “Chromebook”. Something I have no interest in ever owning for myself.

        I would have preferred an intuitive tablet solution.

    • Nangka

      Your concerns would be valid if iOS 7 was on the original iPhone. But as John Gruber noted in his WWDC 2013 expectations post, it’s been 6 years & many hardware & software iterations and the training wheels have come off. Users know the app icons & gestures concept and that’s why Apple has moved on to new areas of UI & UX.

      http://daringfireball.net/2013/06/wwdc_2013_expectations

      • Defendor

        Already answered below, when Ben made a more nuanced, but similar argument. Short answer version. Training wheels are still needed for people who have never touched a smartphone/talbet before, and are not regular computer users either.