With WWDC winding down and the CapTech crew returning from an intense week of sessions with Apple engineers and socializing with other iOS developers it's time to write an article about my impressions from the conference. Much of what I heard at WWDC is covered by NDA with Apple, but I'll share impressions and opinions based on what was publicly announced at the conference and the general tenor of the attendees.
The BIG Deal: Your Papers Please
The largest reaction at the keynote was on the announcement of the Retina MacBook Pros. While this is a cool laptop with a breakthrough display it probably won't have the long-term impact of PassBook. The Retina laptop is an evolutionary step in an existing product line. PassBook is a revolutionary step by Apple to interject itself into real-world transactions on a giant scale. PassBook currently supports boarding passes, coupons, store cards, loyalty cards, and a couple other types. Absent from that list is credit cards, but that is the next logical, and obvious, step. The current iPhone 4S and iPad have the capability to act as payment instruments via BlueTooth LE. Google is attempting to bludgeon its way into being a mobile wallet by jumping directly to credit cards, but Apple seems to be asking to be invited in by presenting the user with flowers and chocolate. The technical details of PassBook, covered by NDA, leave the merchant, or pass issuer, very much still in charge of the user relationship and management of the card data.
Apple is making many small tweaks to iOS to make development easier and code more robust. I believe they recognize that if we developers can produce better apps (prettier and more robust) it will only strengthen their ecosystem. There was a heavily attended series of sessions on improved layout capabilities in iOS. The sessions focused on making it easy to handle device rotation in your apps, but I believe the real reason for this additional support is to allow apps to easily handle iPhones and iPads with varying display sizes. These tweaks also make internationalization of apps much easier which aligns nicely with the public announcement of improvements focused on China.
As announced, iOS 6 supports iPhone 3GS and newer, and iPad 2 and better. Starkly missing from this support is the iPad 1. Many WWDC attendees were troubled by this decision. It has put developers in a hard place of either choosing one, and only one of the following choices:
- Support new features which provide great new functionality with little development but abandon a significant user community with perfectly functional 1st generation iPads.
- Support the 1st generation iPad and forego easy integration with social networks, easy internationalization, easy support for multiple screen sizes (and possibly frustrating customers with new devices).
Fortunately, phone apps will not need to make this decision since iOS 6 will run on the vast majority of iPhones that are still in circulation.
The announcement of the Retina Mack Book Pro will be sending ripples of change across the web world. Website owners will need to figure out how to deliver hi-res images to hi-res machines. If your site is built for a default resolution of 1024x768 it is going to look pretty puny on hi-res laptops. Websites will need to integrate responsive design principles to adjust to these hi-res devices, otherwise they will be frustrating to use by early adopters which are usually those that will freely spend money.
Siri So Sorry
Siri did get some interesting new functionality in iOS 6 and will work on the new iPad once iOS 6 is available. Unfortunately, I believe her utility is being stunted by her closed approach to integration.