Thoughts on WWDC 2014

Well I really don’t blog that much, do I. Anyway, a few thoughts about the whole thing.

First and foremost : as Matt Drance said, “this wouldn’t have happened with Steve Jobs”.

Joshua Topolsky said that he felt Apple had grown out of mourning Jobs’s passing. I disagree, they have moved to a different stance toward openness. Jobs was known to be against letting the customer alter the design and behavior of their products. He was against extension slots in the Apple II, against 3rd party apps in the iPhone. I doubt there’s a chance he’d have approved 3rd party keyboards in iOS for instance. Extensions, may be, but I wouldn’t bet on it either. So what we see now is Tim Cook doing as Steve said he should : not doing what Steve would have done, but doing what’s right. The new openness is also visible in the very relaxed NDAs (if any) going with the beta versions of iOS 8 and OS X 10.10, and the public beta program for the latter.

Other than openness, there’s also the integration : Apple showed coherent updates for both OS X and iOS, in that the transition between one environment to another is made much easier. Continuity is a pretty big deal, more than it would seem. It shows how Apple’s main product isn’t the iPhone or the Mac, it is the Apple ecosystem.

Swift : by the time Craig Federighi started talking about Objective C and how it had served well for so long, the keynote was already more than any dev could have ever hoped for. It was pretty clear how he was going but I think everybody had a hard time believing it. My initial reaction to the language itself was pretty enthusiastic, it looks pretty darn promising. However I haven’t had enough time to seriously practice it yet, so perhaps the shortcomings many others are talking about will annoy me too eventually. So far the best article I’ve seen about it is this one by Rainer Brockerhoff. Swift is bound to irritate almost everyone, as it apparently aims to do more than what ObjC is good at, which is mainly application development. That means doing some compromises, and breaking many an old entrenched habit, like being more strict toward typing. While it means that Swift is likely to be in some ways less convenient than ObjC for desktop and mobile app development, it also means it could be quite good on the server side. At the moment, this doesn’t really fit into Apple’s business lines, but I wouldn’t bet against Swift ever being used on the sending side of an http connection.

Finally, since this is my other topic of interest, photos : what does the new app that was announced to replace iPhoto mean for Aperture ? When the Mac Pro was announced, there were some mentions of a new version tailored for the little black beast, but if so it still hasn’t been released, and it’s clear that Aperture lacks the same level of care other “Pro” apps currently have. I doubt they would replace both iPhoto and Aperture with one single app, but I wouldn’t deem it completely impossible either. Let’s wait and see…

update 28/06/2014 : well, that was quick – they did just that.  Apple confirmed it was stopping the development of Aperture. The new Photos.app will be able to read librairies from Aperture, and will offer pro-level features. The main worry is that Photos won’t offer the same functionality level as Aperture, but if iOS Photos is any indicator, it should at least be more extensible than Aperture (which was really poor on that regard). I also have a hard time thinking that Apple would put the massive amount of image processing skills that they have to offer only a barebones photo app.

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