Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) kicked off its annual Worldwide Developers Conference today, which included several major announcements in the opening keynote. In line with prior reports, there was no hardware news whatsoever. Instead, the company focused exclusively on software announcements for each of its four major platforms: iOS, MacOS, WatchOS, and TVOS. The company now has over 20 million registered developers and is preparing to surpass a momentous milestone: Its cumulative developer payout is about to top $100 billion.
Here's everything the Mac maker announced today.
Apple has been aggressively pushing augmented reality (AR), unveiling ARKit last year, a set of AR tools for developers to create AR apps and experiences. The next major upgrade to ARKit will include features like improved face tracking, realistic rendering, 3D object detection, and perhaps most importantly, shared AR experiences. That will enable things like multiplayer AR games, where two or more players can interact with an AR experience in real time.
The company is also creating a new file format just for AR called USDZ, which it developed in collaboration with Disney's Pixar. Creating a file format is a significant step that will help accelerate the adoption of AR across platforms and devices.
Apple is focusing on improving performance on older devices in iOS 12, which will be released later this year. The company's most important operating system will include new tools designed to address tech addiction, including more ways to manage and hide notifications and other refinements to the Do Not Disturb setting.
Most importantly, there will be a new Screen Time app that provides users with weekly summaries of activities and how much time they're spending on their devices. That will include seeing how often you pick up your phone and what apps may be prompting you to pick up your phone. Users will then be able to set time limits for apps to better discipline themselves, with those limits applying across devices. This includes a robust set of parental controls, allowing parents to set "allowances" or set downtimes when kids can't use their devices. Apple is recognizing the real-world impacts of technology addiction and taking that responsibility seriously.
Other changes in iOS 12 will include new Animoji, including a customizable Memoji that users can personalize to look like themselves. Memoji is essentially a carbon copy of Samsung's AR Emoji, which are effectively animated versions of Snap's Bitmoji. Group FaceTime is also coming, supporting up to 32 participants in video chats. Siri is also getting a new Shortcuts feature, which lets users create customized workflows using voice commands.
Apple adopted California-themed names for MacOS releases a few years back, and the next one is called Mojave. MacOS Mojave will have a new optional dark mode throughout the system, dynamic desktop wallpapers, and stacks for organizing desktop clutter. Apple added several screenshot tools in iOS 11 last year, and many of these tools are coming to Mojave as well.
In a direct shot at data-hungry tech peers, the next version of Safari will further strengthen privacy controls to combat tracking. Apple pointed to a practice called "fingerprinting," where data companies use a wide range of techniques beyond cookies -- such as identifying font size, battery level, or other settings -- to covertly build profiles on users for tracking purposes (NPR has a good summary of fingerprinting here). Safari will attempt to obfuscate this data, effectively making all Macs resemble each other as much as possible.
WatchOS and TVOS
In terms of the less important platforms, WatchOS 5 will get a handful of incremental improvements like automatic workout detection, more activities and goals, and a new walkie-talkie functionality. Apple had actually described a walkie-talkie feature back in 2014 when the original Apple Watch was unveiled, but never delivered it. A slimmed-down version of WebKit will be integrated into watchOS 5, allowing small snippets of specially formatted web content to be displayed on the device.
After introducing Apple TV 4K last year, the business has grown by over 50% year over year, according to CEO Tim Cook. The main upgrades to TVOS are that Apple TV 4K will soon support Dolby Atmos, that company's newest and most immersive surround-sound technology.
Bringing iOS apps to the Mac
Reports have surfaced recently suggesting that Apple has been working on a type of universal software platform for all apps, an idea that Cook shot down in April. While software chief Craig Federighi reiterated again that iOS and MacOS will always remain separate platforms, he did at long last confirm that Apple is indeed working on a way for developers to port iOS apps to the Mac in what he described as a multiyear effort. Apple is taking some of the underlying frameworks from iOS and bringing them to MacOS, according to Federighi.
Initially, Apple is bringing some of its first-party iOS apps to the Mac, such as Apple News, Stocks, and Home, before rolling them out more broadly to developers in 2019. This has significant implications for Apple's rumored effort to transition Macs to its own A-series chips.
Investors are going to have to wait a few months for hardware announcements in the fall.