WWDC 2016: No Surprises and Some Heartfelt Moments

Apple’s 27th WWDC was filled with almost no surprises. Tim Cook went over some impressive facts and figures like the App store reaching 2 million apps and over 130 billion downloads and over $50 billion in revenue paid to developers. Then he let his staff take over and they showed off the four operating systems that Apple will be releasing to the public this fall, tvOS, watchOS, MacOS (they renamed OS X) and iOS. All of these systems were made available to developers along with Siri and iMessage to add increased functionality to the entire ecosystem. The problem is that we saw each and every one of these things coming.

Apple’s events have become so heavily scrutinized and so much analysis of the coming products is done before hand that there is rarely anything to cheer about. As I watched the livestream on Apple’s website I just kept ticking off the rumours that I’d read about. There was one thing that surprised me though and to be fair, it’s been highlighted many times since the passing of the great Steve Jobs, Apple’s keynotes aren’t fun anymore. I really felt this when they started their keynote with the Apple watch.

Apple continues to push the Apple watch, a niche product on to the general public
Apple continues to push the Apple watch, a niche product on to the general public

They’ve desperately tried to push this little gadget on to the public but it doesn’t have any value to it. And half the time I’m too bored or don’t care about any of the stuff on that little square screen that has been pushed on to consumers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great product for health and fitness and biomedical research but that’s what it is, a niche product that’s been pushed to the general public and now they’re struggling to find a use for it.

Apple added new features to iMessage including replacing words with emojis and making person to person pay transfers
Apple added new features to iMessage including replacing words with emojis and making person to person pay transfers

The rest of the keynote also did something that visibly showed how much the company has drifted from the vision of Steve Jobs. Siri was opened to third party developers as well as iMessage so that the apps could be made more interactive and useful. Usually this is the sort of thing the late Jobs would’ve opposed because even till the end he was all about keeping the ecosystem under control.

Apple made its stock apps available on the App store for the first time
Apple made its stock apps available on the App store for the first time

Add to that the fact that Apple has now made most of its stock apps (Mail, Calendar, Maps, Compass, Calculator, Watch etc.) available for download on the App store and you basically get an Apple that is more of a believer in freedom of choice than it ever was before.

There were some things in the keynote however, that hit home for me. First of, Optimized Storage (in MacOS Sierra) is something that everyone needs today; unneeded and temporary files clutter up any and every gadget and Apple’s move to back up old files in the cloud and eliminate the garbage piling up in your system is a winner. The second feature that made me smile was the new way to unlock your screen in iOS 10. Just raising your wrist and having the screen unlock is genius and shaves off just a little bit of time in your daily routine.

And the final and most heartfelt moment in the whole keynote was Swift Playgrounds. It’s an App that is aimed at school children to help them learn the Swift programming language. Apple has always marketed itself as the company that wants to bring power to the people and it has targeted the education business over and over.

Co-founder Steve Wozniak spent a lot of time teaching computers to kids when he first left Apple and Steve Jobs targeted college kids when he was building the NeXT computer. So it was nice to see Apple return to its roots and give kids a fun way to learn to code. The App will be available for free on iPad.

Swift Playgrounds will teach young kids to code in the Swift language
Swift Playgrounds will teach young kids to code in the Swift language

All in all, the event was a disappointment but then again, with so much media scrutiny, we kind of spoiled the event for ourselves.