This year’s Apple Worldwide Developer Conference keynote presentation had a distinct developer focus, a stark change from the more consumer marketing focused keynotes of recent years. So much so, that Apple have described it as the most significant developer event since the first iPhone Software Development Kit was released in 2008.
From a software developer point of view, the volume of content in yesterday’s presentation was immense, with lots of surprises. Apple announced iOS 8, and OS X Yosemite, as well as not one, but two new programming languages which will see these platforms into the future. Coupled with a raft of new developer tools and features, these will ultimately help us, as creators of iOS applications, write higher quality, more stable applications, and enable more intimate integration with other applications, and the operating system itself.
The first is the concept of ‘Continuity’ – the idea that all the devices you own should be aware of what you’re doing. If you start composing an email on your iPhone, and you’re near your Mac, you should be able to pick up editing that same email and send it from your Mac with almost no effort, and vice versa. This concept was demonstrated across a variety of common tasks, from making and receiving calls, browsing websites, all the way down to editing photos within applications.
Going the extra mile
Perhaps a more subtle, but overriding, theme was the idea of going the extra mile in the operating system to be genuinely thoughtful and helpful. This was present in the new image annotation features in Mail. For example, when free drawing an arrow, Mail will recognise that you’re trying to draw an arrow, and clean it up for you. Likewise, if you want to draw a speech bubble, it will create a beautiful speech bubble, and allow you to type your annotation before sending.
The most interesting example of this idea is the new QuickType feature for iOS 8. It provides context aware predictive typing suggestions, which means it provides quick access to words in context.
For example, while replying to a message which asks about “going to dinner or a movie” QuickType will offer contextually aware suggestions to select from, like “dinner,” “a movie,” or “not sure,” without you even typing anything. Even more interestingly, QuickType adapts to your individual vocabulary.
Over time, QuickType will even adapt to your individual vocabulary, picking up on your unique slang. It will offer your vocabulary when making suggestions, adding a personalized touch to what could otherwise be a very robotic-feeling experience.
Perhaps the best analogy to explain the thinking we have right now is from Alan Cooper who said “If we want users to like our software, we should design it to behave like a likeable person: respectful, generous and helpful.”
This drives us when designing and building our apps. We work to make our software mindful and considerate of our customers’ likes and dislikes, privacy and other commitments, and the need to offer simplicity.
It struck me while sitting in the keynote yesterday, these are the qualities that set Apple’s software apart. It’s something which we in Xero’s Mobile team should always have in the front of our minds when we’re creating tools for our customers.
As we continue to add new features, and rethink existing ones in Xero Touch, we hope to incorporate more of these qualities as we build. The enormous number of new developer tools and system features released today at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference will only make that job easier for us.