Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Jun 2019

Unstructured/Structured WWDC19 Keynote Thoughts

Unstructured thoughts on Apple’s 2019 WWDC Keynote

Did not intend to sit down and write this, so am using Siri dictation to do so. Because Voice Control is probably the most important highlight from the WWDC keynote. Well, the most important highlight for those people who may be looking to utilize Apple devices and services for the next 10 to 15 years. For those people, and for what seems to be pointing towards in writing/dictating this right now, the power will be in declarative computing - not simply pushing a mouse, keyboard, or cursor to where you want to go. But using intention as a control mechanism. Gestures are a part of this, but mental acuity is the canvas/pen.

A little bit more about Siri: it seems as if Apple has taken some lessons from Brian Roemmele and is making a more natural interface for potential conversation. Now, he might say that they could’ve gone further and made it purely conversational, and an active listener. But it seems as if they are setting the stage for doing that with watchOS doing noise-loudness detection, a new neural text-to-speech voice, and more. Not fully SiriOS, but the enablements there and with Shortcuts on iOS/iPadOS seems to point there cleanly.

That the iPad is now getting specifically focused iPadOS says a whole lot about the future productivity. Granted, if you’ve been listening to this channel or others for many years, you’re already bought and sold into that vision. The case is now that it’s possible not only for others to jump into that vision, but there is an incentive for developers to build that into their products, and for productivity to change to adapt to that reality. It’s almost like saying, the tablet is grown enough to be the kind of device it needs to be, here is the way you work that out. Three-finger text control gestures toss the “need a mouse” argument out; and PencilKit should finally mean something of a standard-fare in apps which use canvas/drawing surfaces to elevate that input mechanism and the connections it opens.

The new Mac Pro reminds of the Ford F150 from one or two generations ago. It went from a design that looks like a car, but try to take some of the smoother softer aspects of an automotive design and appropriate that to a truck. And while they did not hurt their sales numbers any, they were perceived as being less capable. When looking at the new Mac Pro, not only the design but also the features, the absolutely insane features of the top and models, you can’t help but see a similar cadence. A device like this is really built for professionals, not power users. Will not be surprised to hear those who do YouTube, tech journalism, fawn over the specs for this. But they are not the audience. To those to whom this will be the audience, a redesigned F150 will be exactly what is ordered. And just like Ford, Apple will likely see their perception and marketshare grow by leaps and bounds because of this attention to this specific group.

Swift UI is going to be more important for the health of macOS as it goes forward. Not so much because it gives away for iOS applications to come to macOS, but it allows certain skills and development to be shared from those persons who been developing for many years/decades to those who are just entering the space and find arcane frameworks or software development kits a little more cumbersome than they need to be. That’s not a bad thing, if you want to improve the user experience of some applications, you have to improve the user experience of the developers who are developing those experiences. Demo looked like Swift Playgrounds minus the gaming — kids who play Minecraft are well-positioned to go right into this.

All in all, it has to be something of a breather for those persons who have thought or have seen a decrease in the affluence and ability of Apple to set trends. Clearly, some of the softer bits are harder to see at this juncture (it is a keynote, at the annual developers conference). But if you look beyond the things that were announced, paying attention to the placement of items in the presentation, pain attention to the energy around some of the announcements, you can see that Apple is very much setting themselves up for future where the iPhone has now become like the Mac. Paying attention to the whispers: AirPods, HomePod, CarPlay, Siri — this is Apple next. And that’s not a bad place at all. Even with the economic and cultural headwinds happening right now.

Update: Videos for the keynotes and other sessions are all posted here.