WWDC 2018: Apple makes enhancements for the enterprise, though not all visible
When Apple released Snow Leopard, a new version of Mac OS X in 2009, it was billed as the first macOS update with no new features.
That wasn’t exactly true, but the point was clear: Rather than introduce drastically new functionality or new designs, Apple took the opportunity to polish what it already had to make it faster, more efficient, and more powerful.
This year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) did essentially the same thing for iOS, macOS, watchOS, and other Apple products. While Apple presses its engineers every year to get something new out the door, sometimes it’s better to take a step back, look at what you already have, and make it better.
That was the undercurrent to the major announcements from WWDC this year.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the event and why they matter to the enterprise.
iOS 12 boosts legacy devices
All devices running iOS 11 will support iOS 12, going all the way back to the iPhone 5S and the iPad Air.
Not only that, but Apple is committed to making those devices run faster. That’s welcome news to any business trying to extend the life of its devices.
The next generation of iOS is also building in even more proactive assistance. Apple’s acquisition of Workflow is paying off with automated actions built into Siri. For example, your device learns that you travel to the same place every morning, so it starts alerting you to the traffic situation on the route you take without prompting. It can also give you shortcuts for certain repeated actions, like ordering food through an app. All of this is done on the device itself with CoreML, a machine learning framework, and is never shared over the internet.
iOS 12 is also refining the user interface, introducing grouped notifications to clean up the feed and make it less overwhelming when you step out of a meeting or wake up to a ton of messages.
Augmented reality now with collaborative workspaces
ARKit 2 introduces multi-user functions that allow different people to interact with the same virtual objects in a particular space.
While many applications of augmented reality have been driven by the consumer side—the demonstration for this update used a multi-player AR game—these features have proven quite useful to businesses as well.
With nothing but a phone, you can create complex animations mapped to a particular person’s face. You can map and measure entire rooms. You can collaborate on product design. You can visualize data in a meeting. ARKit 2 blends virtual objects seamlessly in the real world, right through your iPhone or iPad.
Apple is also driving standardization for AR files. Partnering with Pixar and Adobe, Apple unveiled a new file format for AR, called USDZ. It’s based on USD, Universal Scene Description, a file format Pixar has used in its 3D animation. That new format should open up the ecosystem a little more and remove the question of whether a dedicated app is needed to run a particular AR experience.
macOS Mojave ties the Apple ecosystem even more closely together
More organizations are choosing Macs, and new improvements to macOS make it easier to work across devices.
The big question was whether Apple would allow iOS apps to run on macOS. The answer, shown in letters twice as tall as Craig Federighi: No. Instead, Apple is introducing the ability to more easily port an app from iOS to macOS by introducing more shared frameworks, the majority of which are expected to rise to maturity in 2019.
The new Continuity Camera feature essentially makes your iPhone an extension of your Mac’s camera. If you need to scan a document, you can do so with your phone and it’ll appear on your computer without having to message, email, or AirDrop it to yourself.
The user experience is being refined as well with the introduction of Dark Mode. macOS has long been a bright, white operating system, but this is a win for anyone whose eyes prefer a more neutral look, and also acts as a focus-enhancer for photography and design professionals.
Apple Watch expands utility even further
watchOS 5 introduces Walkie-Talkie, which could create an entry point for Apple Watch in warehouses or other areas with back-and-forth conversations over large areas.
With that functionality on a watch, workers can shed the extra weight of a traditional radio and communicate right from their wrist.
A polished Apple
While Apple added some useful new features to its many platforms, the main event at WWDC 2018 really was what you couldn’t see.
Refining an operating system to stomp out bugs, speed up processes, and make a system run the best it can is the kind of under-the-hood stuff that doesn’t grab many headlines, but it makes all the difference once you’re using it, and will drive Apple’s success going forward.