WWDC 2017: Dou­bling downon the iPad

This year’s World­wide De­vel­op­ers Con­fer­ence (WWDC) was one of the big­gest in re­cent years.

HWM (Malaysia) - - FEATURE - by Kenny Yeo

You know this year’s WWDC is a lit­tle spe­cial when, apart from new OS up­dates, there is new hard­ware. The last time Ap­ple an­nounced new hard­ware at WWDC was way back in 2013.

As ex­pected, all of Ap­ple’s op­er­at­ing sys­tems re­ceived vary­ing de­grees of up­dates. macOS and watchOS both re­ceived fairly mi­nor up­dates, most of which were re­fine­ments and not thor­oughly new. iOS, how­ever, re­ceived a ma­jor up­date and a slew of new fea­tures, some of which could fun­da­men­tally change the way peo­ple use their iOS de­vices. It is not sur­pris­ing at all that iOS got the most at­ten­tion when you re­mem­ber that the iPhone is Ap­ple’s best-sell­ing and most prof­itable prod­uct.

There are so many re­fine­ments and new fea­tures in iOS 11 that it is hard to find a place to start. But let’s be­gin with Siri, which has been crit­i­cized for be­ing lack­lus­ter in com­par­i­son to ri­vals from the likes of Google, Mi­crosoft, and Ama­zon. For a start, thanks to ma­chine learn­ing, Siri will now sound more nat­u­ral and ex­pres­sive and have more ac­cu­rate pro­nun­ci­a­tion.

In ad­di­tion, on-de­vice learn­ing will en­able Siri to bet­ter un­der­stand and an­tic­i­pate your needs. Be­yond that, there’s also deeper in­te­gra­tion with Ap­ple Mu­sic. Siri will be able to trans­late in real time too; from English to Chi­nese, Ger­man, French, Ital­ian, and Span­ish.

Per­haps most im­por­tantly, iOS 11 will bring huge up­dates for iPads. For ex­am­ple, an im­por­tant new fea­ture of iOS 11 for iPads is Drag and Drop, which al­lows users to move text, photos, and files, from one app to an­other. Speak­ing of mov­ing files, there’s also a new Files app - which is es­sen­tially the iOS equiv­a­lent of the Fin­der app that Mac users have be­come so ac­cus­tomed to - al­low­ing users to browse and or­ga­nize their files on their iPads.

And then there’s the new Dock, which now be­haves a lot like the Dock on Macs. The new Dock can be in­voked re­gard­less of what app you are us­ing, and users can eas­ily drag to add or re­move apps from

it. Along with the im­proved Dock, iPad users on iOS 11 will also get a new App Switcher that shows a tiled view of apps that are opened.

The most im­por­tant new hard­ware prod­uct of WWDC 2017 is ar­guably the HomePod, which is a smart speaker that tightly in­te­grates Siri and Ap­ple Mu­sic. Un­like, say, Ama­zon’s Echo, Ap­ple calls its HomePod a ‘mu­si­col­o­gist’ and it has a stronger fo­cus on au­dio qual­ity and mu­sic. The HomePod has a spe­cially de­signed woofer and an ar­ray of seven tweet­ers to pro­duce spa­cious sound. It also has spa­tial aware­ness and can use dig­i­tal sig­nal pro­cess­ing to com­pen­sate for less-than-ideal au­dio qual­i­ties of the room.

The other two big hard­ware an­nounce­ments were the iMac Pro and the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. The iMac Pro is a work­sta­tion-class iMac that packs se­ri­ous hard­ware in­clud­ing multi-core Xeon pro­ces­sors, prodi­gious amounts of RAM, and pow­er­ful dis­crete graph­ics. On the other hand, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro re­places the older 9.7-inch model and comes with a faster pro­ces­sor, a more fluid dis­play, and the same ex­cel­lent cam­era sys­tem as the iPhone 7.

WWDC 2017 showed us that iOS 11 re­mains to be Ap­ple’s fo­cus in­so­far as new soft­ware and tech­nolo­gies are con­cerned, which, by ex­ten­sion, also means that the iPhone is still Ap­ple’s most im­por­tant prod­uct.

But if one looks closely, many of the new fea­tures of iOS 11 are ac­tu­ally geared to­ward the iPad, which tells us that Ap­ple is not go­ing to sit back and let the iPad fade away. Sales of iPads peaked in 2013 and have been on a de­cline ever since. If you can­not al­ready tell, iOS 11 will make the iPad be­have more like a tra­di­tional Mac com­puter.

The idea be­hind such a move is ob­vi­ously to in­crease the iPad’s ca­pa­bil­ity. But more cru­cially, it is also to get more peo­ple to ac­cept the idea of an iPad as a pri­mary de­vice. This might sound ab­surd, but the fact is that the iPad is a pow­er­ful de­vice that be­lies its form fac­tor. Thanks to op­ti­miza­tions in iOS and the fact that pro­ces­sors de­signed by Ap­ple power the iPads, apps on iPads run in­cred­i­bly smoothly. Fur­ther­more, with over two mil­lion apps on the App Store, there’s al­most bound to be some­thing for what­ever task you are think­ing of putting your iPad to do. So the idea of an iPad as your pri­mary de­vice isn’t as far­fetched or ridicu­lous as it sounds. But whether users around the world can warm up to this idea is an en­tirely dif­fer­ent mat­ter. Only time will tell.

The HomePod.

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