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Apple WWDC 2017 – a MUST SEE keynote with game changing new tech, new OSes and more Featured

New iPads, new iOS 11, new Macs, new HomePod, new App Store app, new AR (augmented reality) and new everything – Apple blows away the competition with its best yet.

There’s a reason why Microsoft and Google rush to have their developer presentations before Apple each year, and that’s because they know that whatever they do, Apple always blows them away.

Apple’s WWDC 2017 presentation was so jam packed with information that, for the first time that I can remember, the event was 2 and a half hours long, rather than the usual 2 hour event.

A replay of this truly must-see presentation is available at Apple here. Please don’t succumb to watching the edited down versions that try to compress the entire event into just 10 or 20 minutes.

If you’ve wasted two or more hours watching some crappy movie, then redress the balance and watch the year’s best technology presentation.

Tim Cook came on stage and, with the help of various Apple executives, had six major announcements.

These included developments around tvOS, Apple Watch, the Mac, macOS High Sierra, iOS 11, iPad and HomePod.

Developer editions of the new OS versions are available today, public betas are due by the end of June, and they’ll go live in the US Fall, which is the Australian spring - around the timeframe the new iPhones are due to launch.

There was also a huge focus on Machine Learning, which we heard a lot about during Google’s I/O presentation, but unlike Google which does it all ‘in the cloud’, much of Apple’s machine learning is done on device, so privacy is respected. It’s always the little things like this which are so big in reality.

Also, we didn’t see any Apple Glasses yet, but the foundation that Apple laid with its augmented reality announcements, including an amazing demonstration of AR technology that looked like it had a much wider field of view than Microsoft’s HoloLens, any Apple Glasses will presumably come into view sometime next year - more on this below.

1. tvOS

Apple announced that the TV app now has 50 partners and will welcome Amazon and Amazon Prime Video to the family.

The TV app isn’t yet in Australia but we were told we’ll be hearing a lot more about tvOS later this year. Presumably this will be when the new iPhones launch, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

For all Apple TV and tvOS can do now (with the TV app still a US feature but plenty of things still possible everywhere else in the world), click here

2. Apple Watch

With Apple Watch, watchOS 4 was announced.

You can see Apple’s preview of all the cool new watchOS 4 features here, but a quick description is below.

Here we get new watch faces, starting with the Siri powered watch face, which intelligently surfaces notifications, appointments, reminders, photo memories, when the sun will set, access to HomeKit controls and lots more, including an on-screen Siri button for quick access.

Scroll with the digital crown to go through upcoming info with ease, see intelligent notifications based on the time of the day - it looks like this will become the default watch face for many, with all your other watch faces just a left or right swipe away.

There are new animated watch faces with Toy Story characters Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear, and a new Kaleidoscope watch face that is fun, and can also be controlled by the digital crown.

There are major improvements to the workout mode, right down to swiping left to get right to your music controls. The latest gym equipment will come with an NFC chip that allows two-way information sharing between Apple Watch and gym devices, so your watch will know the info the gym device has captured on your workout, and the info your watch has captured can be displayed on the gym device.

It’s a very clever two-way system that others will now scramble to copy, but which Apple is doing.

The OS gets improvements in background app running, seamless background access to external glucose monitors (which presages a future Apple Watch with such a feature built-in), background audio recording and much, much more.

Apple’s full WatchOS 4 media release is here

3. macOS Sierra and iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and iMac Pro updates

Apple’s new preview page for macOS High Sierra is here and its media release is here.

Tim Cook explained that Mac is in many ways the heart and soul of Apple, and a full suite of OS and hardware updates make that very clear.

The next version of macOS is called macOS High Sierra, and it has a ton of improvements, from making Safari the world’s fastest desktop browser according to a bunch of benchmarks, automatic blocking of those pesky auto-play videos, intelligent ad tracking so you don’t see the same ad for something you searched for or even purchased, done by machine learning.

There are all kinds of improvements. Mail uses 35% less disk space for storing mail. The Photos app is greatly improved with a better interface, better facial recognition, better editing tools and better integration with third party apps so edits done in apps like Pixelmator or Photoshop can be synced right back to Photos.

But there’s also a focus on data, video and graphics. HEVC or H.265 support is built in, and on the new Macs, it’s hardware accelerated.

Apple’s advanced AFPS file system is now standard, with 64-bit support and tremendously fast operation. Duplicating a bunch of large size video files took a few seconds in macOS Sierra, but in macOS High Sierra, this duplication was literally instant.

Access to the GPU gets a boost with Metal 2, which is 10x faster than Metal 1, which was 10x faster than pre-Metal graphics capability. This means Metal 2 is 100x faster than what we had in the pre-Metal days, meaning even more incredible graphics are now possible.

This is so much so that the latest Macs are fully optimised for full VR creation, with Final Cut Pro X able to edit spherical video, with even the Steam VR SDK finally coming to the Mac, alongside Unity and Unreal’s VR engines.

Apple also previewed a new iMac Pro coming in December, which can be configured with an up-to 18 Core Xeon processor for the most ultimate of VR creation suites.

There are new iMacs, MacBooks, MacBook Pros, MacBook Air and that aforementioned iMac Pro, all with processor updates and plenty more, with faster graphics, higher memory, faster storage, ThunderBolt 3 and next-gen graphics in the iMac line.

The MacBook Pro models are moving to Intel’s 7th-gen Kaby Lake processors, with the 15-inch model getting faster SSDs and faster graphics, too.

The MacBook Air gets a faster processor and some of the MacBooks above get a price drop as well.

The iMac Pro gets an 8, 10 or 18 core processor, new Radeon Vega Graphics with up to 16GB of VRAM, the ability to configure with up to 128GB of EEC memory and wickedly fast SSD configurable up to 4TB in size.

A similarly configured HP workstation - but without 5K screen and no macOS sells for approx US $7000, according to Apple, whereas Apple’s ‘starting configuration’ for its iMac Pro starts at US $4999, although undoubtedly you will likely double that price and more for the very highest configurations.

Info on all the new Macs is here (with local pricing, all save the iMac Pro are available to order and buy today) and Apple’s US media release (with US pricing) is here

The media release with US pricing for the iMac Pro is here

4. Then there’s iOS 11.

There are so many advances in here that it blows away Android 7.0 Nougat, which is in use on only 7% of all Android devices out there, and makes Windows 10 Mobile even more irrelevant than it already was. 

There is a massive array of new features. Apple’s media release is here.

iOS 11 features specific to iPad can be read about here at Apple after which the iOS 11 features for both iPhone and iPad are showcased.

Messages has a better interface with quicker access to sticks, apps and more. You can use Apple Pay to make person-to-person payments via Messages, and then use that money to pay other people, buy things online, or transfer the money to your traditional bank account.

There’s AR Kit, a new framework that will transform Apple into the largest AR platform overnight. You NEED to see the demo in Apple’s WWDC 2017 keynote to appreciate how incredible this is.

We got to see a live video of the table on stage, and the crowd in the background. Items were then placed on the table - a steaming cup of coffee, a lamp... the cup could be moved around and the shadows all accurately displayed - the field of view seemed a lot larger than Microsoft's Hololens, with the whole thing suggesting an Apple headset of some kind is due in the future. 

Until then, you can just use your iOS device and the screen there to create all manner of augmented realities, with developers sure to pile in and make Apple the No.1 AR platform in record time. 

There was also a demo from Peter Jackson's company Wingnut, of an incredible AR scene, almost as if from a movie, rolled out virtually on a table top, with buildings, spaceships, battles and more. Again, this is a MUST SEE in the video – words simply cannot describe how impressive this demo was and is. 

There's still plenty more in iOS 11 - lots more. 

There’s a better Live Photos capability so you can edit the live photo, choose a better main image and much more makes Live Photos even better and more useful than it already is.

There's also a totally redesigned new App Store app with stacks of improvements is also an iOS 11 exclusive - extensive details can read about here.

There’s a new CoreML (machine learning) capability for developers to take advantage of, which will deliver seriously improved and more intelligent apps. iPads get a new Files app that delivers a file system that seamlessly integrates with Dropbox, Box, OneDrive and others.

There’s more ways to use Apple Pencil on iPad - showed ably in the video, with lower latency for ever smoother writing and drawing. Take notes on the iPad, and your handwritten notes are searchable as text! Tap on the iPad screen in iOS 11 with the Pencil and be taken straight to your most recent note to keep on notetaking. 

There’s a new ‘Do Not Disturb While Driving’ feature for iPhone. There’s improvements to the camera, a better SiriKit so more apps get Siri integration, improvements to HomeKit so your iOS controlled home automation system becomes even more intelligent with ever better voice and app control.

Again, watching the WWDC 2017 video explains this visually and wonderfully – you really must see it.

5. New iPads

Apple has introduced the long awaited new 10.5-inch version of the iPad Pro, and has updated the amazing 12.9-inch model. Both have the True Tone display that was introduced in the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Both now start at 64GB rather than 32GB, and have 256GB and 512GB capacities – half a terabyte!

Apple’s media release is here and plenty more detail is at Apple’s site. There are so many cool features in both the hardware and in iOS that you're better off checking the two links in this section and seeing it all unfold in the keynote to truly get the full effect. There's a new video showing the iPad's new capabilities, and this represents not just a shot across the bow of Microsoft tablets and anemic Android tablets but an entire battalion shooting ever cannon in unison - Microsoft truly had better watch out and modernise Windows even faster to keep up. 

6. Finally, the HomePod

Also long rumoured was a Siri-powered intelligent speaker for the home, and Apple has delivered. Set to retail at US $349, Apple has made this speaker incredibly intelligent, not just with Siri, but able to ‘rock the house’ with stunning audio that has spatial awareness and adapts to your room.

Pair two together and get double the power, while beam forming tweeters and microphones along with a 4-inch motor-powered subwoofer mean you can ask Siri just about anything, even over loud music, and be understood.

The keynote and its video demo showed off the HomePod beautifully, with Apple careful to note its game changing music capabilities first, including a built-in ‘musicologist’, being Siri, which is able to respond to natural queries.

Want to know who the singer is? Who is the drummer? There were all manner of questions listed that you could ask Siri about the music being played, and of course, it’s not just music that you can ask about.

Siri in HomePod is also an intelligent assistant, as you’d expect. Ask about music, news, unit conversation, messages, reminders, pod casts, alarms and timers, translation, stocks, general knowledge, rather, traffic and nearby, sports and home.

And you can control your home kit devices – not just by voice, but anywhere on the planet using your voice or apps on your iOS device. Full details on HomePod can be read about at Apple’s media release here.

Australian pricing is yet to be released but HomePod will come to the US, UK and Australia in December, and then many other countries around the world in 2018.

Conclusion

To conclude, WWDC 2017 is naturally Apple’s biggest and most exciting yet. It goes all week, with over 100 sessions and over 1000 Apple engineers on hand to help with any aspect of app development.

Apple proudly boasted of its developer community being never more vibrant, with 16 million registered developers from around the world, with 3 million added in 2016 alone.

There are 5300 developers at WWDC, the largest number ever, from 75 countries, with the youngest developer an Australian lad at 10 years old, already with several apps in the store, and the oldest a Japanese lady at 82 who is developing apps for seniors.

At 2.5 hours, the WWDC 2017 keynote was the most jam packed I’ve ever seen, and while Microsoft and Google did put on good shows of their own, Apple, as usual, takes things to the next level – and delivers live demos of various technologies that others were only able to deliver "carefully edited vision videos" thereof.

So, please stop reading, and go to the Apple Events page to watch the WWDC 2017 keynote for yourself – you won’t want to miss it, and you’ll love it, whether you’re an Apple fan or not.

That said, if you’re not an Apple fan, you may well wonder just how long it will take Google and Microsoft to catch up. Good luck!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

 

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