WWDC 2014

Best ever?

Quite possibly. This year’s WWDC put the Developer back at the centre of the conference. I think most developers would agree that there was a strong lineup of both customer and developer announcements. Ultimately, Apple’s customers will win twice thanks to Apple being strong on both fronts. Apple once again showed that it gets the fact that apps power the platform; both their own and 3rd party.

If you like audio, then check out this short clip covering my thoughts. If not, then please read on as I’ll cover some of my initial thoughts.

Developer focused. No time spent on the retail store updates, or hardware updates; this was 100% developer focused. Only what we need to know to get excited about the platforms all over again.

Disconnect from hardware. Interesting that hardware wasn’t touched on at all. After announcing a new Mac Pro last year, this was quite a change in format. You could argue that it’s because there was nothing to announce, but they could have easily slipped the recent MacBook Air refresh into the show, though I’m glad they didn’t. This format showed how committed they are to developers, and I think that’s wise.

Tim connected. I thought Tim Cook did a great job connecting with the developers in the audience and although the motive is to sell more devices, he did come across as authentic. In a war for developer talent, I see Apple winning over Android in the obvious investments they’re making in improving our productivity and making it increasingly fun to develop on the platform. After the keynote, Tim was seen around the conference centre addressing developers and taking photos ops. Pretty awesome for a CEO of his stature.

First time attendees. Apple is always very proud if the % of first time WWDC conference goers, though I think the numbers this year were higher than usual. I was hopeful that the lottery system would favour new blood in the developer platform, but I was still very happy to snag a ticket at the last minute.

OS X improvements. After the iOS 7 update last year, these Mac updates probably didn’t seem as impressive to most. However, I think they’re incredibly important as we seek to align the operating systems. Beyond the UI updates there were some meaningful feature updates that really brought the platforms together like never before. I think these “continuity” features, as Apple called them, will have more developers thinking about launching a Mac app than ever before. Guessing we’ll continue to see Mac marketshare creep up.

Platform lock in. The following features can all be tagged the same; features that promote lock in on the platform: AirDrop, HealthKit, HomeKit, CloudKit, Photo Sync, iCloud Drive, Messages, Handoff. All of these bring the platforms together and lock in your data in ways that are compelling and will help keep customers loyal. So long as the hardware is great and the software fun to use and stable, then I applaud this lock in effect as it’s a price I pay for great software. However, should products ever slip this will really start to sting. As they’ll have your data, and it’ll be quite difficult to bounce.

Opening the platform - extensibility. With new sharing, and widgets, Apple has started to loosen their strangle hold on what’s possible on iOS. I’ll be careful not to overstate this definition of “open”, but Apple is indeed offering extensibility features that will unlock new use cases - I believe they’ll continue to open more, but slowly. Great to see.

Numbers. 130M new customers in last 12 months. That’s a big number. I’m sure most of those came from growth in China, but I think it shows that we’re not just rolling old devices to new devices; we’re adding new customers along the way. Great for developers.

Tim on Android. The fact that Tim spent a little time taking shots at Android was interesting. It could be that he was simply speaking to prospective devs on the pitfalls of the “other” platform, or it could be that he was being a little defensive, possibly concerned that existing iOS devs are set to start moving. You can continue to count me out of any kind of switch, so I thought the comments were perhaps a little unnecessary, but quite interesting.

Tim takes feedback. After seeing most of the stuff on my wish list come to fruition, I think it’s time to admit that some of the biggest complainers in the iOS community probably had a hand in compelling Apple’s product managers to move the platform in such a wonderful direction. Although I’m sure much of this has been on a product roadmap for years, it certainly helps that our community is not shy when it comes to voicing our collective opinion on product feature prioritization. Great job, everyone. Thank you.

Swift. Well this was big. A new programming language for iOS and Mac that was completely unexpected. Not sure how they pulled off the secrecy, but I’m sure glad they did because it was a fun surprise. I see Swift like this: accessible & productive. It shows investment and long term commitment to the toolchain. I think this will bring new devs to the platform as I think it solves the biggest barrier to iOS development: square brackets. Simplifying for effect, but I think the syntax was hard for people to get behind and had some people I know giving up before they really got started. Smart move, Apple.

Wrap up. Impact for my team:

What an amazing WWDC. Day 1.

 
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