A Few Thoughts on WWDC 2018

What a week!

Having taken in the keynote and spent the last few days slumming it with developer friends, Apple engineers, and other folks plugged into Apple, I thought it time to share some reflections on WWDC 2018.

The Vibe
This year people seem a lot more relaxed than in the last few years. The announcements are good but don’t feel overwhelming. It feels as if Apple was more careful this year, only announcing features that they are confident they can (hopefully) nail.

Siri Shortcuts
This was, by far, the highlight for me. For a long time, we have been complaining that Siri lags behind its competition. A year ago, Apple acquired the Workflow app and this week we discovered what they have been up to. With Siri Shortcuts, Siri can suggest shortcuts as they are needed and makes it easy for anyone to create single or chains of shortcuts to automate iOS. You can then kick them off with your voice using Siri or the Shortcuts application, which appears to be an updated version of Workflow. I had a lot of questions about this new service and got a few of them answered during WWDC. We need to get our hands on this new automation before we know for sure but I am looking forward to this.

Because this new system is integrated into the operating system, it can be much more powerful than Workflow. Shortcuts can use location and time of day to make suggestions on automation routines. With Siri Shortcuts, we are going to get to automate iOS in ways we could have only dreamed of before. 

I ran a scenario by friends at both Apple and OmniFocus that I’d theoretically like to create a Siri shortcut that triggers when I say “Hey Siri, Get it done”, at which point my lights would go dark, OmniFocus would open up to my flagged list of tasks, and Mission Impossible would start playing over my HomePod. Everyone seems to agree things like this are possible. With automation this powerful, even more people would use it, and even more developers would support it. This could end up being a big deal.

Augmented Reality
For the second straight year, Apple emphasized AR. I have to admit I was more excited about this last year than I am this year. The reason is that after a year, I find that I don’t have much use for AR. Maybe we’re just waiting for that amazing app to show us the way but so far it’s not here, and I have to wonder if this isn’t just Apple getting things started while they work toward some new AR hardware in the future. I’m running the iOS 12 beta, and Apple’s new measuring tool is more accurate than any third party tool I tried in the past, but that’s not enough. Either way, Apple gave developers a bunch of new toys, so maybe this will be the year that we get the killer AR app.

The Mac App Store
For too long the Mac App Store has not served the Mac as well as it could, and this year Apple’s put a lot of effort into making it better, following up on similar changes it made to the iOS App Store last year. Most interesting is that Apple announced big companies, like Microsoft and Adobe, are coming to the Mac App Store along with some of the most prestigious small developers, like Panic and Bare Bones. There is a story to this about what has happened with sandboxing to bring back Panic and Bare Bones, but I never got to the bottom of it. I think there is more to learn on this.

My screaming MeMoji.

My screaming MeMoji.

The MeMoji thing is for real. They are fun to make, and I can see how these are going to be super popular. I am particularly impressed at how customizable they are and how much you can make them look like you and your friends. I hope Apple presses forward with this, making regular updates, adding additional features, and generally making this a thing. This feature will sell a lot of iPhones.

However, as great as MeMoji’s are, when you attach one to a normal human body, They are super creepy.

The Apple Team
I always spend more time talking to Apple Engineers and employees the week of WWDC than I do any other time of the year. This year I ended up spending more time with Apple folks than usual, and they all were very receptive to issues and ideas concerning their products and software. When I raised issues, they were inevitably already aware of it and working on it. Their most significant questions to me were, as always, “how can we make it better”. It is reassuring. I sometimes wish the people riding the “Apple doesn’t care” bandwagon had an opportunity to spend a few minutes with these engineers.

Friends and Ideas
For me by far best part of attending WWDC is the opportunity to connect with old friends and make new ones. WWDC always exposes me to so many smart, passionate people in the Apple community that are just as obsessive as I am about all of this stuff and it’s glorious.

I am leaving this year’s conference feeling more energized than ever with a ton of great ideas for podcast content and future projects.

I’ve loaded iOS 12 beta on my iPhone and iPad because despite being old enough to know better, I still can’t help myself. Doing so this early is nuts for me but perhaps of benefit to you as I learn a bit. Expect more on iOS 12 and macOS 10.14 Mojave in the coming weeks.