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What’s The Big Deal About Apple’s WWDC Announcements?

There were not any announcements made by Apple yesterday which could easily be packaged into buzz-worthy headlines for the masses. The newest iPhone wasn’t announced (that’s coming in August,) and for that matter no new hardware revamps announced at all. This year’s WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) was actually all about the product that matters to the developer: the software.

But were there some major things announced if you knew what to listen for? In the words of Gia Gunn, “Absolutely.”

HealthKit/Health

It’s official, Apple is providing the next-generation keys to monitoring your health. The App Store is already rife with copious amounts of different health apps , ranging from simple calorie counters to accessory-driven blood pressure monitors. HealthKit is the API (application programming interface) that all developers will be able to utilize to ensure interconnectivity between apps and information within apps. Health is the Apple proprietary app that will aggregate all of the information into one handy place. What does this mean? Much like Apple’s take on Smart Home (more on that in a bit) rather than building an army of their own health apps, Apple is providing the framework to developers, and then showcasing the end-users chosen information in one place.

Metal

What is it? This is one is quite a bit more techy, but the gist is this: it is designed to replace the gaming industry-standard OpenGL, allowing developers to unleash not only console-quality graphics to your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, but gameplay as well. What does this mean?  Apple, ever so carefully, is playing the long game when it comes to gaming. They’re not making any overt plays to pull users away from their Xboxes and Playstations, but rather, they’re sneaking in the back door. The Apple TV was long described as a “hobby” product by Apple themselves, but now that little “hobby” product is in more homes than most other standalone content–streaming boxes (cable boxes not included.) When iOS mirroring was introduced a few years back, Apple TV became the de facto wireless solution to displaying your iPad content to your big screen. Last year, Apple released the frameworks for not only Sprite creation in iOS games, but also a standard control scheme mapping system. Now with Metal, it’s clear that bit by bit, Tim Cook & Co. are providing even more tools to empower the developer to create console-level games. Early on, it was mentioned that over 800 million iOS devices have been sold. Parse that out in terms of newer Apple TV-compatible models, and you’ve got roughly 450 million devices which can theoretically run these next-generation mobile games. All that a user would need is a simple $99 add-on (the Apple TV) if they don’t already have one – and what a bargain, really, compared to the Xbox One or the Playstation 4 – and Apple wins the “console war” the very day they enter it.

HomeKit/Smart Home

As Craig Federighi mentioned yesterday, there are apps to control your garage door, your thermostats and even your lightbulbs, but they’re all separate. HomeKit is the API that, like HealthKit above, gives developers the parameters to work within a common framework. What does this mean?  The API includes Siri integration, so in theory, you could tweak the settings of multiple smart devices in your home to coordinate as a “scene.” That “scene” as Craig suggested could be a simple command to Siri to “get ready for bed.” Then your Smart Home apps would check to make sure the Garage Door is down, turn off the lights in the rooms you’re not in, lock your doors and – possibly – even turn on your white noise machine. What this means is that, again, Apple is playing the long game. They’re providing the framework in which nearly all developers will begin their push to give you a truly smart connected home. Google might’ve already purchased Nest, the market’s leading Smart Thermostat, but Apple is looking ahead for the next big thing.

Handoff

For the first time since the dawn of iOS, there is about to be some real, honest-to-Jobs interconnectivity between all of your Apple devices running iOS and OSX. Handoff transmits data from your MacBook or iMac to your iPhone or iPad. What does this mean? It means, if you’re in the middle of composing an email on your iMac, but need to leave your desk in a hurry, a new icon will be available on your phone to pick up exactly where you left off. Moreover, it allows your phone to act as a relay for both phone calls and traditional SMS messaging. Phone ringing in the other room? You can answer it from your desk with your Mac acting as an intermediary speakerphone. The Messages app on your Mac will also read and send traditional SMS text messages, even if they’re not an iMessage.

Swift

Oh, and by the way, Apple just created an entirely new coding platform. NBD.

What does all of this mean?

Apple is finally making a concerted effort to not make you choose among your devices. The long-term plan now seems to be to make all devices – even the ones running different operating systems – connected in a way they have never been before. When they throw phrases around like “something only Apple could do,” they really mean it. No matter how hard Google tries to push Android as the best alternative, when you’re only manufacturing the software and not the hardware, you can’t work towards a singular goal in the way a company like Apple can. For that matter, no company can work towards a goal like Apple can.

(Sidenote: with the improvements to Spotlight and Siri, don’t be surprised if Google Search becomes yet another widely-used feature that takes a dent from Apple’s exclusionary policies. Laugh if you want, but Apple killed Adobe Flash. You can’t tell me otherwise.)