As expected, there were no hardware announcements when Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) took to the stage on Monday to kick off its WWDC 2015. Apple has become quite good at directing its own media coverage through controlled leaks, and The New York Times shot down the idea of a new Apple TV just days before the event. Instead, the Mac maker focused exclusively on software and services, citing the familiar "people briefed on the product." Here are the four biggest things that came out of the opening keynote.
Split View on iPad (Air 2)
This is a big one. For years, users have been asking for a better way to multitask on the iPad, and Apple has finally delivered. Once upon a time, "multitasking" on iOS simply meant quickly switching between apps, but true multitasking is finally here in the form of split-screen apps, a feature that Apple calls Split View.
There is also a less powerful version called Slide Over, in which a small version of an app can be pulled over and worked with. The primary difference is that only one app is truly active at a time, whereas in Split View both apps are active and can be resized.
Split View is available only on iPad Air 2. Some will say that move is merely an attempt to sell more of the latest and greatest models. Others will argue that there are probably some technical reasons that only the Air 2 supports Split View. Both are probably true -- consider, for example, that the Air 2's A8 chip has 40% faster CPU performance and 2.5 times better graphics performance compared with the Air's A7 chip.
Apple is also introducing picture-in-picture, in which a video can be viewed while doing other tasks.
It's been just over a year since Apple's blockbuster (by Apple standards) acquisition of Beats. The company made it quite clear at the time that Beats Music was one of the key reasons behind the big buy. More specifically, Beats Music put a big emphasis on human curation. Apple Music is essentially an amalgamation of all of the existing services already out there -- there isn't anything truly revolutionary being offered.
Apple Music offers on-demand streaming similar to Spotify, live broadcasting radio such as Sirius XM, and a sort of social-networking platform for artists to connect with listeners. But Apple Music Connect isn't merely Ping reincarnated. Apple has since realized that it's better off leaving social networking to the pros, opting to integrate Facebook and Twitter in numerous ways. Connect focuses primarily on allowing artists to connect with followers, adopting a Twitter-esque assymetric following model. This was a feature of Ping, but Ping overreached with its ambition and also attempted to be a social network for users.
Interestingly, Apple Music will be available on Android later this year. It's eerily identical to when Apple brought iTunes to Windows in 2003, which was an explicit admission that the competing platform was simply too big to ignore altogether. Instead, Apple will attempt to use the service as a Trojan horse, trying to show Android users the light of using an Apple service with the hopes of converting them to iOS altogether.
There won't be a free ad-supported version of Apple Music. The service will cost $10 per month, or $15 per month for a family of up to six people, and it launches on June 30.
Native Apple Watch apps
It's been just six weeks since Apple Watch first started shipping, and Apple is promptly addressing one of its initial criticisms: App performance suffers because most Apple Watch apps are merely extensions of iPhone apps. Currently, the only native Watch apps are the ones that Apple makes. To address this concern, Apple plans to release watchOS 2, an update that will allow third-party developers to begin making native apps, which will dramatically improve performance. Additionally, native apps will soon have access to more of Apple Watch's hardware, such as the microphone or other sensors.
In addition to these changes, watchOS 2 will offer a feature called Time Travel -- a new way to view past and future information, such as upcoming events or weather forecasts. Lastly, developers will also soon be able to make their own "complications," the small data indicators that appear on the Apple Watch face.
Say what you will about Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL) Now and how it's creepy and eerily omniscient, but it sure can come in handy sometimes. Google Now was officially unveiled in June 2012 to take on Siri, but with a predictive twist. Google Now scans all of your data gathered through the search giant's plethora of services and then proactively makes suggestions accordingly. Google continues to push the limits of what sacrifices consumers are willing to make when it comes to their privacy in exchange for a useful and free service.
Siri is becoming proactive in much the same way, incorporating traffic conditions to send notifications on when you need to leave to make an appointment. Siri will also scan emails for calendar events or try to recognize incoming phone numbers that aren't already in your address book, among other things. The big difference, however, is that Apple is continuing its privacy crusade and ensures that none of these proactive features compromises a user's privacy in any way.
All of these proactive features occur on the device and are not linked to other services or a user's Apple ID. In the event that a service needs to access the cloud for any reason (such as looking up traffic or using voice recognition), all information is made anonymous and assigned a random identifier. Tim Cook recently took a stab at the new Google Photos service: "You might like these so-called free services, but we don't think they're worth having your email or your search history or now even your family photos data-mined and sold off for God knows what advertising purpose. And we think someday, customers will see this for what it is."