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WWDC 2016 Keynote Recap

Even in the post-Steve Jobs era, Apple keynotes seldom disappoint, and this year’s presentation was no exception. But in the company’s continuing efforts to engage with the world outside the tech industry, CEO Tim Cook led off with an acknowledgment of the horrific shooting in Orlando, calling it “a senseless, unconscionable act of terrorism and hate, aimed at dividing and destroying.” Then he asked the audience to rise and join him in a moment of silence. It was a tasteful move, and a heartfelt one.

After that, Cook ran through some numbers, noting that there are now 13 million developers writing for Apple platforms. The iOS App Store now boasts 2 million apps, and Apple says it has paid $50 billion to developers. On the other end of the spectrum, Apple was happy to announce that there are now over 6000 apps for the Apple TV.

We were chatting during the keynote with more than 60 people in the #events channel of SlackBITS where there was some snark about how broadly that $50 billion has been distributed. (It might be somewhat disjointed, but you could mimic the experience by watching the video while scrolling through the discussion. SlackBITS has almost 600 members now; feel free to join us!)

With no new hardware announced, the rest of the keynote focused on forthcoming updates to Apple’s four operating systems: OS X, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. Wait, did I say OS X? No longer, because with the next release, Apple is renaming it macOS to match its siblings. It will undoubtedly take everyone a while to become accustomed to the name change, but we’re in favor of it, both for consistency reasons and because we were unhappy when Apple dropped the “Mac” in “Mac OS X” during the days of Lion. It’s the Mac’s operating system, so Mac should be in the name. Although macOS will still have a version number (10.12), Apple is also continuing with its recent practice of using California-based names, so the full name will be macOS 10.12 Sierra, which we’ll start abbreviating once it becomes well recognized.

Speaking of macOS 10.12 Sierra, I wrote about it in “macOS 10.12 Sierra to Succeed OS X 10.11 El Capitan” (13 June 2016), but it will be most notable for adding support for Siri, enhancing Photos with automatic recognition technologies, and enabling Apple Pay for the Web so you can pay via Safari. To integrate the Mac more deeply into Apple’s ecosystem, you’ll be able to auto-unlock your Mac when you’re wearing an Apple Watch (finally!), copy and paste between all your Apple devices, and access everything in your Desktop and Documents folders on any device via iCloud Drive. Lower-level features include Optimized Storage, which automatically frees up space on your Mac by uploading rarely used files to the cloud; tab support in all apps; and picture-in-picture support for those who just have to watch videos while working.

If that sounds like a lot, sit down, since iOS 10 promises even bigger changes. In keeping with the version number, Apple showed off ten notable changes that Josh Centers covered in “iOS 10 Promises New Lock Screen, Open Siri, and More” (13 June 2016). For here, suffice to say that iOS 10 will:

  1. Radically improve the lock screen experience
  2. Open Siri up to developers
  3. Offer better typing suggestions
  4. Enhance Photos
  5. Give Maps significantly more capabilities
  6. Redesign the Music app
  7. Add subscriptions to a redesigned News app
  8. Extend the capabilities of HomeKit for home automation
  9. Add voicemail transcription for phone calls
  10. Build all sorts of fancy effects into Messages

In some ways, the most compelling update is watchOS 3, which is vastly faster, adds more watch faces with more complications, and simplifies replying to messages, as explained by Tonya Engst in “Why watchOS 3 Will Be Nimble and Nifty” (13 June 2016). In two changes familiar from iOS, the side button will now display the Dock, which you can configure with your most-used apps, and swiping up from the bottom of the screen shows Control Center. Pressing and holding on the side button brings up an SOS screen for making an emergency call. Apple has improved the popular Timer app, and the Activity app now offers activity sharing and gains awareness of the activity of wheelchair users. A new app called Breathe helps users relax with deep-breathing exercises.

Rounding out the platform updates, tvOS 10 enhances its support for Siri, brings single sign-on for apps that require cable or satellite subscriptions, and adds a dark mode for those who find the brightness of the interface visually painful. Julio Ojeda-Zapata covered those changes in “tvOS 10 to Get Improved Siri, Single Sign-on, iOS Remote App” (13 June 2016). A new iOS Remote app can do everything the Siri Remote can, including work with Siri, navigate the interface, and act as a game controller. Finally, if you get an iOS app with an Apple TV version, it will download automatically, saving you a search in the Apple TV App Store.

For each of these new operating systems, developer previews are available now, with the free public releases slated for “this fall.” That’s likely to mean sometime in September or October, and given how integrated these systems are with one another, it’s likely they’ll all be out at the same time. (Take Control authors, start your keyboards!) Both macOS 10.12 Sierra and iOS 10 will have public betas starting in July, if you want to give them a spin.

Finally, it’s worth noting that this keynote had the most diverse set of presenters ever, most of whom did at least as good a job as Apple’s white male executives. That emphasis on diversity was bolstered by a video of Apple developers that showcased developers around the world. And, as long as we’re talking about gender equality, watchOS 3 adds a Minnie Mouse watch face. Like most tech companies, Apple’s employees, particularly among engineers and executives, may not be as diverse as the company’s customers, but it’s great to see the company making an effort to include women and minorities prominently.

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