Week 24 2017 - WWDC 2017

Apple held its annual developer conference, WWDC, and there were a lot of interesting things in the keynote. Unlike most years, they even had a big section about hardware. The most interesting part in my opinion was the renewed focus on the iPad, both hardware and software.

Mac

However, let’s start with the Mac. There aren’t a lot of user facing changes to the new version of MacOS, High Sierra, but there is enough to show its a good improvement and most of the action is under the hood. As with iOS 10.3, APFS will become the standard filesystem, although there is no information as of yet whether that is optional or how the conversion will take place. I’m not going to reiterate everything, so if you want to know it all just follow the link above.

The Mac hardware had a pretty big focus as well, and the star here is the upcoming iMac Pro. First pre-announced by Apple in April, this is their latest pro desktop offering. If the rumors about it are to be believed, this was originally going to be the replacement for the Mac Pro until Apple realized1 that wasn’t going to work.

Regardless of its origin, this is going to be a very heavily specced machine. It looks similar to a regular iMac except that it comes in space grey2 with a color-matched keyboard and mouse/trackpad. The specs are impressive, as is the price. Starting at 5000 US dollars3 it should be good enough for a lot of professional work and leaves little to be improved on by the Mac Pro once they get around to releasing that. Of course, the iMac Pro isn’t actually available until December either but I guess if you’re going to pre-announce it a developer conference is the place to do so.

Additionally however, there were speed bumps across the line. Everything except the Mac Pro and Mac Mini4 was updated to the latest processors. Considering how Apple has left Macs lingering without updated specs for a long time, it’s good to see these bumps already. That said, it doesn’t solve all the complaints people had with the introduction of the MacBook Pro. There still is no 32GB RAM option5, no SD card slot, and it’s still expensive even though the entry level one is now cheaper6.

Homepod

Apple also came with its own version of the Echo and Google Home: the Homepod. Interestingly though, it seems to be mostly aimed at competing with expensive speakers instead of the smart assistants. Possibly realizing that Siri isn’t the strongest player in this area, Apple focused mostly on the quality of its sound. In fact, there wasn’t any clarity or demo off Siri’s capabilities within the Homepod. Combined with a release date in December, that makes me suspect that part of the device isn’t really done yet. That said, there are some hints that it’s better in some ways7 than the Echo and Google Home. However, without a way to verify that I don’t know how much of that is true and how much is marketing.

To be honest though, it looks like it’s going to be locked down even further than the Google Home and with a price point set at twice that of an Echo I’m not currently interested in it. In part because I rarely play music at home and suspect I’ll be satisfied with how an Echo sounds.

iPad

Which leads me to what to I believe was the most interesting part of the whole event: new iPad Pros and proper support in iOS 11 for most of the things that hobble its current ability to act as a productivity device. But let’s start with some of the general iOS changes. While I like the improvements on a lot of things, the most interesting new thing is likely ARKit. ARKit is a framework to help you build augmented reality applications (and games). It seems quite powerful, and I’m looking forward to seeing what will be built with it. Additionally they’ve finally given up on their insistence not to have a filesystem in iOS8 so we’ll have something called Files which seems to become a replacement for all filesystem related tools like iCloud Drive. It includes full integration with Dropbox and the like, so looks to be a complete solution.

Other good stuff is limited to the iPad though. A very much improved multitasker, a Dock similar to the one on the Mac, and very impressive looking drag and drop functionality. Additionally there will be a lot more you can do with the Apple Pencil, including the ability to markup pretty much everything and create a note by just tapping with the Pencil on your lock screen. I for one am very much looking forward to all of this on my new iPad Pro.

Because obviously I’m getting one of these new ones9. While the new 10.5” model is interesting, I’ll still stick with my original plan for getting the 12.9”. Especially as I’ve started using my iPad as a secondary monitor10. Aside from the screen sizes, both iPad Pro models have the same impressive hardware and come with a 120Hz screen.

Other things

There were a couple of other things worth taking note off. WatchOS 4 will mostly be a small update with some improvements and new watch faces. There I’m mostly interested in the Siri watchface and its Google Now like “All-Day Assistant”.

Various iCloud improvements are good as well. Syncing messages the right way11 is a very welcome improvement, as is the ability to share your iCloud Drive storage with family members. That last one means you no longer end up with one person having a 200GB subscription, half of which is unused, but another member of the family is unable to backup their system. Next up in that regard would be shared photo libraries.

Last, but not least, is the ability to use Apple Pay to send money peer to peer. This is limited to the US for now, but I’m interested in seeing how this will actually compare to other systems for this type of thing.


  1. No doubt as a reaction to a lot of complaints. [return]
  2. Which definitely looks a lot better than the standard white. [return]
  3. If it makes you feel better, it’s “actually” 4999. [return]
  4. Which is apparently still a product in Apple’s lineup. [return]
  5. Yes, this is a limitation on Intel’s side for these types of processors. Yes, Apple could probably release one with a different processor set that does support it and have less battery. But no, Apple decided not to. [return]
  6. Both the 13” MacBook Pro without Touchbar and the Macbook are now priced to take aim at the MacBook Air. They’re not there yet, but hopefully within the next couple of years they will be. [return]
  7. From what I’ve read, especially its ability to hear you despite loud music playing is supposed to be really good. [return]
  8. Which is fine for simple things, but turned Dropbox into a de-facto filesystem for anyone trying to get any more complex work done. [return]
  9. They’re not in stock yet at the Apple Stores here, probably due to today being a public holiday. [return]
  10. I like the fact that I can easily carry a secondary screen anywhere and that I then have the same one wherever I go. Besides, having a non-retina screen and a retina screen both up makes my eyes water. #firstworldproblems [return]
  11. In case you don’t use iMessage, the current situation is that you don’t get old messages on new devices and that you might get some of them out of order across different devices. [return]
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