I watched the WWDC 2017 Keynote this morning, and it was a combination of “well, that’s not a surprise” and “hmm, now that’s something to consider”. At least I didn’t find myself wondering when it was going to end, although it was clear they were rushing through some parts to have enough time for some of the more expansive elements.
First, Keynote Bingo
Once again, we got almost everything you would expect in an Apple presentation. The words “amazing”, “magical”, “incredible”, “most ‘something‘ ever” appeared more or less on cue. Both genders were, as usual, represented, as was a visible minority. We got 3rd-party developers. We got to watch videos. There was only one element missing: a video featuring Jony Ive discussing the design of some piece of hardware.
We get all of this because of the continued insistence on having a “cast of thousands” approach to the presentation. Of course, to fit in all the presentation elements and get all the faces front and centre, people nearly had to sprint on and off stage. For some (like Phil Schiller), it resulted in them sounding a little out of breath. Seriously, they need to design these presentations so they don’t require triathlete stamina for the participants.
The “Okay, Figured That Was Coming”
Feature, features, features, features, features. Lots of features. At least we didn’t get a 20-minute focus on something as useless as stickers for Messages. And we didn’t get bored to tears with a dull recitation of every new “Something“-Kit that was added (and repeated 3 more times because it appears in all 4 of their operating systems).
The name for the newest macOS leads me to believe that this will be a stabilization release as much as anything else, and that is a good thing. MacOS has gotten far less stable over the years (the last truly stable release was Snow Leopard). Rebooting a Mac isn’t quite a daily event most of the time, but that it’s become almost a monthly thing is not a good development. Let’s hope High Sierra includes a lot of focus on just getting this stuff to work.
The AR features looked neat, and what was demonstrated could be interesting for games. I have a app idea that’s been percolating for a few years now, and this new AR framework puts pieces into place that I was possibly going to have build myself. That, coupled with access to a user’s Music library and Apple Music, fills in some gaps for this app idea (the app itself is a long ways off, other things to do first).
The hardware upgrades are welcome, and many were largely anticipated. The new iMac, upgraded MacBook Pros, and the refreshed iPad Pros are in line with what we would have expected, and that is a good thing. I’ve been looking forward to see where the iPad Pro was going to go (and I really like my 12.9” iPad Pro). This update makes an upgrade worth the while.
The HomePod was sort-of expected, but what it does is more than what most of the prognostications I read anticipated. This isn’t just Apple’s take on Google Home or Amazon Echo. It’s a virtual assistant and a high-quality wireless speaker system all in one. Will it be a success? We’ll see. It’s priced between a high-end speaker and the current crop of home assistants. But it will likely have better integration with the Mac and iPad/iPhone, meaning that, for people with an all-Apple environment, it just adds a new dimension to the mix.
The upcoming iMac Pro is more than I was expecting. I was anticipating some kind of Pro-grade iMac. I wasn’t expecting the massive amounts of computing and graphics that this thing will include. I figured Core i7 beefed up with more powerful graphics and a lot more internal storage. The specs we were given far exceeded that. And yes, I will probably be ordering one this year. I was all set to order the refreshed iMac they announced first, but I’m willing to wait to get the serious horsepower this iMac Pro will offer. I want an all-in-one (I like the form-factor, I don’t care much about expansion outside of USB/Thunderbolt, and I’m an old-school Macintosh traditionalist. If only it came in tan…). I don’t need or want a desk-side/tower.
Two of the items announced today will not be available until near the end of the year (and one only in select countries). Previously, Apple generally avoided pre-announcements. Products announced could be ordered either “today” or within about a week. We just saw announcements for products that won’t be available for at least half a year.
I get that Apple is dealing with issues on the Mac side around the lethargic pace of upgrades on anything not a MacBook. They had an extraordinary and unprecedented session with a handful of trusted reporters and bloggers to discuss this very issue. And the iMac Pro announcement is a very welcome bit of news, and again, more than I was hoping for. but, it’s somewhat unfortunate to see Apple continue to part with the “you can buy it now” philosophy they worked under for years.
Lengthy, Not Long
One of my criticisms about the previous Apple announcement was addressed in this one. Their last announcement seemed to be interminable. This one went by at a pretty decent clip. The pace was a bit frantic at times, but they did slow things down when it came to some of the more interesting bits. There were a couple of slower parts that dragged a little, but overall, it wasn’t too bad.
I still think that they need to dial back the “let’s get everyone on stage” antics. The lack of any meaningful update on “the numbers” continues to be an oversight in my mind, but I suspect that’s more due to the lawyers and the issues around reporting data for public companies. This keynote, though, was a step in the right direction.