Apple’s annual worldwide developers conference (WWDC) is a strange little place. You see people from all over the world, of all shapes and sizes from child developers who need parental assistance and women who have their babies in tow. All of them believe the Apple platform has what it takes for them to code something that could try and change the world, if not at least their fortunes.
The 6,000-odd developers who congregated for a week in San Jose this time had some new ideas to take home. Not really new ideas for the rest of the world, but certainly ideas that have finally got the Apple stamp. Now, there is a tendency to write off what that means. But for developers the Apple stamp is huge, that is when the serious guys start taking an idea seriously. Till then it might be a great idea, but the great app idea will get them money only once it is on the Apple store. That is where the apps are monetised, that is the difference between Apple App Store and Google Play Store. For instance, in a country like India, hardly anyone enters credit card information on Android—I certainly never have. More iOS users seem to add credit card data, also an indicator that more percentage of Apple users have this financial information in contrast to Android users.
The two big ideas this time were machine learning and augmented reality. We have been hearing about both for a few years now, but then Apple takes its time with internalising concepts. The company doesn’t seem to like the idea of becoming a testing ground, and hence half-baked concepts are really rare. Yes, they did push a beta version of the dual camera app last year, but then the same has become a kit for developers this time.
Interestingly, Google has been at the helm of machine learning for sometime now. However, Google’s is more search and you will find way of dealing with machine learning with the search being increasingly powered by this cutting-edge concept. However, Apple’s take is very different. It is more native and the suggestions might just pop up anywhere, in any app as the OS itself is learning more about you with time. I am tempted to call this as another instance of democratisation of customisation. With machine learning at the OS level, my iOS will soon be different from your iOS, at least at the level of the words that we use.
The next is augmented reality. In fact, Apple has one of the big augmented reality wins so far with the Niantic’s Pokemon GO game. Not many other games have been able to become as big a rage as this one, a good indicator of how AR really has the ability to connect with users. Now, there is an ARkit for developers to create new apps. And be sure that by the time iOS 11 becomes available for all, along with the next iPhone, there will be apps that make great use of this new feature. To give a sneak peek of what we are talking about, there will be games that you can play within the environment of your living room, or apps that help interior designers bring their thoughts to life as easily as drag and drop.
There was one other thing that piqued my interest. Apple is also betting big on virtual reality, again pretty slow of the blocks. But then again Apple has a different take. Its idea of virtual reality is not slapping the smartphone on your face, but helping bring the best in this space to the comfort of a MacBook Pro. I tried Apple’s VR using hardware from HTC Vive and the experience was as good as when HTC Vive was powered by a machine that is as large as four gaming CPU’s stacked one on top of the other. But then Apple uses the new MacBook Pro with an external graphics box. But before you think of bringing this rig home, let me tell you Cupertino does not look at this as a payback option but a setup to create content for VR. Now, you know where the next VR games are going to be written.
The writer attended WWDC 2017 on the invite of Apple.