This is one of the big days on the calendar for Apple (AAPL) watchers: WWDC 2014. The 25th version of the conference. There have been plenty of rumors leading up to the June 2 keynote, among them the possibility that AAPL could be making a play for the health market, taking on Google (GOOG) in home automation or responding to Samsung’s (SSNLF) Galaxy S5 with an early peek at a bigger iPhone 6.
Among the givens were a look at Apple’s next operating system versions, OS X 10.10 and iOS 8, but investors and the media were looking for signs that innovation is alive and well at Apple.
What exactly did the company reveal at WWDC 2014?
Well, there was no iWatch or new Apple TV and the iPhone 6 remained elusive, but CEO Tim Cook and company did have plenty to present today in San Francisco. The focus was not on hardware (there was none), but the way that Apple gear “just works” — even for developers.
Here are the six biggest announcements to come out of this year’s Apple World Wide Developers Conference keynote.
WWDC 2014: OS X 10.10 Yosemite
The first order of business was the name of Apple’s latest Mac operating system. The banners Apple had put up at the site of WWDC 2014 offered a pretty big hint, and Yosemite was confirmed.
This was OS X’s year for UI improvements with new translucent effects, new dock and icons, better Spotlight search capability and an improved Notification Center (including support for third party widgets).
Mail and Apple’s Safari website received new functionality boosts, including the ability to send 5GB attachments (iCloud going up against Dropbox) and video optimization in Safari that Apple claims will add up to two hours of additional streaming Netflix (NFLX) HD video playback on the battery life of MacBook Air.
Cook also called out MSFT, pointing out that Windows 8 stands at 14% adoption despite a year head start over OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) — which is now at more than 50% adoption.
OS X 10.10 Yosemite will be available starting in the fall, with a public beta available over the summer.
WWDC 2014: iOS 8
Last year’s WWDC saw the unveiling of iOS 7, the biggest-ever overhaul to Apple’s mobile operating system. After such a massive revamp, iOS 8’s changes are a little more subtle.
Included are interactive notifications (no more having to leave an open app to respond), improved photo editing and a QuickType virtual keyboard that gains predictive text and makes accessing special characters easier. Family sharing will be big in iOS 8, including shared calendars, reminders and family access to each others’ purchased apps.
Gaming is improved with “Metal,” a console-level gaming graphics capability that leverages the A7 CPU found in the iPhone 5s and latest iPads.
Cook pushed the iOS user experience and higher customer satisfaction rates than Android, along with lack of fragmentation: 90% of iOS users running iOS7, while only 1 in 10 Android users are up-to-date. However, iOS will get slightly more fragmented since iOS 8 drops support for the iPhone 4.
Free to iDevice owners, iOS 8 will be available for download beginning in the fall.
WWDC 2014: Continuity
Apple is increasing its efforts to make the experience of moving between its different devices as seamless as possible.
Besides adding AirDrop support between Macs and iOS devices, Macs, iPhone and iPads will be proximity-aware and prompt users to continue working on documents when they switch to using another device.
With the new iCloud Drive, documents can be opened directly from within other applications with any edits saved back to the original.
SMS messages received in iMessage will carry over to the Mac, and phone calls received on an iPhone will receive a notification (and the ability to answer as a speakerphone) on a Mac — Apple calls this “Continuity,” and it’s a major advantage over Android devices.
WWDC 2014: HealthKit
Apple confirmed its interest in the area of fitness and health tracking with HealthKit, an app that will be part of iOS 8.
Following in the steps of Passbook –the app introduced in iOS 6 to keep track of tickets, coupons, boarding passes and gift certificates– HealthKit isn’t the complete end-to-end solution people might want.
It doesn’t have functionality to actually measure most of those health stats. Instead, it’s been designed as a single app where an iOS device owner can organize, store and access health stats (even if that means some manual entry of data until the hardware catches up).
There is also two-way interactivity, The Mayo Clinic is partnering with Apple on HealthKit and features include the ability to have a participating medical professional alerted if a measurement –such as blood pressure– is outside of normal parameters.
WWDC 2014: Dev
This represents “The mother of all release for developers,” according to Tim Cook.
Greatly improved AppStore search functionality will make it easier for users to find apps among the 1.2 million titles, as well as app previews and bundling for developers. The new TestFlight ability (Apple bought the popular app) lets developers invite users to beta-test their apps.
The iOS software developer kit (SDK) for iOS 8 has more than 4,000 new developer APIs, making it easier for apps to share data. This is what enables those third part widgets in Notification Center — previously an Apple-only domain.
Developers now can also provide their own virtual keyboard and have users choose that third party keyboard as the default on their iOS device. Third-party apps also gain access to Apple’s Touch ID security.
Apple also is releasing an advanced new iOS and OS X development language called Swift.
WWDC 2014: HomeKit
Working with industry partners, Apple is offering HomeKit, a platform for home automation certification.
HomeKit includes authentication (so only your iPhone can trigger something like opening the garage door), lets you group actions under a single command and offers Siri integration.
We’ll have to see how this one plays out, but Apple says HomeKit can control smart locks, lights, switches, plugs, thermostats, cameras and doors, and it has some of the biggest industry players on board.
No word on whether Google’s Nest will be HomeKit-certified…
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.