Friday, June 7, 2019

Apple’s WWDC mojo shows back up

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) used to be the highlight of my yearly conference schedule. The announcements about what was coming next from Apple were central to both my work with the Apple Developer Connection and the books I worked on. And, it was always a fun time to reconnect with friends. Even when it was no longer about my work, it’s been one of the events I really looked forward to for the betters part of two decades.

The last couple of years, however, Apple has felt distracted and maybe a bit like they’d lost the plot. Once a company that reliably shipped the products they announced, they had slipped into a cycle of announcing cool-sounding stuff way before they’d actually done the work to see if it was viable. The HomePod and AirPower are two good examples. The first made it out as a decent product. The second, well, it finally got unceremoniously canceled recently.

And, don’t get me started on the damn butterfly keyboard fiasco.

It happens. Companies go through cycles. In Apple’s case, maybe they’ve been distracted by completing Apple Park. It wouldn’t be the first time in Silicon Valley that a company’s slide into mediocrity or beyond coincided with their building of a fancy new campus.

Regardless, any interest I had in WWDC this year was mostly centered on seeing where Apple is going and if it was going to continue drifting away from what I find interesting. In conversations with friends, I boiled down what I was looking for to: 1) An answer to the Mac Pro question; 2) A path forward for the iPad to grow up; 3) Something that indicated that Apple was thinking more holistically about their platforms as a group rather than point devices.

I was pessimistic enough to give the chances of good answers to those questions about 25%.

I’m so happy my pessimism was misplaced.

Yes, the Mac Pro is out of most people’s league, but we were asking for a no-holds-barred pro machine, and we got one. I can’t justify buying one right now. Hell, my four-year-old iMac is still running great. But damn… If I ever need that much power on my desktop, I’m glad the option is there.

The big announcement for me, however, and the one that has brought back a lot of interest for me in Apple’s platforms is SwiftUI. Holy smokes. It looks really, really, really good. Between that and Project Catalyst (formerly known as Marzipan) which allows building iOS apps for the Mac, the development story across the Mac, iPhone, and iPad is now heading in a much better direction.

To be sure, there’s still some tone-deafness in the air. The pricing reveal on the $999 monitor stand, for example, was this year’s equivalent of showing off a 24K gold Apple watch. And the shock of it would have been totally avoidable if they’d priced the monitor with the stand, then offered a discount for all those pros buying the monitor without it.

Regardless, however, it’s good to see Apple get some of their mojo back. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read up more about SwiftUI.