Apple has a small collection of annual announcement events. In September, the company tends to show off consumer hardware, including the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook line. In June, however, the company holds its annual World Wide Developer Conference, or WWDC, where they tend to show off software and professional hardware. WWDC 2019 was no different, with new operating system information, updated platforms, and a new Mac Pro model, plus a return to monitors. While the announcements received the mandatory applause from those in attendance, the general response was not entirely positive.
iOS (iPhone and iPod Touch)
The biggest change coming to iOS 13 (which is now only available on iPod Touch and iPhone), is not something that consumers will know about but is a big deal for developers: SwiftUI. SwiftUI is a replacement for the disastrous UI designer that app builders have had to contend with for the past decade. SwiftUI brings to the Apple development platform features that Microsoft developers have had for over a decade, whether building for Windows, Xbox, Android, or iPhone: a visual designer. Developers can now build interfaces and see what they will look like, and even make live adjustments directly in Xcode, which is Apple's development tool.
For consumers, the biggest change will be the addition of dark mode, another feature that has been part of the other platforms for years. For some, dark mode is an always-on feature, while for others it is a great way to ease the screen strain on their eyes in the evening. Either way, a dark background with light text is a feature that Apple fans have been asking for over the years, and they finally have it.
Another big addition that will make using iOS apps easier is multi-window support. The best example of this feature is being able to have more than one browser window open, each with its own set of tabs, or each with a single active tab. It is also a popular feature on other platforms for messaging, whether it be email or text. It will be interesting to see where Apple adds the feature, as well as where 3rd party developers see the benefit.
Since its inception, the iPad has run on the same operating system as the other handheld mobile devices: iOS. Starting this generation, a fork of iOS will be used for the iPad, creatively called iPadOS. While nearly identical to the core mobile operating system, forking the development will allow Apple to more easily add features such as split screen on the iPad Pro, without having to worry about unintended consequences on the other devices. It's important to note that, as of today, it will not affect any app deployment, but it is always possible that this will change at some point in the future.
The biggest change to watchOS is the ability to use it on its own. The App Store is now available directly on the Apple Watch, meaning that you can install apps without the need for an iPhone attached. This will make the untethered mode, such as when using it on LTE, far more useful. However, the biggest benefit for Apple Watch owners is not needing to clutter up your iPhone with apps, just because you want something on your Watch. Direct app installation will mean smaller, more focused Watch apps, and less clutter on your phone.
The next version of macOS, Catalina, will bring with it some new features. The most exciting is probably Sidecar. This feature allows Mac and iPad owners to use the iPad as an additional monitor for their Mac. This is not a new capability to the platform, as there have been a number of apps that have allowed for this feature for years. However, Apple's embracing of the technology likely means better stability.
Another feature is Find My, the extension of Find My Phone onto MacBooks. While a lost MacBook probably means that you should focus more on what you're doing, having this feature is a benefit for those who can't do that. It sounds like the feature works like Tile, meaning that other devices will report encountering the laptop, when and where.
In addition, there are a number of app redesigns. As we
reported last week, iTunes is dead (on Mac), being replaced instead by Apple Music, Apple TV, and Apple Podcasts. The Photos, Notes, and Safari have also brought about updates. Mac Pro and Pro Display
The Mac Pro received a much-needed refresh. The new model uses Intel Xeon server processors, which is an interesting choice for a non-server device. However, what Apple has accomplished with the Mac Pro is truly impressive: rendering of 3 separate 8K video feeds at once, without the computer simply melting into a puddle is not something you would expect from a pre-built computer. However, for the estimated $45k for the top-level model, you could likely build several computers of equal or greater capacity.
The product that received the most coverage, however, is the Pro Display. This screen is equal or better than a $40k broadcast-quality reference monitor but runs only $6k. However, the real focus here has been the fact that this expensive display does not come with a stand. Instead, the company offers a VESA mount for $200, or a tabletop stand for $1000. Yes, you read that correctly: $1000 for a monitor stand, something that comes with monitors. Add to it that the monitor and stand carry with it the incredibly ugly cheese grater design of the new Mac Pro, and it has been met with a lot of negative sentiment, even from diehard Apple fans.
Though theoretically a successful platform, iTunes has always been a hated part of the Apple ecosystem. It was introduced in 2001 as the legal alternative to Napster - a way to purchase and listen to digital music. It was the companion product to the first iPod devices, which were limited in capabilities and availability. As the platform grew, so did the capabilities of iTunes. Over time, they introduced podcasts to the platform, then videos. With the release of the iPhone, the company decided to incorporate all of the phone's capabilities into the same application. This has made it a very large, bloated piece of software that requires constant updates to support unrelated products and services.
Over the past few years, Apple has begun to spin out the capabilities of iTunes into individual mobile applications, like Apple Podcasts, Apple Music, and Apple TV. Unfortunately, on the computer, iTunes has continued to exist as an unwanted and necessary application. All of that is about to change, however, as Apple is expected to announce at WWDC that they have done the same to the computer that they have to mobile. There will be individual applications for Music, Podcasts, and Video, making each application theoretically easier to navigate.
When the context is lost in an application like iTunes, it makes it nearly impossible to find your way around. For example, the process of syncing music, photos, and ringtones to an iPhone are all different, despite being part of the same application. By giving each task its own dedicated context, it should make using those platforms easier. Plus, it means that adding support for a new model of iPhone, for example, should no longer require an application update, unlike today.
Some possible screenshots have leaked, suggesting that the applications will retain the ugly and outdated user interface that iTunes currently uses, though that might have been for a prototype version, a temporary launch version, or even a complete fake. We don't have long to wait, as WWDC 2019 starts Monday morning.
It was only a matter of time before Wikipedia's popularity and crowdsourced content encouraged a large company to use the platform for advertising. While companies have used the platform to increase their own Wikipedia page's visibility, The North Face took a unique approach to the goal. Rather than worrying about their own ranking, they used Wikipedia's own ranking on Google Image Search to place their brand all over the world.
The company, with the help of marketing agency Leo Burnett Tailor Made, decided to own adventure photography on the internet. They traveled around the world, taking photos in high profile locations, with their models wearing or carrying The North Face products, highlighting the logo. They then replaced existing photos of those locations on Wikipedia with their own photos. On its face, it seems semi-trivial, as the photos themselves were still of the locations in question. However, it meant that the first photo on Google Image Search for those locations was often the one from the company, meaning a highly increased presence of their logo for travelers.
The move was clever, but unfortunately for The North Face, is completely against the terms of service for Wikipedia. Because of the high number of changes to Wikipedia pages every day, they might have gotten away with it, save for one big mistake: they
produced a video promoting their scheme, which was published publicly. In addition, they claimed in the video that they had collaborated with Wikipedia, which they had not.
Wikimedia, the organization behind Wikipedia,
responded, claiming that the companies had defaced Wikipedia. Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation did not collaborate on this stunt, as The North Face falsely claims. In fact, what they did was akin to defacing public property, which is a surprising direction from The North Face. Their stated mission, "unchanged since 1966," is to "support the preservation of the outdoors" - a public good held in trust for all of us.
The company has publicly apologized for the stunt in a
tweet issued on Wednesday, saying, We believe deeply in @Wikipedia's mission and apologize for engaging in activity inconsistent with those principles. Effective immediately, we have ended the campaign and moving forward, we'll commit to ensuring that our teams and vendors are better trained on the site policies.
Clearly, Wikipedia's moderators will be on the lookout for this type of behavior going forward, meaning that we are unlikely to see anyone else try this again any time soon. Do you think that what The North Face did was unethical, or was it a clever usage of Wikipedia's search position? Let us know in the comments.