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Apple's WWDC keynote gave developers a lot of work to do

Apple announced a lot of new features — and some big changes to how apps work.

MacOS Big Sur

Big Sur is the latest version of MacOS and a total rethink for developers.

Image: Apple

Over the course of a nearly two-hour WWDC keynote, Apple announced a lot of new features today. But the biggest changes were reserved for the Mac. Not only is Apple redesigning the Mac's software to make it look much more like iOS, as the two platforms continue to look and feel more alike, it also confirmed it's making the switch to using its own chips. Buh-bye, Intel.

How big a deal is this for Apple? It's calling the new MacOS version 11.0 — which means after 19 years of running ever-higher numbered versions of OS X, Apple thinks it's onto something new.

  • Apple's making a whole family of chips, with consistent architecture across all its devices — again, a large step toward bringing the iPhone, iPad and Mac even closer together.
  • In the new MacOS, Big Sur, all of Apple's apps are already built to support the new Arm chips. Office is apparently up and running on the new chips, too, and Apple is working with Adobe on Creative Cloud stuff as well. Apple's Craig Federighi said that developers using Xcode will be able to port their apps to the new architecture in a matter of days.
  • The transition's supposed to take a couple of years, but Apple's selling a $500 Developer Transition Kit starting now.
  • One question it left unanswered: Will users still be able to install apps from outside Apple's App Store? And if so, what will the Arm transition be like for them? Apple's clearly tightening its control over the ecosystem, but that would be an unprecedented step. And it would cause a developer revolt way beyond what we've seen before.
The section on the silicon transition was by far the most developer-focused part of Apple's keynote, which was in general aimed much more at consumers. But hidden in the keynote were plenty of important features:
  • On iOS and iPadOS, users will be able to set default email and browser apps other than Apple's. OK, this feature is mostly for antitrust regulators, and was buried on one of those "look at all our other features" slides, but it's still the first great chance devs have had to compete in those spaces. No such luck for music, podcasts, maps or messaging, though.
  • With App Clips and widgets, developers have more opportunities to get their stuff out of their apps and into users' faces. Though with the App Library automatically organizing home screens, their icons will be buried in many more folders.
  • There's about to be much more onus on developers to be transparent about privacy and data-collection, thanks to the new nutrition-label cards in the App Store. They'll also have to explicitly ask for permission to track users. No more "ask for access to everything just in case you need it," much more careful choosing about permissions.

That's a lot of new stuff for developers to invest in, and it'll require some prioritization. The Arm transition in particular likely won't be as easy as advertised: One developer told me they're worried that things like Electron apps won't make the transition well, and pointed out that Microsoft has been experimenting with Arm chips for a while now, and it hasn't been easy.

  • The upside, though, is that because they have so much in common, Macs will now be able to run iPhone and iPad apps natively. Which means that until Mac apps work great on the new silicon, at least mobile apps will be OK.
  • Plus, Apple's now asking developers to build the same sort of "mini apps" that Android, Snap and others have already tried — mostly to no avail.

As for the event itself? It felt more like a 90-minute Apple promo video than a live event, Apple ditching the live aesthetic for something much slicker and prerecorded. Other than a few of Cook's early remarks about Apple's work for racial justice, there wasn't much indication that the videos hadn't been made months ago. But it was slick, fast-moving, and only had a handful of awkward jokes and more awkward dance moves. So as virtual events go, that's a win.

This article will appear in tomorrow's edition of our daily newsletter, Source Code. Sign up here.

App store laws, Microsoft AR and Square buys Tidal

Welcome to this weekend's Source Code podcast.

Cole Burston/Bloomberg

This week on the Source Code podcast: First, an update on Google's user-tracking change. Then, Ben Pimentel joins the show to discuss Square buying Tidal, and what it means for the fintech and music worlds. Later, Emily Birnbaum explains the bill moving through the Arizona legislature that has Google and Apple worried about the future of app stores. And finally, Janko Roettgers discusses Microsoft Mesh, the state of AR and VR headsets, and when we're all going to be doing meetings as holograms.

For more on the topics in this episode:

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David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

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The future of computing at the edge: an interview with Intel’s Tom Lantzsch

An interview with Tom Lantzsch, SVP and GM, Internet of Things Group at Intel

An interview with Tom Lantzsch

Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Internet of Things Group (IoT) at Intel Corporation

Edge computing had been on the rise in the last 18 months – and accelerated amid the need for new applications to solve challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Tom Lantzsch, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Internet of Things Group (IoT) at Intel Corp., thinks there are more innovations to come – and wants technology leaders to think equally about data and the algorithms as critical differentiators.

In his role at Intel, Lantzsch leads the worldwide group of solutions architects across IoT market segments, including retail, banking, hospitality, education, industrial, transportation, smart cities and healthcare. And he's seen first-hand how artificial intelligence run at the edge can have a big impact on customers' success.

Protocol sat down with Lantzsch to talk about the challenges faced by companies seeking to move from the cloud to the edge; some of the surprising ways that Intel has found to help customers and the next big breakthrough in this space.

What are the biggest trends you are seeing with edge computing and IoT?

A few years ago, there was a notion that the edge was going to be a simplistic model, where we were going to have everything connected up into the cloud and all the compute was going to happen in the cloud. At Intel, we had a bit of a contrarian view. We thought much of the interesting compute was going to happen closer to where data was created. And we believed, at that time, that camera technology was going to be the driving force – that just the sheer amount of content that was created would be overwhelming to ship to the cloud – so we'd have to do compute at the edge. A few years later – that hypothesis is in action and we're seeing edge compute happen in a big way.

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Saul Hudson
Saul Hudson has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, especially in understanding and targeting messages in cutting-edge technologies. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, in helping companies to build passionate audiences and accelerate their growth. Hudson has reported from more than 30 countries, from war zones to boardrooms to presidential palaces. He has led multinational, multi-lingual teams and managed operations for hundreds of journalists. Hudson is a Managing Partner at Angle42, a strategic communications consultancy.
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Google wants to help you get a life

Digital car windows, curved AR glasses, automatic presentations and other patents from Big Tech.

A new patent from Google offers a few suggestions.

Image: USPTO

Another week has come to pass, meaning it's time again for Big Tech patents! You've hopefully been busy reading all the new Manual Series stories that have come out this week and are now looking forward to hearing what comes after what comes next. Google wants to get rid of your double-chin selfie videos and find things for you as you sit bored at home; Apple wants to bring translucent displays to car windows; and Microsoft is exploring how much you can stress out a virtual assistant.

And remember: The big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future.

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Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

Transforming 2021

Blockchain, QR codes and your phone: the race to build vaccine passports

Digital verification systems could give people the freedom to work and travel. Here's how they could actually happen.

One day, you might not need to carry that physical passport around, either.

Photo: CommonPass

There will come a time, hopefully in the near future, when you'll feel comfortable getting on a plane again. You might even stop at the lounge at the airport, head to the regional office when you land and maybe even see a concert that evening. This seemingly distant reality will depend upon vaccine rollouts continuing on schedule, an open-sourced digital verification system and, amazingly, the blockchain.

Several countries around the world have begun to prepare for what comes after vaccinations. Swaths of the population will be vaccinated before others, but that hasn't stopped industries decimated by the pandemic from pioneering ways to get some people back to work and play. One of the most promising efforts is the idea of a "vaccine passport," which would allow individuals to show proof that they've been vaccinated against COVID-19 in a way that could be verified by businesses to allow them to travel, work or relax in public without a great fear of spreading the virus.

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Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

Google wants to connect everything you own to the internet

Surveilling older adults, connected helmets, wearables talking to doctors and other patents from Big Tech.

Make all the things smart!

Image: Google/USPTO

Hello and welcome back to the world of zany patents from Big Tech! While 2020 is still dragging on (I know it's 2021, but you can't tell me 2020 is over until I can go anywhere other than the grocery store), at least there are still great new patents to uncover. And there's some fascinating ones this week, including Facebook wanting to make clothes like real in games, Microsoft trying to make sports more inclusive and Google wanting to make it easier to spy on your parents. If that's something you want to do.

And remember: The big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future.

Keep Reading Show less
Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

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