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Catching Up At WWDC
Jim Rapoza, Aberdeen Group
JUN 13, 2014 01:35 AM
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Over the years, Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) has seen its share of major announcements and new products, from the rise of OS X to the first Intel-based Macs to many of the key iPhone evolutions.  At first glance, the 2014 WWDC, held this week in San Francisco, doesn’t look like it will be as impactful as some of its predecessors. However, some of the announcements this week, especially for developers, could signal some big changes for Apple down the road.

From a straightforward perspective, the two biggest WWDC announcements were Mac OS X Yosemite, the newest version of the Macintosh operating system, and iOS 8, the next version of the mobile operating system for iPads and iPhones. And as Apple CEO Tim Cook outlined all of the new features of each OS, the crowd at the keynote predictably exploded in cheers and applause.

However, as many have pointed out, a good number of these “new” features simply represent Apple catching up to features and capabilities that already exist in competing products, especially those from Google (namely Android, Gmail and Drive). Among the “new to Apple” features announced were the ability to work on emails and documents in progress from device to device, do large file drops through iCloud in mail, hands-free Siri activation and support for third-party keyboards.

Despite this though, many of the new features in Yosemite and iOS 8 will be very welcome to Apple device users. Some of the most useful features center around making iPhones and Macs work together better, for example, near-field connectivity capabilities that make it possible to dial and receive calls from a desktop near the phone. We also saw some more convergence between the interfaces of the two operating systems, making OS X behave and look more like iOS and improved file and Internet searching with Searchlight. And we saw a concerted move to increase the appeal of Safari and keep Mac users from moving to Chrome or Firefox.

But probably the biggest changes were in the areas of openness and improved developer capabilities. The new Swift programming language (really the first new programming system from Apple in a very long time) appears to have a many welcome capabilities designed to help developers tie into iOS features and build cutting edge apps. With Swift, and some of the related application development options, developers should find it easier and more open to build applications.

Given the already overwhelming incentives for building iOS apps, this should only server to further increase the development options for iOS.

I’m not sure how quickly (or maybe swiftly) this will happen, but in coming years, we just may refer to this WWDC as the year that Swift was launched.

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