We already hit on the completely redesigned (and customizable!) Mac Pro that Apple announced during their WWDC 2019 keynote in San Diego on Monday. As well, we’ve talked about the changes coming to the company’s longstanding iTunes app. But there’s still plenty more than needs to be unpacked from the event and what it means for consumers and Apple’s product portfolio moving forward.
In particular, three things stood out to me during the event that were of particular importance: the roundabout way Apple addressed their precarious positioning in the smart home market, the awesome changes coming to the iPad, and the supreme importance the company is placing on privacy. Let’s dive into each.
Smart Home Foundation
There’s no denying that Apple is lagging behind its biggest competitors in the smart home market—that being Amazon and Google. While Apple had a several-years head start launching Siri in 2014, they quickly saw their digital voice assistant fall behind in both performance and functionality. Personally, I was hoping that Apple would pay a little bit more attention to its voice assistant and the related HomeKit connected home platform during the keynote, but Apple did take some pretty big strides forward with the service in its forthcoming iOS 13 release.
With Siri, Apple announced a few exciting upgrades to the performance of and support around their voice assistant. Functionally, Siri’s voice is getting an overhaul thanks to a new Neural Text To Speech technology that will make her voice sound more natural and less choppy. And, on the skills side, Apple is bringing Siri Shortcuts into an app form that will let the user go in and actually set up their shortcuts and favorite settings—essentially Siri scenes—a la IFTTT. Additionally, Siri will now be able to read incoming text messages while you’re using AirPods, and you’ll be able to respond without having to pick up your phone.
With HomeKit, Apple had a couple of exciting announcements for the platform in iOS 13. HomeKit Secure Video will provide a more secure and private video surveillance experience for the user, including 10-day storage on iCloud that won’t count against the overall storage total. And HomeKit Routers from partner brands Linksys, Eero, and Spectrum will be certified as network protectors for the Apple HomeKit experience—essentially meaning the routers will let you firewall off accessories so they can’t access your full home network, preventing rouge agents from hacking your entire smart home.
Even HomePod was featured during the keynote. The product will receive multi-user support and be able to distinguish who’s talking and serve up recommendations based on the speaker. And handoff support will be added so that a simple tap between the HomePod and an iPhone will handoff the music or podcast you’re listening to from one device to the other as you’re coming home or leaving.
So, while there weren’t any major HomeKit or Siri announcements, these foundational moves help bring the Apple smart home ecosystem into a more competitive (and more secure) state.
iPad Gets a Huge Upgrade
Since their introduction by Steve Jobs in 2010, iPads have always been stuck in this weird sort of limbo between their smaller iPhone and larger Mac relatives. It’s a device that ran on iOS but craved was touted as a cheaper solution that could replace the laptop experience, though it never actually achieved that status. Perhaps with the mindset of making the iPad a truly different and unique sort of product, Apple finally decided to break the iOS chains and give their tablet its own legs to stand on with iPadOS.
The hybrid iOS/macOS system makes the iPad a way more versatile product that has multitasking and productivity at the center of it all.
With iPadOS, Apple’s tablet will gain mouse and thumb drive support, it can act as a true extended display for MacBooks and Mac computers (no added software or hardware required), Safari will be upgraded to offer desktop-class browsing on the iPad featuring a download manager, new keyboard shortcuts will more closely resemble what can be done on MacBooks and Mac computers, and more. New gestures will be introduced to make editing text documents easier and more intuitive, the Apple Pencil is getting upgrades to reduce latency to nine milliseconds, and custom fonts will be made available inside popular apps and will be downloadable right in the App Store.
Though it may still not truly replace a laptop, Apple is doing its damndest to put the iPad on that kind of level.
The Prominence of Privacy
I wasn’t keeping track, but I’d feel safe guesstimating that the word ‘privacy’ was said at least 75 times during the two-hour WWDC 2019 keynote by Apple presenters. It’s beyond clear that Apple has made privacy a key component of its product and software pitch to consumers. And it’s working.
Privacy permeated throughout the entire presentation, from the watchOS updates that were health related, to the introduction of ‘Sign in with Apple’ that will replace those Google and Facebook sign in options in iOS13, to the HomeKit upgrades mentioned above, and so on. Apple is convinced that users care about their privacy and they are concerned with how much information big tech companies have access to. Their answer, as a big tech company, is to offer features that keep their information on their respective devices, still allow them to access many of the great features and services that are offered, but then to keep that information encrypted and locked down on the device so that only the user can grant access when and how they choose.
It seems like everyone’s waiting for Apple to trip up when it comes to privacy and data protection, yet the company keeps putting measures in place to further protect their consumers. That’s a reality that may be frustrating to advertisers who want to collect as much information as they can about the consumer, but Apple seems willing to challenge them there and bank on the fact that consumers will continue to invest in their products because of how secure they are.