DEVELOPER CHRISTMAS IN JUNE
The iTunes App Store is huge. It’s long been taken for granted that if there’s anything you want to do on an iOS device, there’s an app for that. After WWDC, the same slogan can be applied to developers: if there’s anything you want to build, there’s an API or a ‘Kit’ for that.
The aforementioned Notification Center widgets and third-party keyboards are just two aspects of the bigger ‘Extensibility’ picture on iOS 8. In the simplest terms, this lets apps talk to and work with one another, all while adhering to Apple’s sandboxing model, so extensions can’t just reach out to a part of the OS they don’t belong to or grab your private data without your explicit approval. It’s still sandboxes interacting with sandboxes.
And this is huge on iOS, more so than OS X, which gets extensions too (inter-app communications have always been possible on the desktop OS). Imagine 1Password filling in login data in Safari without you resorting to the cumbersome copy-andpaste method. Or the Camera app using that awesome filter pack you just bought for VSCO Cam. Or using your bank credentials to pay for that bid on eBay (since Apple is also opening up Touch ID to developers). This is multi-tasking and productivity supercharged, and we’ve no doubt it will create a new category of apps never seen before on Apple’s platforms.
And of the various ‘Kits’ unveiled, HomeKit and HealthKit are the obvious standouts. In a nutshell, Home Kit is a framework that allows smart home devices to integrate with iOS, so that users can easily control them with a press of a button in Notification Center or over a Siri voice command. Apple is already partnering with the who’s who in this space, like Philips, Withings, Broadcom, Haier, Honeywell, iHome, Texas Instruments, and more, so don’t be surprised to see Apple MFi labels everywhere the next time you’re shopping for an air conditioner.
If that sounds ‘meh’, imagine the potential when that ties in with the extensibility concept. It will come to a point where all you need is to walk up to, say within 10 meters of your front door, iPhone in pocket, to initiate a chain of events: the August smart door lock unlocks itself, Philips Hue turns on your bathroom light, Sonos loads your favorite playlist, Belkin WeMo flicks the switch to allow the kettle to boil - well, you get the idea. With over 800 million iOS devices out there, Apple could very well turn into the biggest smart home player overnight.
And then there’s HealthKit, a one-stop hub for all your health and fitness tracking devices. Again, the possibilities are endless as apps are now able to share data with another. For example, Mayo Clinic (a nonprofit medical practice and medical research group in the U.S.) will use HealthKit to provide guidance on the user’s health, or even put the user in touch with the hospital if it knows that something is amiss. Despite being a move that could potential disrupt the formal health care sector, Apple didn’t go into great length about HealthKit and Health, which is the app that users will see. Our theory? Apple is saving the ammunition for the iWatch reveal, which is widely rumored to be happening in October.
In more ways than one, this year’s WWDC reaffirms the age-old notion that software defines everything, and that user experience is king. Even as of this writing, which is a week after WWDC, we’re still reading about new features in OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, those remaining thousands that Apple had no time to fit in a two-hour keynote. Like many others, we did entertain the thought that perhaps Apple has lost its way and its ability to innovate - but after WWDC, we no longer think so. The reason why there’s still no iWatch or Apple TV set yet is simple enough: Apple has long identified its weaknesses, and instead of patching things up, it has taken the painful decision to destroy what worked before, and rebuilding them from scratch for the future. And these take time. The iOS and OS X redesign is just the beginning of the renovation, and the things we saw at WWDC are the new tiles, the new pipes, the new wires (sorry, we had no time for CloudKit, SceneKit, and Metal). Now that the foundations are laid, it’s time to furnish the new house. No wonder Apple went on a developer charm offensive.
Besides widgets in the Notification Center, Apple now allows developers to embed filters and tools right into the Photos app.
The new Health app in iOS 8 lets you view your most recent health and fitness data in one dashboard.