Leaps and Bounds


It’s hard not to be impressed by what Apple unveiled last Tuesday. Their presentation at WWDC 2014 showcased the next versions of OS X and iOS, arguably two of the most important software platforms of our time — while Windows users are wondering whether their new laptop is actually a tablet (or trying to find where the Start menu has disappeared to), the integration between Apple’s desktop and mobile operating systems has never been better, and is only going to get improve with OS X Yosemite and iOS 8.

But here’s the thing: while all the big Apple rumour blogs were focused on part leaks and mockups, speculating on possible materials and/or features, or even imagining that every Apple patent is going to be included in the next Apple product for sure, Apple went and revealed entirely new software features with nary a hint of any leaks beforehand. While the blogs were discussing the possibility of sapphire displays in the next iPhone, or putting estimates on production timeframes for whatever big Apple product is next, Apple were silent. The last Apple event we had before Tuesday’s presentation was when Apple announced the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display, all the way back in October last year.

We got exactly nothing from Apple for weeks, months on end, and then, boom — suddenly we have four thousand new APIs, HomeKit, HealthKit, CloudKit, and an entirely new programming language, one that’s been in development for almost four years. And that’s on top of an OS X redesign, rock-solid iterative improvements in both OS X and iOS, and a re-imagining of how photos in the cloud is going to work, as well as so many other features it was dizzying to list them all in a single wrap-up post.

Doubling down on secrecy, indeed.

I mean, one blog did get the general idea of Health right — even if the name wasn’t quite spot on — but as someone who writes about Apple on a daily basis, I find it nothing short of fascinating that not one predicted the ability to make calls or send messages from OS X, predictive word suggestions, or even the ability for family units to share photos, calendars, and reminders between devices and accounts. All of which, by the way, are features that have existed for years on other platforms or as separate services and apps. All really simple stuff — the low hanging fruit, if you will — but done right.

And when you think about it, that’s basically how Apple works. Their modus operandi is to not necessarily be the first to market with some groundbreaking new feature, but to bring it to market in the best way possible; a way that’s better than any previous implementation, but also more secure, more extensible.

Ask any long-term iPhone user and they’ll be able to tell you about when there was no system-wide copy and paste, or when Apple didn’t allow any kind of background multitasking. Now1, we’re getting the features other platforms have had for months, if not years.

Features like extensibility as a way for apps to communicate with one another. Features like actionable notifications. Widgets. Location-aware apps on the lock screen. Centralised, cloud-based document storage on all your devices. And so on, and so forth. Arguably mediocre features when considered individually, but all adding up to one substantial update that puts Apple’s platforms leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.

Boy, I sure chose a good week to switch to Android. Alas, that’s a tale for another time.

  1. As much as I hate to use the word, I think finally is warranted here. 

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