WWDC 2015 has come and gone, and while this year did not have quite as huge an onslaught of announcements as previous years, there were still significant steps forward. We had a team of five ChaiOne engineers head to San Francisco for this year’s WWDC.
Here’s what was covered:
The theme of this year was incremental improvements and stability across OS X, iOS and what is now called watchOS. Though there were headlining features, they were not overwhelming, which should allow Apple to bring some much needed stability and performance improvements across the board.
Starting with OS X 10.11, named “El Capitan”, new features were kept relatively minimal with the headline feature being a new window management system that allows two windows to be pinned side by side in full screen mode for easier multi-tasking and screen real estate use. While not a new feature by any means, this will be a welcome edition to OS X that will boost productivity and provide a helping hand to users that may not have had very good window management skills. There are other improvements as well, such as a more robust notes app that supports images and links, as well as bulleted lists.
Moving on to iOS, the marquee feature this year is multi-tasking on the iPad. Just as windows can be pinned side by side in OS X, apps can also be pinned side by side on iPad, starting with iOS 9, and only on the iPad Air 2. This should make the iPad much more viable as a main computer for many people, and also entice power users as well. Another similar feature, available on older iPads as well, is a slide over view. This is where an app is full screen like normal, but another app can “slide over” the top of the current app, at about 30% of the screen width, for quick interactions before it is dismissed and the main app regains focus. This allows quicker multi-tasking flows, while also allowing older devices to gain some more features, too.
The second part of the multi-tasking experience is something Apple is calling Picture-in-Picture. Simply, this allows videos to be taken out of the containing app, and watched in a small window while working in other apps. This will allow things like conference calls to be much more viable on iOS devices, since users will be able to take notes (or browse Twitter) while viewing the conference video at the same time.
While multi-tasking was the headlining feature, another useful feature is deep links. This will allow apps to direct users that may be coming from the web (A link to a tweet from Twitter for example) to be taken directly into the app, rather than having the user open the app and finding the relevant information.
Finally, with watchOS 2, apps will be able to run natively on the watch instead of running on the phone. While the watch still requires a phone to work, it will be much more independent with watchOS 2. One very nice feature is that the watch will be able to connect to known wifi networks, even if its paired iPhone is not present. This, along with natively running code, will enable apps to keep functioning even if the user forgets their iPhone at home, for example. Since the app is native to the watch, any info that the user might need from the app will not be lost since it does not have to get its information from the phone. These new developments will help move the Apple Watch toward being the next enterprise technology.
These new features, while not necessarily groundbreaking, are a much needed step forward that will allow much more productive use of iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch, and finally convince many holdouts that the iPad can be used as a more serious replacement for a desktop computer. With the rumored iPad Pro coming soon, mobile workers will be further untethered from the shackles of cubicle oppression, and will ride on the wings of the dawn into a more productive tomorrow.