Yesterday, I wrote some of the trends to watch during WWDC 2015, most likely in the keynote. I started with the press getting what happened completely wrong and ended with the Large class size meaning an Apple mega tablet was on the way, or as a long shot Apple TV will be an ios9 device. Watching the Keynote and the state of the platform from WWDC15 and reading some of the press afterwards I once again had to shake my head at the press coverage, though I will give a nod to Forbes for catching one of two big reasons Apple Music will do damage to its competition. There were twelve points I found particularly useful.
#1 WatchKit is now WatchOS 2
Like a lot of people, I have to keep reminding myself that Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs. This was my biggest surprise. While native apps were rumored and I expected a few new classes added to WatchKit, opening up all the watch hardware functions to developers as a separate OS was a huge surprise. Tim Cook is far more open and much more developer friendly than Steve Jobs ever was. That the documentation for WatchOS2 is open and available to everyone interested still shocks me. We started to see such behavior with Swift last year where the language reference was released publicly right after the keynote. The trend towards openness seems to be the new Apple.
#2 WatchOS and Healthcare
While it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility, another big surprise was developers using Apple Watch’s fitness/health sensors. From Healthkit, Apple already does have a app submission requirement that if an app ends up as a regulated medical device, you need to submit paperwork that it is an approved one by regulatory bodies. I thought they were going to shy off the developers making possible medical devices for at least another year.
The current Nike+ running app laments it can’t get at the heart sensor in the watch. Now it can. We can expect a lot of fitness apps to start collecting heart and motion data, maybe even games than change due to heart rate. This will easily integrate into research kit, meaning there can be some mind bogglingly large heart health studies.
It also brings health insurance prices customized to your health a lot closer.
#3 Swift On a Raspberry Pi?
Just after WWDC2014, I argued Swift was going open source, but like many couldn’t believe that Apple’s secretive culture would ever allow that(See #1). Swift’s success as a developer language for the OSX/iOS environment is great. However, to make it phenomenal, it needs to be an educational language, the first coding language that kids and beginners get their hands on. While Apple has made Xcode free to effectively anyone, the hardware to run Xcode is too expensive for many schools. Swift needs cheaper hardware to be a true educational language. With a Linux open source version of Swift by the end of 2015, Apple has made it possible to compile and experiment with Swift on very low-cost hardware like the Raspberry Pi. That hooks budding developers into Swift, possibly skipping Java altogether.
#4 Apple as Gaming Platform
Apple continues its push to turn the Apple ecosystem into the best way to make games and graphics heavy applications. Apple introduced Metal to the Mac, a 3-d rendering engine so low-level it runs extremely fast. Adobe’s adoption of Metal for Mac apps was telling. Metal’s primary function when it was released for iOS last year was gaming. Apple added more gaming editors, an AI framework for gaming, lights, cameras, and even more action.
The one thing no one talked about is interaction between the Apple Watch and the gaming environment. With the full motion sensor capabilities of the watch and the taptic engine unlocked there is a large number of gaming experiences where your hand becomes your controller.
This definitely thrilled many developers to tell from the applause, but the press seem to be glossing over it. Based on the current architecture for split view controllers, multitasking looks easy todo, if you have learned one thing first, which you should anyway. (see #10).
#9 Auto Layout 2.0, Courtesy of The Watch
In some conversations on Twitter before the Keynote, some of us were joking around about impossible announcements. One was the announcement of Auto Layout 2.0. Turns out we got it. Actually we already had it if you’ve worked in WatchKit, and I had my suspicions it might migrate. In Xcode 7, If you add no manual constraints on controls in a iOS storyboard, you will be able to use the WatchKit layout system, where you tell the system where to put things by basic position information. (For an example, see my post on Basic WatchKit layout)
Though last year I hated auto layout, I turned around for several reasons(see #10) and learned to love it. One of the biggest mistakes Apple has made recently is how they introduced and taught auto layout to developers. The documentation and tutorials at WWDC’s in the past are confusing and horrible. (Full disclosure: I’m releasing a book Practical Auto Layout in late June 2015) The new layout system is a lot simpler and for most applications will do everything any developer will need.
#10 If You Do Not Know Size Classes, Learn Them.
While not said outright, if you do not know auto layout and class sizes yet, do so. All the new stuff like multitasking depends on class sizes. As I found out when I was trying to avoid them last year, this is already the case. You can’t present a modal view controller without running into class sizes. (If you want a quick introduction, here’s one.)
#11 Apple Music Connect: Content is King
While there is already gloom and doom about Apple Music, Apple already learned many lessons from previous failures in iTunes. The introduction Apple Music Connect points to a change in Apple I hope to see extended: Content platforms for artists. The biggest mistake when offering content on iTunes or App Store is believing Apple will market your app for you. To market effectively requires an artist to build their own on-line audience, the audience becomes fans, then the fans come to the store to buy. To get that audience requires content in many forms: Video, images, text and fan interaction.
Apple is offering music artists of all level of popularity to host their content to build that audience, then fans can either buy the song in iTunes or listen to them in the Apple music steaming app. While starting this content platform with music hopefully this will be a trend not just for musicians, but authors, directors, and developers as well. All of iTunes and the App store should have this.
#12 The Missing Apple TV – iOS9?
I said something outrageous yesterday, which I’m beginning to wonder if I’m right. Apple TV’s current problem is getting enough content. What if the content was not just television and movies? What if it was any app, especially games? It may still be a long shot guess, but the next Apple TV will be an iOS9 device. iOS9 is the perfect environment to make games, and a lot of games are already made for earlier versions of iOS. There is a family deal with Apple Music, the gaming platform (including the often forgotten and otherwise worthless API’s for game controllers), and all the music and movies in the iTunes store, which is already part of Apple TV. Apple’s removing the newsstand and replacing it with individual apps for content works not just with print media but would work for video as well, removing some of the current problems with video content. A iOS9 device that runs on a big screen television would be a full entertainment system, with games priced less than many specialized systems, integrated with phones, tablets and macs, not just a TV.
Some things to think about.