WWDC is in June. Who Should Attend?


Today Apple announced the Worldwide Developer Conference for the first week of June, again returning to San Jose. WWDC is where Apple unveils the latest iterations of its operating systems (and I often fall headfirst down the . That’s going to be interesting this year because so many of us are getting surly about the lack of substantial iPad updates. It is also widely expected that we’ll learn something about the new Mac Pro at the event.

I’m often asked by friends whether or not they should head to San Jose for WWDC. If you are a developer, there is a lot for you from both Apple and AltConf. For everyone else, however, it depends. For the week of WWDC, the business of Apple takes over a portion of downtown San Jose. There are a lot of people there, most of whom I only see at WWDC and yet I work with regularly. I also am legal counsel for several developers, and WWDC is the one time a year I get to spend significant time with those people in person.

Still, WWDC is not Macworld. Macworld was a special place. It was about users, not the business of Apple. I wouldn’t recommend going to WWDC if you are looking for the Macworld experience. The nearest thing we have to Macworld now is MacStock.

WWDC Hopes and Dreams

I’m in San Jose this week attending some of the WWDC festivities and catching up with many friends in the Apple Community. Tonight I spent some time talking to friends about expectations and hopes for tomorrow’s keynote. 

There is a distinctly different feeling this year. Last year, a lot of people were getting impatient. Particularly those of us that use the iPad to get our work done were feeling like Apple had waited too long to improve the iPad’s functionality. That’s what led to me writing my post about the minimum table stakes the night before the 2017 Keynote presentation. Here I am again, the night before a WWDC Keynote and I am not feeling nearly so surly. Talking to my friends here in San Jose, I get the same impression from most people.

This year Apple has done a better job of keeping things under wraps (except for that slip up about dark mode for the macOS) and most people here in San Jose are eager to just see what goes down tomorrow.

If I had one wish for tomorrow’s keynote it would be that we get to see the results of Apple’s acquisition of the Workflow app. Over a year ago, Apple bought Workflow and while they’ve continued to maintain the app since the acquisition, it seems, from the outside, that the Workflow team is working on some new automation-related tool for the operating system. It sure would be nice if Apple baked automation in so we didn’t have to rely on things like URL schemes and chewing gum to make working between different apps on our iPads and iPhones possible. Anyway, that would be a big thing for me tomorrow but, like most people I’ve met in San Jose, I’m just looking forward to seeing what Apple’s up to.


WWDC Reflections and Future Hopes

Now having returned from WWDC, I can’t help but take a few minutes to reflect upon the general mood in San Jose this past week. Developers were a lot less surly this year and I spoke with several developers inspired by Apple’s work to go and create the next big thing.

Why wouldn’t they? We got new Macs, iPads, and the software updates addressed many priority issues, like iPad productivity. I can’t really put my finger on it but it seems like Apple just has its eye on the ball better this year than it did last year. Talking to folks around San Jose, one explanation was that Apple had a lot of focus on the new building and the car project. I’m not sure if that’s the case. It may just be that the features they announced this year took longer than expected. 

Indeed, it really doesn’t matter why it suddenly seems Apple is addressing these issues so much as the fact that they are addressing these issues.

The iPad gets a lot better with iOS 11. I have a long list of critiques having used it under fire for several days but, fundamentally, the iPad gets more useful when iOS 11 ships.

The bottom line is people are generally happy with what Apple announced last week. Now let’s keep the the momentum rolling. I’ve got three hopes for the next year:

  1. I’d like to see that Apple is listening to feedback particularly on the iOS 11 iPad improvements. Beta users have some great ideas and I’d like to see the best of them make it in before iOS 11 ships.
  2. I would also like to see Apple continue to do incremental updates to the Macintosh hardware. The fact that they upgraded the MacBook Pro to the most current processor in less than a year is a great sign. That is, however, just one data point. I hope that they continue to upgrade hardware as soon as the appropriate upgraded chips are available.
  3. With the improvements of the iPad and the iPad operating system, we now need a healthy ecosystem where developers can spend the time necessary to make professional iPad applications and then sell them for enough money to justify the effort. Hopefully Apple can work with developers to find a way to make that happen.

Initial Thoughts on iOS 11 iPad Improvements

I took a lot of notes this morning watching the WWDC Keynote right up until the point they started talking about iPad improvements. At that point I was completely absorbed by the presentation. That’s a good sign. I’ll be writing/podcasting more about this in the coming days but in the meantime, here are a few thoughts:

  • It’s a Mac … in a good way. So many of the features were very Mac-like. Spaces for instance is very similar to what we already have in macOS but probably even more useful with a touch interface
  • Selecting between multiple pre-arranged spaces is a feature I’ve always wanted without verbalizing.
  • The redesigned control center is a significant improvement over the iOS 10 three-page version. I still would have preferred to exchange stock apps for better third party alternatives, like switching PCalc for calculator.
  • Files. Amen. My biggest white whale on iOS is dealing with multiple files. Often I’m required to work with multiple documents and until today this was a huge pain point on iOS. With the Files app and Drag and Drop, my iPad got a lot more useful.
  • They only demonstrated iCloud in the Files app. Will we get “favorites” from third party cloud document providers like Dropbox?
  • Does the existence of the Files app indicate they’ll make it easier to open and save files to cloud services directly in Apps? That’s still pretty clunky.
  • The new 512GB iPads may make sense if you can locally store massive amounts of cloud data locally on your iPad.
  • Multiple file selection with gestures? Yes, thank you.
  • The Dock is another super-useful feature for power users. I need to get hands on this before saying more but that won’t be long now.
  • I have a feeling we are going to be wanting app suggestions in our iPhone docks before long.
  • They went through the multitasking stuff very quickly. There’s a lot there but it looks like a much-needed improvement.
  • I like the semi-transparency on drag-out multitasking. It really makes the old system feel pedestrian.
  • I am impressed with the scope of Drag and Drop but want to get my hands on it before saying more.
  • Interesting how much focus there was on Apple Pencil. It looks like we’ll also still be able to use the Apple Pencil to navigate but we’ll know soon enough as the beta gets out.
  • There were significant new improvements to Notes. I didn’t expect that.
  • Scan and Sign looks really clever. I hope it works as well as demonstrated.
  • The new QuickType keyboard looks pretty useful. How much time have you spent switching between keyboards on your iPad? Related – the 10.5 iPad software keyboard does not quite appear to be the awesome monster that the 12.9 iPad software keyboard is.

WWDC Table Stakes

I spent a good portion of the day today walking around San Jose with other bloggers and podcasters as the WWDC crowd starts rolling in. There are lots of familiar faces and several new ones. Moving the conference to San Jose seems to be generally welcomed by most folks I talk to. Hotel rooms are less expensive and downtown San Jose is pretty, with lots of good weather and trees.

There is also an underlying buzz of general excitement for Apple’s new announcements tomorrow at the keynote. There seems to be more energy than I’ve witnessed before prior WWDC keynotes. It’s as if following the attention-sucks that the new campus and the mythical Apple car created, folks expect Apple to come back home with focus on its existing (and possibly a few new) consumer electronic devices. 

My own feelings on the WWDC keynote are mixed. I’d like to get into the excitement but I also, frankly, feel a little exhausted. I’ve spent a lot of the last year doing work on the iPad and while there is much to love about the iPad, it often feels like swimming upstream when, at this point in the iPad’s lifespan, it shouldn’t. The general consensus here in San Jose is that tomorrow we’ll get a lot of power features for iPad but that doesn’t bring out joy in me as much as it does a sense of … well … “finally”. If Apple wants to impress, that is the starting point, not the ending one. If we don’t have significant iPad improvements tomorrow to file management and multi-tasking, I’m going to have to reconsider the iPad as a platform. To me, fixing several of the iPad productivity shortcomings tomorrow is table stakes. 

App Camp Benefit and Relay Meet-Up at WWDC

One of my favorite gatherings every year at WWDC is the App Camp for Girls benefit party/concert. This year it is on Wednesday, June 7 and tickets are still available. 

In addition to great music and a great cause, this year the event will also serve as a semi-formal Relay FM meet-up. I, along with several other Relay hosts, will be hanging out so join us and meet up with fellow listeners starting at 7pm. See you there. 

WWDC in San Jose June 5-9

Today Apple announced that they are moving Worldwide Developer Conference back to San Jose. The move puts WWDC much closer to Apple’s campus and makes it a lot easier on Apple engineers attending and participating. San Jose hotels are also a lot less expensive than San Francisco hotels and will save attendees significant amounts of money.

There are already questions in the community as to whether moving to San Jose will put a damper on the more social aspects of WWDC. Despite the fact that San Jose is a lot sleepier than San Francisco, I don’t think there will be a problem. I tried a case in San Jose a few years ago and spent several weeks in the city. There are nice restaurants and things to do. Moreover, I’ve always felt that the energy at WWDC parties comes from the confluence of Apple nerds way more than anything particular to San Francisco. I hope to see you there.

Hitting the Ground Running

I spent the morning going through my notes following meetings with software developers last week at WWDC. Of note, I did this on an iPad with iOS 10 installed with relatively no problem. Usually, when I install an early beta of an Apple operating system it’s more of a point of entertainment to see just how much everything is broken. This year, however, that is not the case. There are a few problems (the iCloud document picker is currently a mess for instance) but it does not feel at all like the whole thing is held together by chewing gum and duct tape. This earliest beta is remarkably stable.

Maybe this shouldn’t come as a surprise. iOS is 10 years old now and the yearly iterations feel a lot more like refinements and improvements than boil-the-earth rethinks like they did in years past. I think this is all good.

Getting back to my developer notes, I got this same impression of steady progrres from them. Usually WWDC is where developers learn how the new OS breaks their apps. Often developers leave WWDC with months of work ahead of them just to make sure their apps can still work in when the new OS ships. That didn’t seem to be the case this year. I spoke to many developers last week and they were all generally happy with macOS Sierra and iOS 10. They all were shocked to learn they no longer had to cancel vacation plans or re-write their apps. Instead they were looking forward to spending time polishing their apps and maybe even (dare-I-say) adding a feature or two.

Over the last few years Apple has taken a lot of grief for biting off more than they could chew. Getting macOS and iOS to play nice together certainly wasn’t a walk in the park but I can’t help but feel with this next cycle of Operating System upgrades, we’ll start seeing the benefits of this transition. App developers do not  need to adjust to a new platform or start from scratch with their apps. This year developers get to hit the ground running and I can’t wait to see the results of that.

Things to Look Out For in the WWDC Keynote

The Internet is full of conjecture and predictions for the WWDC Keynote. Instead, I’d like to point out a few things I’ll be looking out for:

  • Siri Commitment: There’s lots of rumors about Siri getting some improvements. However there are improvements and there are Improvements. It’s been years since Siri was first announced and we have yet to see anything more than incremental steps. If/when they announce new Siri improvements, look to see if they are the kinds of things that took three months or three years to create.
  • That Pesky Apple Watch: Lots of people don’t like their Apple Watch. (I still like mine.) The processor speed still feels like the bottleneck to me. If they announce watchOS with new features and improvements, how do they address that the current hardware has lots of trouble with the existing OS. I’m sure this will get fixed/improved with new watch hardware but I don’t expect that to get announced at WWDC and they still have that issue on the table.
  • Dark Mode(s): It seems like apple is thinking a lot about how our screens look at different hours of the day. Looking at the signs on Moscone, I expect a dark mode is going to be seen most likely on iOS and (hopefully) Mac too. Will this be made out to be a big deal or just a passing point?
  • Loose Lips Sink Ships: One thing just about everyone in San Francisco agrees upon is that this year there aren’t nearly so many leaks and everyone is expecting a surprise or two at the Keynote. That’s a good thing. Christmas morning is no fun if you’ve already peaked.
  • Stagecraft: Apple now has four separate platforms (Mac, iOS, watch, and tv) to address. Last year’s WWDC keynote felt pretty self-indulgent at times. It will be interesting to see if they tighten up the presentation this year.
  • As always, enjoy the show.

Sparky’s Excellent WWDC Adventure

I’m in San Francisco this week for Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference. I’m not actually attending the conference but instead will be splitting my time between meeting with my geek-related clients in town and attending the extra-curricular WWDC festivities. I’ll keep a a photo diary this week and here are the first few entries. I’ll be updating this gallery throughout the week so keep checking back. I’ll keep a link in the right margin for the rest of the week.