Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Juha Saarinen: Apple ties up software loose ends

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New hardware like the iPhone 7 wasn't mentioned at Apple's software conference. Photo / AP
New hardware like the iPhone 7 wasn't mentioned at Apple's software conference. Photo / AP

The Worldwide Developer Conference was all about coding and software for Apple, with no mention of new hardware like the iPhone 7 being made.

There's a good reason for that: Apple needed to tighten up its four software platforms: OS X which is now macOS for desktops, iOS for mobile devices, watchOS for Watch and tvOS for entertainment, to make them work better together.

This is because Apple's primarily a hardware company, with the software there to make the most of the devices it runs on, so that you'll buy more gear, not less.

For instance, using a Watch to log on to your macOS laptop instead of typing a password is genius; ditto using the Touch ID fingerprint sensor on an iOS 10 device to authenticate Apple Pay purchases from web merchants in Safari on macOS.

Apple Music has been overhauled, watchOS 3 apps should start almost instantly and macOS debuts a new file system, APFS, to replace ye olde HFS+ which is missing many features modern equivalents have.

All of this shows that Apple has listened to users kvetching about software taking different paths, not to mention the quality of it, which is great.

Apple also made a strategic move at WWDC to avoid being overrun on it own software platforms, by opening up some of the key features to third-party developers.

This may seem strange at first, because why would Apple give developers outside its normal fold access to key iOS components such as Siri, Phone, Messages and Maps?

It's actually not so complicated: if developers have access to pukka Apple features, there's far less chance of them either trying to develop their own (and potentially better ones) to use on iOS, or be tempted to use existing solutions ported to iOS.

Microsoft for instance is spending a colossal amount of time and effort on breaking open fortress iOS by releasing flagship software for Apple's mobile operating system, like Office and even Cortana, their take on a personal digital assistant.

The move could lead to the awkward situation of Microsoft being pushed into using Apple components for its iOS apps in fact.

HomeKit, which is Apple branching out into home automation and which has received a shot in the arm with large construction firms coming aboard, could also play out well for the company. The reason for that is the same that's helping propel CarPlay into vehicles: Apple as a brand has a cachet few other vendors have, and it's gear will work with hugely popular devices and the apps on them.

Nobody needs to be able to control their home lighting, heating, door cameras, garage doors and so forth from their iPhones. Once you start doing it though, I doubt you'll want to go back. You'd want home automation to be secure as well.

Building firms might feel safer going with a well-known brand like Apple, which has no option but to take security seriously, rather than using some generic devices from a manufacturer that's unlikely to support their gear beyond six months.

It would be great if Apple (and other companies) wanting to lure developers towards their platforms could be more global here, difficult as that would be.

Another reason Homekit should take off is that Apple also reaffirmed its commitment to end-user privacy, through end-to-end strong encryption and anonymisation of the data collected to improve for instance auto-correct and Maps (it's handy to have navigation and traffic data from other users here for instance for more intelligent route suggestions).

It's good to see that the company doesn't want to participate in an internet that one of the people who created the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, said has become a global surveillance machine.

As always, if you're a Kiwi developer in the Apple camp, and have a great idea, it must grate that some features take what feels like forever to arrive in the country, like Apple Pay. This gives coders in other countries a headstart over locals unfortunately, and provides an incentive for New Zealand developers to leave for the United States if they wish catch the first wave.

It would be great if Apple (and other companies) wanting to lure developers towards their platforms could be more global here, difficult as that would be.

- NZ Herald

Juha Saarinen attended WWDC16 as a guest of Apple.

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Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Juha Saarinen is a technology journalist and writer living in Auckland. Apart from contributing to the New Zealand Herald over the years, he has written for the Guardian, Wired, PC World, Computerworld and ITnews Australia, covering networking, hardware, software, enterprise IT as well as the business and social aspects of computing. A firm believer in the principle that trying stuff out makes you understand things better, he spends way too much time wondering why things just don’t work.

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