Not less than 5,000 developers, the youngest only 9 years old, traveled to the West Coast to listen to the keynote by Tim Cook and other Apple executives in order to receive the news firsthand and to deepen their knowledge in various sessions and labs over the course of the week.
A firework of new possibilities
Revolutionary innovations were not presented this year. Instead, Apple showed solid advancements in each of its product areas, which will bring new opportunities to developers, app providers and users.
As the press has already widely reported on many of these, I want to mention only some of the most important ones:
macOS: The new «Sierra» provides the user with features such as automatic unlocking via Apple Watch or the Shared Clipboard, which greatly simplifies working cross-platform on all Apple devices. One can also be keen to see about how solid and performance-driven the new file system will be.
iOS10: Apple continues to open and will allow the integration of Siri, Messages or Maps into third party apps. Thus, for example, messengers apps such as WhatsApp or Viber will display an incoming call on the lock screen via Call API, just like a normal GSM call. Or stickers or games vendors can offer their apps directly in the new iMessage Store.
watchOS: With watchOS3, Apple Watch receives enhanced operability and massively shortened app load times. Other attractive features are added in the fitness area, such as the sharing of activity data with friends.
tvOS: The range of video channels and apps is constantly being expanded; unfortunately, however, this expansion occurs especially for the US. With the «Remote app», the iPhone becomes a remote for games.
New in the areas of payment, home automation and AI
As known today, Apple Pay is being introduced in Switzerland. So this means serious competition for Swiss POS payment solutions such as Twint, because Apple Pay functionality and use is simpler. Also the online checkout in native apps and web shops will be simplified thanks to Apple Pay: no credit card or login information is required for entry. Only a proposed standard delivery address needs to be accepted and they payment can be triggered by fingerprint recognition (for payments from Mac, an iPhone or an Apple Watch is also needed). Swiss Online merchants should therefore work on this subject in order to roll out the necessary adaptations for in-shop functionality before the holiday shopping season begins.
Next steps will also follow in the area Home Automation: Apple launches a new native app «Home», which allows the user to control all its HomeKit enabled devices. Since iOS9, HomeKit allows the control of home electronics that are compatible with Apple HomeKit, but to this day the user had to download the respective manufacturer apps to enable control.
In the area of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Apple wants to unite AI and privacy protection. Deep Learning Tools, e.g. for face recognition in pictures or conversation proposals, are based on the analysis of data from as many users as possible. Apple is now presenting new methodologies such as «differential privacy» which adds noise to user data, so that they can be analyzed without allowing determination of individual records. Developers have access to Apple's AI through a new interface with the euphonious name «Basic Neural Network Subroutines».
Unique conference experience
Although the keynote and all sessions were available live via streaming from anywhere in the world, it is always worth attending the WWDC in person.
For example, the labs offer the possibility to discuss various topics directly with Apple developers and receive answers to questions. Or, in design sessions you can - if you stand for several hours in line - receive a review of your own apps by Apple designers.
In regards to the organization of the event, it clearly earned the top grade. Not only is the location A+ and presentations perfectly prepared. Also in regards to the (free) catering & drinks or the number and quality of side events, there is nothing left to be desired.
Two tips for those who are thinking about making it to a future conference: The WWDC merchandising articles are sold-out within a few hours and you should, if you want to get a seat in the front rows of the keynote, equip yourself with an inflatable seat and a warm blanket to prepare for waiting seven chilly hours throughout the night.
Please also read our report on netzwoche.ch or in the print edition of Netzwoche, No. 12/2016 (in German).