WWDC13 – iOS revolution, OS X Without Cats
6/11/2013 by: Denis Jelec
Hardly anyone knew the exact features of what was going on in the Apple’s kitchen – and even though some details did manage to escape their veil of secrecy, the striking changes Apple brought out on the stage were just that – striking. The two hour keynote brought a heap of news, but the most important ones are exactly the ones which made the Apple an industry giant that it is today. Of course, we are talking about their mobile platform iOS and the OS X operating system. That was not all, as there was a significant preview for the hardware coming this fall…
“True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absences of clutter or ornamentation… It’s about bringing order to complexity,” Ive says in the video, as he probably rejuvenated this platform back to its very early days of life. “This is just the beginning,” he concluded. The very first iOS saw the light of the day back in 2007, and as time passed, market has shown no mercy towards its aging – though there were plenty of “facelifts” and additions to the platform. This time, the “facelift” cannot even be called like that – this is a fresh injection iOS truly needed.
The company claims this is the most significant redesign of the system, ever. Typography is changed, sleek and modern, and icons (and colors used) are less conservative, simplified, modern and even playful. Rest of the system apps got redesigned from the ground up, and they look even better than their icons. Much better, especially in action. However, make no mistake, iOS remains an app launcher with (mostly) static grid of icons, so there are no news there. Slide-to-unlock, on the other hand looks nothing like before, and there is a particular new element available at the lockscreen as well – the control center. The control center contains most of the shortcuts that were previously available only if the user decided to jailbreak iDevice and then use a special utility (SBSettings).
During the presentation, the company said that the applications can now live fully as they have more usable space due to the system redesign. However, it is worth noting that developers will have to redesign their applications to match the system by fall if the user experience is to be complete – and “as intended” by Apple. "We ran out of felt and wood," Craig Federighi said jokingly while on stage performing the iOS 7 demo. Truth be told, the entire system now appears more “digital” – without the unnecessary elements that mimic the real world objects. There are no more leather and stich textures, as they got replaced with cream-white shades, gradients and sharp lines. There is an entire series of other changes as well, such as the symbol for the network signal turning to series of dots, usage of the frosted glass in some parts of the system (resembling the Windows Aero effect), etc.
In ways similar to Android, wallpapers can be animated and regardless of what the background is, the entire interface has a parallax effect, which in conjunction with sensors in the device creates a three-dimensional illusion. Application icons “float” on top of the background, whether it is animated or static.
On the functionality side, folders that hold Apps aren’t limited anymore (12-16 before, hundreds now), notification system is now more flexible, reliable and available on the lockscreen. Multitasking interface is now a proper interface – not a bar of icons at the bottom of the screen. Each open application is now present in the form of the card (in a way that closely resembles the webOS functionality). In fact, apps can be swiped away to close them – and while it “wasn’t necessary” before, Apple did change how the multitasking works. Alterations concern that the system now allows applications to perform certain tasks in the background, without an impact on the battery life. Moreover, applications are now getting fresh content whenever the notification pops – and the user doesn’t have to wait for the app to refresh or perform it manually. Safari browser has undergone some significant changes as well, and most of them are pushed in order to enhance the readability of the web. There is no 8-tab restriction any more, as tabs appear in a 3D “rolodex” – actually very similar to what Chrome browser does on Android.
AirDrop is a new iOS feature that allows the user to exchange files with other iOS users in the vicinity – and everything is done via aforementioned control center interface. Camera interface received a slew of changes as well, with the swiping gesture moving between photo, panorama or video interfaces, and Apple added a bunch of imaging filters to the basket, too. Siri got entirely new voices (including a male voice) in English, French, German, with more languages coming along in time. The functionality of the Siri received a significant boost in the iOS 7, but the aspect definitely worth noting is the fact the Siri search is now performed through Microsoft’s Bing search engine (regardless of its poor local search in some parts of the world). What used to be a good partnership with Google transformed into ancient history at this point.
Among other interesting things for the system, worth noting is the per-app-VPN, ability to see annotations in .pdf files, message blocking, night mode, smart inbox in the redesigned Mail App, do-not-track option in Safari, etc.
Apple made the iOS 7 build available to developers immediately after the keynote, and the new incarnation should be ready sometime this fall - and there may be more UI changes than what was shown. In the meantime, one can go to the Apple’s website and explore all of the functionality in animations.
OS X 10.9 Mavericks
Mavericks is the name of the Apple’s next major OS X incarnation. Lack of the “cat name” shouldn’t be overly surprising: "As we turn our attention now to the 10th version, we've hit an issue. We do not want to be the first software in history to be delayed because of a dwindling supply of cats," said Federighi on stage. The name Mavericks come the place that apparently inspires people at Cupertino, and it is the first in a line of product names that will be related to California. Just as it was the case with iOS 7, the OS X received plenty of features and redesign touches – though none as radical as what was done on the mobile platform.
Beyond getting rid of the skeumorphic elements in the system, there are about 200 new features as claimed by the company. One of the most important ones is regarding the Finder, “you can work in the Finder with multiple windows, but now you can draw all of those windows together in tabs." Tagging of documents is now a feature as well, which will apparently give the user more control during search and improve the general experience when it comes to document tracking on the computer. Notable improvement came for users dependent on more than one screen, as the dock and menu bar are now visible on all screens at the same time. Notification system is now more reliable and better synchronized with iOS devices.
That is not all – as a handful of upgrades will apparently make MacBook owners particularly happy. Computing resources are now managed by the system in a more intelligent way than before, which ultimately leads to the optimization of the processor activity and – lower consumption. Some features (App Nap) in the Safari engine also did the same thing – with the system being able to know what the user is focused on at the moment, and lowering the processing power to fit the needs. Mavericks is immediately available to developers and it should hit the market sometime this fall.
Both MacBook Air variants received the new Intel’s Haswell processor, and even without the optimizations in OS X Mavericks, these ultra-portables should last 9hrs or 12hrs (11” and 13” variant respectively), and Apple calls for the “all-day battery life”. Thanks to the new generation of the Intel’s HD Graphics (5000), the new Air units should now provide 40% better graphics performance, while the usage of the new flash memory lead to a 45% improvement in speed. Compared to the previous generation, new units received an immediate price-cut, with the 11” model starting at $999 and 13” model starting at 1099$ - available now. Both variants are carrying 128GB of flash storage in default configuration, and both are equipped with 4GB of RAM. Unfortunately, the Retina resolution screen avoided this generation of units, but given the battery-life improvements, such compromise was worth of it.
Apple definitely caught the eye of many with a sneak peek of the brand new Mac Pro:
The company hopes they’ve made a design that ought to last for the next decade. With the Mac Pro presentation mid-way, Phil Schiller shortly said “Can't innovate any more, my ass!” referring to the media lines that said how Apple turned into a stale company. The new Mac Pro is less modular and upgradeable, as it is a dwarf compared to the previous generation. Dimensions of the computer are 9.9” in height and 6.6” in width, while having 1/8 the volume of the old Mac Pro. “It is a Mac unlike any we've ever made," they said on the stage.
Next generation of Intel Xeon E5 processors power the cylindrical dwarf in configurations with up to 12 cores, combined with up to 60GB of RAM. Dual AMD FirePro GPUs are found inside and they carry up to 6GB of VRAM. New Mac Pro also comes with full flash storage, apparently soldered onto additional board inside the case. Outside, there is a dual Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 1.4 port, six Thunderbolt 2.0 ports, and four USB 3.0 ports. The company claims the new Mac Pro has 7 teraflops of computing power (most of it coming from the GPUs, of course). While the spec sheet is good, it is difficult not to notice that there is a new generation of faster cards already available on the market (K5K) – and the question is just how upgradable will the next Mac Pro be.
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