Apple's WWDC began yesterday. What do we know so far?
Apple's World Wide Developer Conference is the their annual event for developers. Pre-covid this was a mega-meeting of developers with over 5000 people would gather to learn about what's coming in the next version of iOS and MacOS and to learn how to utilise these new features.
We first visited WWDC in 2009 and a lot has changed since then. It's not really a "coming together" any more as all of the sessions are now webcasts. Day 1 is similar to what it used to be - with 2 large sessions that take place.
Session 1 is the WWDC Keynote. This part of the conference is open to press, and is often where Apple unveil new devices and new features in the new operating system. Over the years we've witnessed the introduction of the iPhone 3GS (Now with compass!) - Introduced by Phil Schiller are Steve Jobs was on sick leave at the time. The iPhone 4 (welcome back Steve), New MacBooks, The introduction of Swift, and many other big announcements.
Session 2 is not open to the press and could be thought of as a developer's "whats coming this week", highlighting the various new technologies that folks will want to get their teeth into.
Apple announced the "Apple Vision Pro" which they describe as "a revolutionary spatial computer that seamlessly blends digital content with the physical world, while allowing users to stay present and connected to others".
For those who don't inhabit the gadget laden, Apple led, fan universe, Apple have released a mixed reality headset that they see as a whole new way of computing.
For those who don't inhabit any kind of gadget laden universe, mixed reality refers to a concept where the world you are looking at has digital imagery embedded into it.
Huh? Ok. Imagine at it's most simplest, you're wearing a headset, and you can see the room around you. Now imagine you launch Netflix on the headset and a new screen appears in the room, showing Netflix. The screen isn't really there, it is just projected into your field of view. Pretty science fiction right?
The idea of virtual reality and augmented reality have been knocking around for a number of years. It has, for some time felt like a solution looking for the problem it has solved, but I'm not sure that yesterday's unveiling has changed this perspective.
But, you should go look for yourself. Head over to Apple's website to take a look.
There's no doubt that Apple have unveiled the best headset available yet. Their work in the last number of years in chip design, screen improvements, and processing power have all fed into this; but I can't say I left the presentation convinced.
Do I want to experience it ? Hell yeah.
So, have they broke through a whole new way to experience the computer? I think the answer to that is clearly yes.
Will it be a mass market device? At that price it's a no.
Will it eventually be a mass market device? I really can't say for sure.
So, let's break down some of the details.
The elephant in the room is the price. The leak machine has been suggesting it will be high end, and will be around $3,000. Many were assuming that this was to prepare people for a lesser, but still large price; but it was announced yesterday as "beginning at $3499". The gasps were audible. A quick usual calculation for Apple products to Europe and my guess is that will be somewhere in the €4,299 arena. (Including VAT). Personally, I'll need the touted "Carl Zeiss corrective lenses", and I can't see change out of €4.5k. I'd need a very compelling reason to purchase that.
After looking through the specs, you can see where the costs comes from: A larger than 4k screen for each eye, internal infra red cameras for iris tracking, an M2 chip. A new "R1" chip for managing sensor inputs, a LiDAR sensor, depth cameras. fan systems, spatial sound, and an array of motion tracking sensors. Add to this that the outside is essentially a screen (to show an image of your eyes to others), and you can see this is laden with technology. Apple claim they have filed over 5000 patents when developing the unit. There's also a ton of materials science gone into this.
Think of it as "wearing your computer" - Apple showed the UI with applications like Keynote, Notes, Safari, and Mail. Their stills showed a virtual keyboard floating in the air that you can type on, and the demo showed using simple gestures to move windows and scale them; switching between apps, is simply a matter of looking in their direction. All pretty cool. Indeed, if you compare the Vision pro with a high-end computer, and multiple external displays, maybe it isn't such a bad price?
This was a very different Apple product launch. I guess with such an immersive experience, it is difficult to demo, so everything was videos showing the device in use, and how the user would experience it. It simply doesn't to it justice. It didn't have that moment of when Steve Jobs pulled an iPhone out of his pocket and used the "slide to unlock". Instead, we were treated to a couple of videos of (some nice) use cases.
The presentation also lacked the the "available to order today" that typically wows the crowd. Instead, it was launched with "available early next year". And then they mentioned "in the US", which further deflated excitement for us.
All in all, this looks very impressive. It looks like Apple have produced the best version of a mixed reality device on the market. The question is, is there a market? This remains to be seen.
I wouldn't be sounding the death knell just yet. Apple have a habit of taking something that was done before, then doing it better, and allowing parts of it to fail, to allow it find it's place. The first Apple watch just about lasted a day; its hasn't quite replaced the phone just yet, but 8 series in, it really has found its place, and sells by the bucketload.
We'll watch this closely for sure.
What else was launched?
Well, on the hardware front, a new MacBook Air was launched, as were updates to the Mac Pro and Mac Studio. The latter tend to be high end and work in areas needing serious computing power such as animation, music production and the like. The Mac Book Air is an instant "Want" for us.
I've had a number of Mac Book Airs over the years and they are by far the best devices I've owned. Apple have added a 15" model to the line up, and used their latest processor. Given my last MacBook Air had an Intel chip, this new version claims at 12x speed performance over that particular model. The temptation is high here!
New features coming to iOS 17 were announced - and we'd call these mainly "consumer" changes. As developers, we'll watch a few more sessions over this week to see where new features may be relevant to our clients. You can find more here
Apple also announced the next version of MacOS Sonoma. We always look forward to these, because though we are Apple developers, we spend our working days on a Mac, and hence benefit from their features. The one I'm looking forward to is their enhancements to Video conferencing. They've added the ability to place your video image over screens you are sharing so you can remmain in frame during a call - The beauty of doing this at the operating system level is this will "just work" with Zoom, Teams. Facetime, etc. (and one presumes Google Meet, but Apple don't mention Google)
Where from here?
Well, this week will be a number of sessions, demos, labs etc, and various members of the Tapadoo team will be tuned in to various sessions, and looking for opportunities for our clients; we'll write up more posts soon.