WTF Weekly for June 12, 2019
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If you’re a long time Apple fan like me, you already know my excuse for my tardiness this week: WWDC, Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference, which took place last week starting June 3rd and running through the 7th. No, I didn’t attend, but I did spend a lot of time watching Monday’s keynote and Platform State of the Union, as well as many subsequent hours of developer session videos.
I also spent a lot of time this past week playing with my new piece of Apple tech: a 2019 iPad Air.
The iPad has come a long way since the days of the iPad 2. Certainly the hardware is better, but more importantly, the operating system no longer makes the device feel like just a blown up iPhone. With iOS 13 on the horizon, things are about to get serious with iPad.
In celebration of WWDC and the many amazing things that Apple unveiled there, I’m going to deviate from my normal format a bit and devote the whole WTF Weekly to Apple related topics this week.
Apple has a long, rich history of serving professionals and enthusiastic doers with capable hardware and tuned, focused software. Over time, as Apple mutated into a more consumer device oriented company, primarily enriched by iPhone sales, they appeared to forget how to serve pro and power users. This mild but increasing case of corporate amnesia culminated in the 2013 “trash can” Mac Pro, which unhesitatingly showcased form over function, and appeared to be a poster child for genuine Apple hubris.
Many years passed, full of unhappy Apple power users and unhappy Apple designers, painted into a thermal corner with their literal trash can of a Mac Pro design. Then, after a few various hardware wake up calls, Apple appeared to snap out of their coma and remember that they were once quite good at making products people could perform demanding work on.
A couple years later, Apple’s post-coma rehabilitation is complete, and the proof is a beast of a computer that no one save production companies and unusually rich developers can afford, and it’s glorious. And it’s actually not uncompetitively priced, given its capabilities and custom components such as the Afterburner FPGA.
A lot of people who aren’t familiar with high-end workstations are grousing on Twitter about the price, but the fact is this appears to be a future-proof machine that is competitive with truly similarly equipped PCs.
I’m tempted over and over again to write the words “possibly the biggest news from the WWDC keynote was” followed by various completely different Apple revelations, but the fact is that iPadOS is up there with the most important announcements Apple gave. I mean this both in terms of upgrades to the iPad’s software as well as the fact that they now refer to iOS on the iPad as iPadOS.
A lot of words have been tweeted and otherwise tossed around about how the term iPadOS is nothing more than a marketing gimmick, but I disagree. I believe Apple has decided to make it very clear they take the iPad seriously, and that iPad will continue to get the power user features demanding users require going forward. Combined with the fact that the iPad can still be used as it always has, as a much simpler consumption device, and iPad could easily become one of the most versatile computing platforms available.
Already iOS has been developed in a divergent manner between iPhone and iPad. There are no split-screen apps on iPhone and no pencil support, for example, both of which are features that iOS 11 brought specifically to iPad only. The goal here isn’t device and OS fragmentation, although that will happen in ways that are natural and sensible, it’s to make better use of the increasingly powerful iPad hardware and larger screen combination. Having an iPadOS to ensure Apple is focused on iPad specific features and updates every year is, in my mind, a necessity if the iPad is going to remain a viable platform.
I’m extremely happy about iPadOS.
A few things I’m really looking forward to with the iPadOS variant of iOS 13:
- The ability to rotate between slide-over apps rather than have to remove one and replace it with another.
- A more powerful Files app, including iCloud folder sharing, the ability to rename documents while saving them, local storage, and a column view.
- Native file zipping and unzipping (handy for sharing podcast and video projects with others).
- Safari as a full-desktop browser (this is my favorite one by far).
As exciting as all the user-facing stuff in iOS 13 and iPadOS is, even more mind-blowing to me is the surprise rollout of SwiftUI, a declarative UI framework for Swift developers to more easily create iOS interfaces with.
As John Sundell explains in his article, declarative UI programming is popular, but to date has been implemented in iOS development using third-party frameworks. Now Apple has this functionality natively built in to Swift and Xcode.
As I watched the SwiftUI Essentials session video, I couldn’t help but think that my now long-past Asp.NET web development experience actually will go a long way towards preparing me to understand declarative UI programming. The concept all looks comfortingly familiar, although the details are quite different, of course.
There’s no way I can fit everything from WWDC that I’m excited about into this one hijacked WTF Weekly. This WWDC really was a huge WTF for anyone who has followed Apple for very long. This is the biggest WWDC I can remember for sheer number of important updates and initiatives from Apple. Apple really seems to be firing on all cylinders at the moment, they seem to have a solid direction and real plans for platform development, and it feels like they’re really back in the zone in a way they haven’t been for awhile.
I haven’t felt this excited (and, to be quite honest, relieved) about Apple’s direction in a long, long time.