WWDC 2019: A win for consumers and developers, an even bigger win for privacy

Apple CEO Tim Cook (inset) declared Apple’s products as being ‘the best in the world’. — Reuters pic
Apple CEO Tim Cook (inset) declared Apple’s products as being ‘the best in the world’. — Reuters pic

SAN JOSE, June 4 — Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote this year saw the company attempt to cover all its bases — consumers, developers and “pro” users.

It was a huge contrast to last year’s presentation that focused solely on software updates to its various platforms.

Why the change? Apple is no longer competing merely in the hardware and software spaces but in services.

While in the past the company rarely named its competitors directly, this time Apple did not hesitate in doing so, calling out not just Android but Facebook and Google as well.

This take-no-prisoners approach is bold even for Apple, with CEO Tim Cook declaring: “Apple makes the best products in the world.”

While the only product announcement was the latest Mac Pro, the company’s most powerful desktop aimed at professional, high-end users, the new updates is the company creating compelling answers for the question: why Apple?

For the most part, it succeeds.

What consumers get

Apple has gone past wanting to sell the average consumers devices. It wants to own their living rooms too by offering not just TV but music and games.

In a surprise move, the company is even providing support for its Arcade gaming service for the Xbox and PlayStation platforms.

This is huge because instead of directly competing with the major consoles, Apple is embedding itself in them.

You don’t have to choose between gaming on your console or on Arcade: it’s the best of both worlds for gamers.

Apple knows that it’s not enough to compete with Netflix through movie and TV content. Instead, it will offer what Netflix can’t -- games and music.

The Apple Music feature that scrolls lyrics in sync with the music seems trivial but on a television it offers more utility and a reason to choose the service over, say, Spotify.

Apple is also freeing the Apple Watch from being tethered to the iPhone by allowing consumers to download apps straight to the Watch, and adding a calculator and voice memos.

The new Health updates that adds trends as well as menstrual cycle tracking without the need for third-party apps has now made the Apple Watch a near-standalone device that is, right now, the best smartwatch there is.

Portrait mode improvements, a visually stunning photo gallery, dark mode and more will make iOS 13 an update to look out for this Fall.

What developers will receive

The new Reality Composer and updates to the ARKit, including motion capture are boons to developers especially with the addition of Swift UI.

SwiftUI including a native framework for building Apple Watch apps is especially significant, after previous complaints about the difficulty developers had moving from the earlier versions of Watch OS.

These new developer-friendly updates promise shorter development time especially for UIs and make it easier for developers to begin creating AR apps.

Apple is making strides with AR that its competitors such as Google failed to do with VR, with lower barriers to entry — all you need is an Apple mobile device, whether phone or tablet.

The company extending that ease of adoption to developers will encourage more of them to embrace the technology with the plus point of putting Apple far, far ahead of the competition in the AR space.

What pro users have been waiting for

The Mac Pro as well as the new Apple Pro Display XDR are expensive but the thing is they weren’t made for the average consumer.

Pro users have complained that Apple seemed too focused on consumers to the point they felt their need for high-end technology was being ignored.

Besides raw power and modular options, a Mac Pro could do the work of not one but multiple high-end pro-grade machines.

Privacy wins

Throughout the keynote, Apple presenters were keen to remind the audience that Apple would not have access to their private data.

Putting privacy front-and-centre shows the company is seriously placing it as a key selling point, in the wake of companies such as Facebook proclaiming that privacy does not exist.

Apple has never been about being first at anything; why be first when you can be the best?

Thus, Apple being able to sell the importance of privacy as a feature to consumers in a way few companies have succeeded in doing will spawn the inevitable copycats, which in the consumer privacy and security context is a very important thing indeed.

The niggles

The problem with Apple’s privacy claims is that we have to pretty much take them at their word. How would we, unless we attempted to actually hack the data, really know if it’s encrypted or not?

Facebook recently admitted that moderating content involved reading users’ private messages. Apple promises to be more hands-off with customer data than Facebook or Google, but it also still collects a fairly large amount of consumer information.

Introducing yet another OS, via iPadOS to the Apple ecosystem might offer more utility to iPads and make them more useful as laptop replacements but there’s concern there might be too much fragmentation.

The argument still remains that if Windows can operate on tablets such as the high-end Surface or cheaper tablets, why can’t Mac make the move to tablets too?

Still in the end the updates highlighted in the keynote shows Apple is making an effort to please and retain not just its consumers but the ones who make their apps and use their technology to the utmost limits.

Now we just have to wait and see what Fall brings for the next significant Apple update: the iPhone.

Will the prices again trigger the usual “sell your kidney” jokes and will the new hardware live up to said prices? Hang tight for September because if it’s anywhere near as interesting as WWDC was, these will be phones to watch out for.

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