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WWDC 2014

posted Sep 8, 2014, 10:41 AM by Barny CK

Apple held its 2014 WWDC at the Moscone Center in San Francisco from June 2nd to 6th. Taking center stage was Apple's latest iOS 8 and with it, a host of softwares and features and a new OS for the Mac that Apple unveiled to 6000 attendees. Apple has clearly positioned itself for the new computing era, the internet of all things, starting with the iOS 7. With iOS 8, Mac OS Yosemite and Swift, a new programming language, the work Apple has done backstage for the last 3 years has come to fruition. 

At the WWDC Keynote, better integration was the keyword in the numerous slides presented. Starting with Yosemite, Apple Senior VP of Engineering, Craig Federighi introduced the iCloud Drive that share files across the entire Apple ecosystem (iPhone, iPad, Macs) and even beyond to Windows users. There were much rumours before the keynote of such a move but it still came as a surprise to many as it indicated that much work was done by Apple to execute the integration. Then, there was AirDrop. AirDrop was actually introduced with iOS 7  but it was limited to iOS devices.  This time around, AirDrop was extended to Mac OS. 

Craig Federighi  showing Yosemite. Visually, the OS adopts the simple and clean design of iOS 7. 

The next feature to unveil was Continuity. Continuity allows seamless flow of information between the Macs, iPad and iPhone. A feature called Handoff literally blows away the competition. In Handoff, for example, you may be drafting an email on your Mac but you can pick up your iPhone or iPad and continue the draft on it. This is an act that is tough for Android to follow. Continuity is also applicable to iWork, Apple's office suite.

List of device capable of running iOS 8.
Next up was iOS 8. In a nutshell, the iOS 8 is an overhaul of the phone system. No doubt, for iCloud Drive, AirDrop and Handoff to work, it take two to tango. But changes to iOS 8 in itself was also massive. In some ways, iOS was copying Android. But in some other ways, Apple was charting out a new course. The interactive notifications, for example, lets you interact directly from notification banner alerts and the lock screen. In a move that mimics Android, iOS 8 lets third party developers create widgets for the Notification Center. Another goodie Apple dangled out was the ability to design keyboards for the iOS. This was a head turner. As some would say, "Steve Jobs would never allowed this."

Third party keyboard can be allowed to run in iOS 8.

Apple also revealed its answer to health. HealthKit is a new native app that keeps track of user's personal health and fitness data. A feature of the app is that it allows third party health and fitness apps to share data with Nike among the first companies signed on to support the feature. 

Introducing HealthKit.
At the start of the keynote, there was a video about Developers. Later, when Apple CEO Tim Cook took to the stage, he began by paying tribute to the 9 million developers worldwide registered under the Apple Developer Program. If this was a prequel to something big, it certainly was. There was a section of the keynote dedicated to updates for developer and approximately 3600 developers were given special invites to attend the keynote, the youngest being 13. 

CEO Tim Cook paying tribute to Apple's independent developers.

For a start of the developer section, it was announced that the App Store will be revamped to allow better exposure for apps developed independently. App can be now bundled and sold at a discounted price. Developers will also be needed to furnish new apps with a short video demo. This apparently will give users a chance to see the functionality of the app before purchasing them, thereby providing developers a chance to showcase the app.  
Moving on to SDK (Software Development Kit), Apple unveiled the feature Extensibility. What this does is that iOS 8 allows thirty party apps to communicate with each other, another first for Apple. Apple is also opening up access to its fingerprint sensor introduced in last year's iPhone 5s. This is done using TouchID. The move is significant as it allows developers to use the technology for in-apps purchase. 

Craig Federighi explaining the concept of Extensibility.
The last part of the keynote is actually quite a shock to many, myself included.  After a demo by a fellow developer on the use of Metal to develop graphic rich game, Craig Federighi came back to the stage to pay tribute to Xcode, the programming tool to develop iOS app. He said that it has served Apple and the Developer community well and so it was time to move on. 

What a shocker; a new programming language called Swift.

And so it was. Swift is a new programming language by Apple to replace Xcode. It's kinda like a scripting language and is meant to lower the learning curve for future developers and give current developers a more powerful tool to work on. 

The many features of Swift programming language. 

Coming out of the event, Apple has clearly given its competitors a run for their money. It has also shed its skin of being a Steve Job's company. Many have said the three years since Steve Jobs' death, the company was in mourning. WWDC 2014 is Apple's rebirth at the helm of Tim Cook.