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2017 WWDC Keynote: Instant Reaction

by Basil Shikin on Jun 5, 2017

Every year, Apple summons tech journalists from around the globe to their WWDC keynote to witness the launch of the latest and greatest. But aside from the exciting consumer products, there is also a plethora of news pertinent to developers, who are after all, the focus of the conference. Whatever hardware Apple releases, however fantastic, needs a strong developer community to make it really shine.

Remember the first iPhone, which had no third party apps? It was better than flip-phones, but that’s about all you could say. The keynote is really just the precursor to the developer workshops, where devs get to cut their teeth on new tools and APIs in the latest version of iOS.

So here are my instant reactions to the news of the day, in the order they were announced. I’ve focused on what the news and products mean through the lens of an iOS developer.

HomePod

  • The biggest news of the day, the HomePod is clearly a competitor to Amazon Echo and Google Home, but Apple pitched it mostly on its music playing capability. It seems to offer a very integrated experience for Apple users, (Apple Music, Messages, etc.) but as of now it’s not open to developers. It is common for Apple to release the third-party APIs after a few internal iterations (like they did with iOS), perhaps that is something we can look forward to at WWDC 2018, after the HomePod has been on the market for six months.

iOS 11

  • A a lot of the updates here, particularly to Photos, are a great example of what machine learning can do. It’s finally happening. AR Kit and ML Kit are bringing its promise to developers. Magic, provided via API! The possibilities are endless!
  • MusicKit is great. This is something, that in the hands of talented developers, will make apps more interesting and colorful.
  • The App Store redesign is long overdue. Hopefully “Today” and “Games” and “Apps” will create more exposure for developers.

Apple Watch

  • The Siri face is very interesting, basically taking the “today” page from iOS to the Watch. I wonder how much — if at all — third party developers can integrate it. Given the Fandango example, it seems like the answer is yes. I’m interested in reading the docs and digging into the developer preview.

Macs

  • High Sierra is pretty much what I expected. Under-the-hood improvements a la Snow Leopard or El Capitan before it. 
  • APFS coming to MacOS by default is fantastic. The world has moved on to SSD drives, and APFS has much better encryption. This a great step into the future — as an engineer it really pleases me that Apple is improving the file system.
  • Metal 2 and VR are a nice surprise for a relatively “minor upgrade”. Apple is playing a bit of catch up on VR so this is good news. The hardware updates to the iMacs seem to be as much about VR as the updates to Metal 2. It was clear from the ILM demo that Apple is taking this space very seriously.

iPads

  • With drag-and-drop, the expanded dock, Files (aka Finder), App Switcher (aka Exposé), MacOS and iOS (on the iPad) are starting to merge.

Those are my initial thoughts on the day’s news. It’s truly an amazing time to be an iOS developer!

Basil Shikin is AppLovin’s VP of Engineering.

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