Apple held its annual developers conference this week where they made a score of new announcements. Like other Apple events, it was carefully choreographed and filled with presenters that exuded excitement and enthusiasm about what they each presented. It reminded me of an adult version of a kindergarten’s class of “show and tell.”
Like all Apple events, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and become mesmerized by all the shiny objects flashing on the screen. No one does a presentation quite like Apple. But it’s best to wait a day or two to let the excitement diminish and take a second look to see how all of this effects us. Here’s my takeaway on what it all means.
The big news was the expected announcement that Apple is moving away from using Intel chips in its computers, replacing them over the next two years with their own designs, based on architecture from ARM, a British company that, by the way, was never mentioned during the event. This has a big impact for software developers that need to redesign their software, but for us, consumers, not so big. Yes, it should make the computers we buy next year or the year after run a little faster, and perhaps have longer battery lives. But the expected cost benefit will likely go to Apple’s bottom line and not to lower priced products. It’s essentially the type of progress we expect in tech.
Apple continues to try to make the iPad an alternative to the computer by adding more computer-like features: an improved filing system, more robust apps, etc. But at the same time, Apple is trying to make its computer operating system more like an iPad. The company announced tools and software to allow iPad apps to run on Mac computers. But, most of the apps are designed to work a touch screen, and, so far, Apple has shown no inclination to add one to the Mac. This leaves a lot of unanswered questions and second guessing if a touchscreen will ever come to the Mac.
For iPhone users, Apple announced a range of cosmetic changes and new features on how the apps are organized on the display. Icons will have a new look with rounded corners and less intense colors. The organizational changes will allow apps to be automatically organized by category to better find and use the hundreds of apps many of us have.
Apple announced the addition of “widgets” to the home page, making iPhones more akin to Android and the Windows 10 operating system. Widgets are windows of different sizes that can appear on your screen to display information, such as weather, time or email without opening up the app. It adds complexity but reduces the number of clicks needed to see information within the app.
Apple is taking steps to make their products more private than those from others. When we download an app, we have no idea what the app is doing with our data. Apple will now require each app to tell us first using a box that shows up on the App Store. Apple compared it to the nutrition labels on prepared food. But it’s unlikely we’ll pay attention and doesn’t address why the app needs the data, leaving it up to us to figure that out. Apps will now be required to ask your permission to track you across other apps and websites. These are welcome additions to address security, but their practicality is limited.
Finally, Apple is relenting a bit on not allowing us to chose our default email and browser of choice. Now we can. Apple showed improvements to its Map product, now adding features for bicyclists and routing for electric vehicles that shows best choices for directions with charging stations along the way.
Apple noticeably made no mention of upgrading most of its other apps. It looks like we’ll need to live with their old Apple Mail and Calendar apps for another year or use one of the better alternatives.
Lastly, Apple announced a new version of its Macintosh operating system. The new version, called Big Sur, provides an upgrade to the Safari browser, including adding some of the privacy features that it’s bringing to its apps. It’s also providing a major cosmetic overhaul to the OS, using elements from the iPhone and iPad, and bringing over the look and functionality of their notification center and control panel.
By now I think it’s becoming clear that Apple’ has been focused on making the iPad look more like a Mac and the Mac look more like an iPad. Their objective, as I see it, is to make us more comfortable moving between their devices, making the development environment easier for its developers to bring their apps to all of the devices, and, most importantly, to use the new chip designs to eventually migrate more of us from computers to iPads. The point of convergence looks like it will be one and the same: a Mac with a touch screen or an iPad with a keyboard. morphing into the same product, and fulfilling Steve Job’s goal of the iPad becoming our main computer.
UPDATE FROM LAST WEEK
Last week I wrote about how Hey, the new email product, was rejected from the Apple Store and how a the company was claiming foul. Well, Apple essentially relented and allowed Hey’s app back into the store without requiring the company to sell on the store.