Reflections on WWDC 2022

I’m writing these words in a corner of the San Jose airport as I wait to board my plane and head home after spending a satisfying few days at and around Apple Park. I didn’t expect to get invited by Apple to WWDC this year, but happily agreed to when they called.

The Worldwide Developers Conference has had many iterations over the years. I’ve attended it in San Francisco and San Jose. This year, with COVID, they held it at Apple Park itself. Apple Park is an amazing place and I will write a separate post about that, but suffice it to say it is one of the most impressive buildings on the planet. Holding WWDC at Apple Park lent a vibe of Apple letting down its guard for its developers. That, plus so many kind reunions following the worst days of COVID, gave the whole event an emotional charge that I did not expect. I was so happy to see friends that I’ve been unable to see for so long. I wasn’t alone. Moreover, being at Apple Park made so much more of a connection for everyone than downtown San Jose.

Talking to Apple folks, it sounds to me like they aren’t certain what the path forward is for WWDC is, but having attended the Apple Park event, I think there is no question that this week should be the model. This makes the live event smaller, but better, while also allowing Apple to primarily focus on those folks attending remotely. There are 34 Million registered developers. If Apple hosts 1,000 of them at Apple Park, that is 0.00003%. If Apple hosts 5,000 of them at a convention center, that is 0.0001%. Either way, they should be focused on the other 99.999% attending remotely.

I doubt future WWDCs will feel as emotional as this one did. Indeed, since that was a result of us surviving a global pandemic, I hope there will never be one so emotional. Those that do attend any future WWDC at Apple Park, however, will have a great time.

A Few Thoughts on Apple’s WWDC Announcements

Hooray. I got to watch the WWDC Keynote today in Apple Park! I have lots to report on in the coming days but for now, here are a few thoughts.

The iPad

  • It was really nice today seeing some pro-user features make their way to iPadOS. Stage Manager was first announced in relation to the Mac, but once I saw it, I knew immediately, it’d also be on iPad. This paradigm looks to be a lot easier for people to understand and use. Putting it on both iPad and Mac means knowledge on one platform will be usable on the other. These are all good things.
  • Custom toolbars? Yes, thank you. I like this feature because it makes sense on the iPad interface. Toolbar buttons are big and press-able by our meaty, monkey hands. However, not all of us want or need the same buttons. I hope all the productivity app developers jump on this.
  • External display on the iPad is also overdue, but appreciated. I’ll be curious to see how workflows evolve to support iPads connect to extra, non-touch screens.
  • I’m particularly interested in the new dictation features. QuickType, where you can both type, tap, and dictate at once, should make dictation a lot more accessible to people. I can’t wait to test this out.

The Mac

  • I can see Stage Manager really landing with non-pro users. There are a lot of people that are just lost with their windows. I’ll have to spend some time with it before I can comment on it for power users.
  • Spotlight is creeping up on apps like Alfred but has a while to go. If anything, I expect the enhanced Spotlight features may whet people’s appetite for even more power features.
  • Passkeys sound promising as an alternative to passwords, but there is a lot more to learn here.
  • There definitely is a theme to sharing and collaboration. One of the biggest moves here is the shared Photos library. I can’t wait to test that.
  • Continuity Camera looks to me like a sleeper hit. When folks figure out they can stick their iPhone on their Macs and drastically improve their webcam with no further software or cables, look out.
  • I’m just digging in on the new settings window. Amen here. I suggest we now pour concrete over the grave of the old System Settings. We don’t want it coming back.

The M2

  • The incremental improvements of the M2 are better than I thought they’d be from the M1. It seems about a 20% increase. We’ll not have another huge leap like we did going from Intel to M1 for quite a while. 
  • Now that the stake is in the ground for M2 and the very much linear nature of the improvements of the subsequent M1 chips, it is pretty easy to see where we’re heading with the M2 performance chips. (2X, 4X, 8X, 16X?)

The New MacBook Air

  • I thought today we’d get a peek at the new Mac Pro and not get the new MacBook Air. So I missed that one on both accounts.
  • I was lucky enough to get to handle new MacBook Air for a few minutes. It really does feel like a miniaturized and squished MacBook Pro. It is just a bit lighter than the existing MacBook Air, but having been used to a 16” MacBook Pro, it feels very light.
  • The successor lost the wedge, but the new design still feels good.
  • I really wish the rumors of the colors had come true.
  • You can spec it up to 24GB of RAM and 2TB of storage.

watchOS 9

  • There is no surprise on the additional health emphasis. That said, they look to be some nice improvements.
  • Medication and sleep tracking look immediately useful to me. I think a lot of folks were looking for those features. (Or at least I was.)
  • I’m sad that we didn’t get more/better faces. That said, the new Astronomy and Metropolitan faces look like they are worth a try. 
  • One bit of good news: Some of the classic faces, like Utility, got updated to support rich complications.

A Few More Random Notes

  • I wrote this on a Mac running beta 1 Ventura. So far so good.
  • I am very interested in Freeform. I’ve been looking for an app like this for a long time.
  • It’s not lost on me that we got a lot of nice improvements to Apple Mail across all platforms. I’ll have more to say about this later.
  • The Weather app on the iPad!? That’s crazy. What’s next year? The calculator?
  • I thought we may get some changes to the Notes app to incorporate back-linking and some of the other changes going on in the notes world. Nope.

WWDC 2022

Yesterday we got word that Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is set for June 6-10. The event will be (nearly) entirely virtual. The only exception, as Apple explains, will be for a select group of developers to join a live keynote on the Apple campus. If they announce new hardware, I’d expect there will also be some press invited.

The question is whether this is just another step toward the everybody-in-one-town WWDC we had in 2019 or a refinement of the new (mostly) virtual format. I don’t have any inside information but if I had to guess, I’d say WWDC will be more virtual than anything else for the foreseeable future.

There are several good reasons for Apple to lean in that direction:

Apple Resources

I’ve known Apple employees that speak and attend WWDC. It requires them to spend a lot of time on tasks that usually aren’t in their wheelhouse. Don’t forget that they are in the middle of building new operating system updates for all Apple products at the same time. WWDC is a huge distraction for those folks.

No Surprises

With the virtual format, Apple gets better control of the message. The keynote, the sessions, and just about everything else is pre-recorded. Consequently, there are no slip-ups or mistakes.

Better Virtual Materials

Apple has been releasing videos of the WWDC sessions for years, but the materials and production values of the virtual events of the last few years have been much better than in years past.

Way More People Can Attend

Historically, to attend WWDC, you had to hit the ticket lottery AND have the available time to travel to San Jose AND have the disposable income to pay for the flight, overpriced room, and everything else. There are a lot of folks who can’t tick all those boxes. In building the event as a primarily virtual one, Apple can give a good experience to many more people.

Missing the Gathering

All that said, historically, WWDC wasn’t the only thing that happened at and around WWDC. There were multiple related conferences, live podcasts, and numerous other social events that you don’t get with a virtual event. I’ve met many of my best friends at the “gathering of the tribe” around WWDC.

While I don’t expect Apple to ever announce their long-term intentions for WWDC, I wish they would. If the community knew WWDC will remain virtual for the foreseeable future, we could start thinking about creating our own events instead.

WWDC 2021: June 7-11


Today Apple announced WWDC will once again be an all-online event, this year starting on June 7. Although I will once again miss seeing a lot of my friends in the community in-person, Apple proved last year they are quite capable of delivering an online event with panache. I’m sure this year will be only more impressive.

Given how much better these online events are at serving all of those developers without the time, money, and access to San Jose every year, I am curious as to what happens in 2022. I would not be surprised if substantial portions of the online components remain.

With the announcement artwork, the Apple pundit-sphere has shifted into full freak out mode. The glasses has everyone thinking we’ll get some sort of news on Apple AR glasses. That would be fun, but, in the short term at least, I’m just hoping we get more Apple Silicon Macs.

Some Initial Thoughts on the 2020 WWDC Keynote

It’s Keynote day, and Apple had more announcements than I expected during a global pandemic. So here are a few thoughts following the 2020 WWDC Keynote:

  • It was dense. There was a lot of information pushed out in those two hours. There were no fluffy demos (and no AR demos). Lots of signal. Little noise.

  • I was surprised at the format. I didn’t expect it to start with Tim in an empty theater, but as the presentation moved along, I liked it.

  • Lots of new faces among the presenters as Craig Federighi served as the second-tier master of ceremonies. I didn’t realize that I stress for those people on stage. I know how nerve-wracking that can be. Having everything canned made it easier for them … and me.

  • The big type on screen slide is a new look for an Apple Keynote.

  • The video zooms in between segments started cheesy, but then grew on me. It also makes me want to visit the new campus someday.

  • Still iOS, not iPhoneOS.

  • App Library makes a ton of sense, but this is one where the devil is in the details. Apple has told us before it will let the device sort things for us with mixed results.

  • I can’t wait to get my hands on the new iOS / iPadOS widgets. But am I the only one who looks at them thinks about the classic Mac widgets?

  • I can’t make up my mind about the Siri announcements. My problem with Siri isn’t that it can’t answer obscure questions. My problem is that it often doesn’t recognize when I dictate my wife’s name. I’ll need to see the beta.

  • Nice improvements to Messages, but I think there is room for more here. Also, it wasn’t clear later if the Mac version finally has feature parity with iOS and iPadOS yet. It’s closer.

  • So, does the “iPhone as key” feature now mean a BMW 5 Series is an iPhone accessory?

  • Maybe the new Keynote drinking game word should be “privacy”.

  • App Clip is a big help to developers. You can get their apps and spend money without installing their apps.

  • It looks like iPad widgets, though more customizable, are still relegated to the left side of the screen.

  • The new Apple Pencil features look killer. I’ve wanted to use the Pencil in this fashion since before there was an Apple Pencil. I can’t wait to try this feature. The test will be if I can sit in a comfy chair with an iPad, Apple Pencil, and Siri dictation and be productive.

  • The AirPods team continues to crush it.

  • I did not see the Mac UI redesign coming at all. My initial reaction is positive, but I’ll need to use it. It is interesting how Apple hardware and software continue to march toward a standard look. Hopefully, they can do that while still leaving the Mac to be a Mac.

  • The Apple silicon transition was masterfully handled. They got us excited about the potential of these new chips while also allaying our fears. Also, did you notice they never said the word “ARM”?

There is still a lot more to unpack in the days to come. Overall, I saw a lot more from Apple today than I expected. As I push the “publish” button on this, I’m about to watch the State of the Union presentation and press the “install beta” button on my iPad.

Online WWDC Starts on June 22

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Apple announced today the online WWDC will start on June 22.

On June 22, WWDC20 takes off. Get ready for the first global, all-online WWDC by downloading the Apple Developer app to stay notified on all the latest news, with updates for events and sessions. And there’s a lot more to come — starting with the first-ever Swift Student Challenge.

One of my big questions revolves around the scope of changes to the Apple operating systems this year. I suspect this will be a year focused more on bug fixes than ambitious new features. I admittedly usually lean too heavily on the side of new features but given the global pandemic and the fact that most likely all of the engineers are working from home while also taking care of their kids and pets and dealing with all of this, I expect this be a Snow Leopard-type year.

Keynote and Mac Pro Photos

I had a lot of fun yesterday at the Keynote and Mac Pro preview center. Here’s a few photos with some additional thoughts.