In one of its most jam packed events ever, Apple addressed over 5000 developers and world media at its World Wide Developers Conference at the San Jose Convention Center on Monday, and announced a slew of software and hardware updates to its lineup. We cut through the clutter to bring you the news that mattered from the event.
iMac Pro: Apple needed to lure back creative professionals…nay impress them…to keep them from jumping ship from the Mac platform, and it went all shock-and-awe with the launch of the new iMac Pro, a space-gray colored all-in-one desktop that checks off all the boxes for an over-the-top computer… and then some! This is a machine that starts with an 8-core Xeon chip but can scale up to an 18-core Xeon CPU with a Radeon Vega chip with up to 16GB of VRAM and up to 128GB of memory and a capacious 4TB SSD drive. Apple calls it the most powerful Mac to date, and at $4999 for the entry-level configuration, you’d certainly hope so! It ships in December in the US, so one hopes it is as bleeding edge then as it is now.
Updated Macs and macOS High Sierra: In a move that might cause some consternation to MacBook Pro buyers from last year, Apple refreshed its entire Mac hardware portfolio – iMac, MacBook and MacBook Pro - with the latest Intel Kaby Lake chips, and the iMac now has a brighter, sharper display and the ability to add more memory and graphics power to the high end-configuration. On the software front, Apple announced the next big update to macOS, called High Sierra, which has a brand new file system, which should see several performance benefits, plus an enhanced graphics rendering engine and some much needed browser enhancements to Safari such as auto-play video blocking and blocking for cross-site tracking tools. Apple showed off some big-name demos with Steam, Unity and Unreal gaming engines for its virtual reality play, and the Star Wars virtual reality demo with the HTC Vive headset was particularly impressive.
iOS 11: As usual, Apple dedicated a significant portion of its two-hour long WWDC keynote to the new software features coming to iOS devices. In iOS 11, iMessage will now synchronise better across devices, and will free up storage space by pushing unused stuff like old photo messages onto the cloud. Siri will translate phrases into other languages, including French, Spanish and Chinese, and will start offering proactive suggestions based on your usage and access to your email etc. There is a smart new “do not disturb while driving” safety mode, which will suppress notifications while you are driving and auto-reply to senders with an “I’m driving!” message. Apple is also redesigning the App Store for the first time, and it looks a lot like the modern interface we have seen on Apple Music. Live Photos also got a big boost with the ability to select the key photo you want to retain from the Live Photo (after you have taken the shot), and the ability to make loops of your live photos. One developer-oriented tool – ARKit - showed big promise, as it uses computer vision to detect surfaces in the real world and places (and interact with) augmented reality objects. iOS 11 arrives this September. Check out this video of iOS 11 on iPad.
iPad Pros: At WWDC, Apple replaced the 9.7-inch iPad Pro with a 10.5-inch screen, but by thinning the bezel out, it’s managed to pack in a bigger (~20 per cent) screen into a similar sized body. This $649 iPad Pro, along with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro now sport 64GB of base storage and features the same 12MP camera that can be found on the iPhone 7. One of the biggest performance boosts has been, courtesy a new feature called ProMotion, which allows the screen to update its content up to 120 times per second, making it feel smoother and more responsive, especially when you are using the Apple Pencil. iOS 11 also has a bunch of iPad-specific features, such as a dock for your frequently used applications, new drag and drop capabilities to move content between open apps, and a new Files app which helps make sense of all the files you have on your iPad’s storage and all your cloud storage accounts. It is also going to be easier to mark up screenshots and documents with the Apple Pencil, and iOS 11 will try and understand your handwriting in the Notes app so that you can text-search your handwritten notes anytime later. Slowly but surely, Apple’s coming good on the “iPad as a computer” promise.
HomePod: Apple has got Sonos, Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers square in its sights with HomePod, a new smart speaker that will start selling in December in white and space gray for $349. Apple claims it is small yet powerful, and it will sense the shape of your room and customise the audio output based on its surroundings. Siri comes fully baked into the HomePod and can answer all the usual stuff (and control HomeKit-based smart home appliances to boot), but a new “Musicologist” feature on the HomePod can also answer questions about the music it is playing. This is a big smart home entry from Apple, but the earliest we can see it is December, when Apple will launch it in select markets (India is not included, likely early 2018).