OS X & IOS: BEST FRIENDS FOR­EVER

HWM (Singapore) - - Think -

Ap­ple, the com­pany who just spent US$3 bil­lion out of its US$159 bil­lion cash re­serves to ac­quire head­phone maker and mu­sic stream­ing new­comer Beats, re­cently con­cluded its 25th World­wide De­vel­op­ers Con­fer­ence (WWDC) at San Fran­cisco. His­tor­i­cally, WWDC was sel­dom the stage for new hard­ware an­nounce­ments, and the trend con­tin­ued this year.

But it’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent story on the soft­ware side of things. The Mac and iPhone maker an­nounced new ver­sions of OS X and iOS (both due this fall), and both are over­flow­ing with new fea­tures for end users and app de­vel­op­ers. Like many oth­ers, we’re are daz­zled by OS X’s new­found ‘translu­cent ma­te­ri­als’, ex­hil­a­rated by iOS’ long awaited open­ness, and ex­cited with Swift, the new pro­gram­ming lan­guage for OS X and iOS - but si­mul­ta­ne­ously, it’s clear to us too that this WWDC was sig­nif­i­cant on an­other level. This was the WWDC where the king al­layed the fears of his people, ral­lied the troops, and waged war on the en­e­mies all at the same time.

Pre­dictably, Ap­ple’s next Mac op­er­at­ing sys­tem, OS X 10.10 Yosemite, sports a ma­jor re­design rem­i­nis­cent of last year’s iOS 7 re­design. The fo­cus on ‘clar­ity and util­ity’ ba­si­cally means a flat­ter look, with more than a dash of translu­cency ef­fects, as well as brighter and louder col­ors. Some ex­am­ples: the dock is now back to 2D; you get a sense of what’s un­der­neath when a translu­cent Finder win­dow over­lay an­other; the de­fault folder icon’s color is an eye-hurt­ing bright blue; and the Sa­fari browser is stripped of most of its chrome. Even the sys­tem font isn’t spared, with long-time stew­ard Lu­cida Grande mak­ing way for the thin Hel­vetica Neue that’s al­ready in use in iOS 7.

But Yosemite isn’t just about the looks; it also gains sev­eral new user-fac­ing fea­tures. No­ti­fi­ca­tion Cen­ter adds a new To­day view, just like iOS, al­low­ing you to see ev­ery­thing that’s lined up for you to­day. More im­por­tantly, it sup­ports wid­gets (e.g. a cal­cu­la­tor), and you can add more once de­vel­op­ers cre­ate them for their Mac App Store apps. In fact, wid­get sup­port is also com­ing to iOS 8’s No­ti­fi­ca­tion Cen­ter.

Then there’s Spot­light, which now opens up the search win­dow at the cen­ter of your screen, sim­i­lar to Al­fred, a pop­u­lar third-party app launcher. But the re­design is more than skin deep: in ad­di­tion to find­ing stuff on your Mac, Spot­light also lever­ages on on­line sources, such as Wikipedia, Bing, and Maps. And it even gives you in­line pre­views. With Spot­light’s new­found su­per pow­ers (also be­stowed on iOS 8), Ap­ple is giv­ing you yet one more rea­son not to ‘Google’ for things or fire up Sa­fari (or Chrome), which continues to sup­port Google Search.

Many built-in apps are up­dated too. The most sig­nif­i­cant ones in Mail be­sides the usual prom­ise of faster sync­ing per­for­mance is Mail Drop, which makes use of iCloud to al­low you to ‘at­tach’ su­per-sized at­tach­ments (some­thing like the Drop­box sup­port you see in some email clients); and the abil­ity to an­no­tate documents, doo­dle on im­ages, and fill out forms right in the email.

One of the big­gest cheers in the key­note was re­served for iCloud Drive. As the name im­plies, this is iCloud gain­ing a Drop­box-like file sys­tem. Since it’s now a ‘drive’ (one of the en­try points is through the Finder), you can put all kinds of files on it, or­ga­nize them in fold­ers, tag them, and all the changes will sync across your Mac, iOS, and Win­dows

de­vices. Sure, Drop­box/Google Drive faith­fuls and geeks that reg­u­larly ro­tate be­tween dif­fer­ent plat­forms prob­a­bly see no im­pe­tus to switch, but it’s a no-brainer for those who only use Ap­ple prod­ucts.

Mov­ing for­ward, it’s no longer pos­si­ble to talk about OS X with­out men­tion­ing iOS. In­deed, a big sub-text of Ap­ple’s WWDC key­note is the fact that OS X and iOS are grow­ing to­gether, and when both come to­gether, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Need ev­i­dence? Look no fur­ther than the ‘Con­ti­nu­ity’ fea­tures de­moed. The most im­pres­sive ex­am­ple has to be Hand­off, which en­ables your Mac to know the last thing you were do­ing on your iOS de­vice and vice versa. Say, you’re writ­ing in Mail on your iPhone. As you ap­proach your Mac, Yosemite would have synced the un­fin­ished email, and added an icon to the dock to let you know you can con­tinue where you left off on the desk­top. With iOS 8, the icon will ap­pear on the bot­tom left of the lock screen.

And there’s more. With the up­com­ing mo­bile and desk­top OSes, you can make and re­ceive phone calls on the Mac; read and re­ply text mes­sages (both reg­u­lar mes­sages from non-iOS/Mac users and iMes­sages) on the Mac; and Air­Drop files be­tween an iOS de­vice and a Mac. Great user ex­pe­ri­ence that’s de­vice ag­nos­tic - that’s the big­gest ad­van­tage when you’ve con­trol over your own hard­ware and soft­ware.

So, what’s new in iOS 8? If you’ve no­ticed, we’ve al­ready gone through many of them above (No­ti­fi­ca­tion Cen­ter wid­gets, Spot­light, iCloud, Con­ti­nu­ity fea­tures). Other no­table ones in­clude ac­tion­able no­ti­fi­ca­tions; short­cuts for con­tacts in the multi-task­ing view; the abil­ity to mute and re­name threads in Mes­sages; a Fam­ily Shar­ing func­tion for shar­ing store pur­chases, pho­tos, cal­en­dars, lo­ca­tions, and more; and a new Pho­tos app. For those frus­trated with Photo Stream’s 1,000-photo limit, Ap­ple has in­tro­duced iCloud Photo Li­brary, which will at­tempt to store all the pho­tos you’ve taken in full res­o­lu­tion, as long as you’ve enough iCloud stor­age space. 5GB comes free as part of your iCloud ac­count, but you’ll be able to buy 20GB of stor­age space for just US$1/month, or 200GB for US$4/ month.

And then there’s the Quick­Type key­board, which of­fers pre­dic­tive text based on your writ­ing style in dif­fer­ent apps. And for the very first time, iOS will sup­port third-party key­boards. Naysay­ers will say that this and the sup­port for wid­gets are yet more ex­am­ples of iOS copy­ing An­droid, but Ap­ple clearly doesn’t care. For us, we see this open­ing up of iOS as wins on two fronts. For one, it will help stop more iOS users de­fect­ing to the An­droid camp (re­mem­ber, big­ger iPhones are sup­pos­edly on the hori­zon too). Sec­ondly, it may even lure An­droid users to iOS, now that the lat­ter has these fea­tures and touts bet­ter user ex­pe­ri­ence. Af­ter all, in CEO Tim Cook’s own words, many iOS first-timers started off with an An­droid phone ‘by mis­take’, and have since switched in search of ‘a bet­ter life’.

A re­designed UI, and a new re­la­tion­ship be­tween your Mac and iOS de­vices – that’s the story of OS X 10.10 Yosemite.

Spot­light in Yosemite searches on­line sources like Wikipedia and Bing, com­plete in­ter­ac­tive pre­views of the re­sults.

Pick up where you left off in iOS (e.g. com­pos­ing an email) on the Mac and vice versa – that’s Hand­off. Let’s hope it works just as Ap­ple de­scribes. Af­ter nail­ing the de­sign in iOS 7, iOS 8 is all about build­ing new func­tion­al­ity and fur­ther fine-tun­ing.

The new built-in Quick­Type key­board knows your writ­ing style, whom you’re writ­ing to, and even un­der­stands the con­ver­sa­tion.

Ev­ery mes­sage (even those from your Ap­ple-hat­ing friends) will ap­pear in Mes­sages on your Mac.

Soon, you can store files (even those from non-Mac App Store apps) on iCloud Drive, and send them to a Mac or an iOS de­vice us­ing Air­Drop.

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