By Maria Ramos – Guest Writer
In this new decade, competition in the computing and gadgets sectors has reached a fervor not seen since the early days of the PC and gaming industries. After quite some time languishing in self-induced proprietary obscurity, Apple has begun to take the competition from the likes of Google very, very seriously. Apple’s plans to compete with the now juggernaut were made all too real at the recent WWDC, where a number of massive upgrades to existing Apple technology, as well as updates on forthcoming new marvels, were shown to the masses.
With the increasing dominance of Google and, to a lesser extent, Microsoft in the mobile and wearable era, exactly what weapons will Apple be bringing to the battlefield henceforth?
Rethinking OS X
Officially labeled OS X 10.11, El Capitan seeks to successfully bridge the gap between the PC/Notebook, tablet, mobile phone and wearable tech in a way Microsoft tried and failed to do.
Integrating much of the app management and interaction technology refined over several releases of its sister system, iOS, 10.11 tries to be a touch-friendly PC operating system without brutally excluding those used to classic computer interfaces. A number of new gesture designs oriented around cursor use are a good sign that they have indeed learned from Microsoft’s Windows 8 debacle.
A Smarter iOS
The primary focus of improvement in iOS 9 is a much smarter Siri. Context sensitivity, the lack thereof resulting in many hilarious “Siri moments” chronicled across the web, is set to be introduced in 9. This may sound like a small innovation, but the ramifications are in fact huge.
With properly-designed context sensitivity, Siri will be able to respond to more obscure commands, or the overly-worded and “polite” requests many users can’t help but make. Along with this will be better multi-purpose hands-free use of iPhones and iPads, with Siri being able to understand more complex input while interacting with more diverse applications and content.
We’ll All Pay
One of the more interesting novelties unveiled this year was Apple Pay. In conjunction with its unveiling was the reveal of buyable Pinterest pins which could be purchased through the system, as well as an announcement of a forthcoming reader device by Square, compatible with it.
Of course, the bigger Pay-related reveal only matters to those in England, where transportation, credit card systems and other financial tools are set to become compatible, directly and natively, with Apple Pay in the months to come.
A Swifter… Swift
The unveiling of Swift 2.0, especially in regards to the HomeKit, may encourage third party development. This, in turn, would serve to open devices compatible with the HomeKit up to wider and more diverse applications. On top of being a sign that Apple has realized the importance and benefit of openness to third party developers, it also shows that Google isn’t the only company taking the burgeoning industry of IOT (internet of things) seriously. The new HomeKit will be compatible with multiple smart devices such as the Honeywell Lyric, the Tempo Environment Monitor, ADT Home Security, the Hue Automated Lighting System and other computerized home infrastructure. Along with forthcoming controllability via Apple Watch, this could be one of the first IoT kits successfully productized.
Of course, the WWDC wouldn’t have been complete without an update on the much-awaited Apple Watch and watchOS. Unfortunately, Apple wasn’t terribly forthcoming, as has been their policy regarding this technology, beyond one very interesting bit of news. An announcement of a revised watchOS API indicates that the watches will be able to run software natively, rather than utilizing an iPhone or iPad via Bluetooth as an external processor. If this is the case (and it’s not entirely confirmed), these novelty gadgets will very quickly become a lot more useful than any smart watch made by any company to date.
Facing the Music
Having been losing ground for a long time in the digital music industry, Apple’s ready to make its way back with a re-envisioned Apple Music. Breaking away from the infamously frustrating iTunes system, Apple Music is more like the personal digital radio stations we’ve all become so addicted to in the mobile 4G era. Looking to compete with the likes of Spotify and Pandora, Apple Music offers a clean media player interface with album covers, a revamped playlist manager and, of course, music videos as well. While this is a major bolster to Apple-powered audiophiles, it’s not likely to beat out Google Play, Pandora or Spotify for users of non-Apple devices.
This year’s WWDC keynote has, above all proven one major thing. Apple has woken up and taken a look at the world around them. They’re showing a willingness to step outside their comfort zone of unnecessarily proprietary hardware and software, embrace third party support and pursue much-neglected niches in the technology field.