It has been quite a couple of months for the iPad and iPadOS. It started with the new iPad Pros and the Magic Keyboard with Trackpad, which were announced on March 18th. That was promptly followed by iPadOS 13.4, which wasn’t your typical late-cycle OS release. Along with modifier key remapping, key up/down events for developers, iCloud Drive shared folders, Mail toolbar adjustments, and new Memoji sticker reactions, Apple surprised everyone by revealing mouse and trackpad support.
The announcements came at a momentous juncture for the iPad, which turned 10 on April 3rd. As Federico explained on the anniversary, the iPad, and especially the iPad Pro, has become a modular computer that has stayed true to its tablet roots, while gaining the ability to transform to suit its users’ needs. Nowhere is the iPad’s modularity more evident than with the release of the Magic Keyboard with Trackpad.
Against that backdrop, Federico was fortunate to have the opportunity to once again chat with Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior Vice President for Software Engineering, for a special episode of AppStories about iPadOS and its new pointer support. Although the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the interview from being conducted in person as it was last year at WWDC, FaceTime facilitated a terrific conversation that delves deep into the latest changes to iPadOS and what they mean for users and developers alike.
Thank you to Craig Federighi for taking the time for the interview, everyone at Apple who helped arrange it, and as always, thank you for listening to AppStories. We hope you enjoy the show.
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It’s been an exciting week at WWDC. Despite rumors and leaks going into the keynote on Monday, the presentation was full of surprises and fulfilled many of the wishes of Mac and iOS developers and users.
Federico and I arrived in San Jose last weekend and planned to record an episode of AppStories that would begin to sift through the huge stack of announcements made by Apple. Those plans were almost immediately cast aside when a unique opportunity presented itself.
Federico is attending WWDC this week, and Apple graciously offered to schedule a time for him to interview Craig Federighi, the company’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering. With a WWDC packed with announcements that will affect app development for years to come, we of course agreed immediately.
When you step back from the details of what was announced in the keynote and since, I expect that WWDC 2019 will be remembered as the event when a new vision for apps on all of Apple’s platforms from a tiny Watch face to a Mac Pro driving a 32-inch Pro Display XDR began to come into focus. The tools made available to developers – like Catalyst for bringing iPad apps to the Mac, and SwiftUI, a new declarative way to build app UIs with less code – promise new efficiencies and capabilities to help developers build apps on every Apple platform. Combined with powerful new features coming to the iPad in iPadOS and an extensive Shortcuts update, there’s an opportunity for a future with deeper, pro-level iPad apps and experiences, a more diverse Mac app ecosystem, and tighter integration across Apple’s entire hardware lineup.
Against that backdrop, Federico sat down with Craig Federighi for a special episode of AppStories, one of MacStories’ growing lineup of podcasts, to explore the impact of developer tools like Catalyst and SwiftUI and the new iPadOS on the apps we use today and the apps these technologies will enable in the future.
Thank you to Apple for arranging the interview, Craig Federighi for participating, and as always, thank you for listening to AppStories. We hope you enjoy the show.
You can find the episode here or listen through the AppStories web player below.
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CNET spoke with Craig Federighi after last week’s keynote, and one of the questions they ask him is whether there will be a touchscreen Mac (around 2:30 in the video):
Craig Federighi: At Apple we build prototypes around all sorts of ideas. So we certainly explored the topic deeply many years ago and had working models, but we decided it really was a compromise. For a device you hold in your hand like a phone or tablet it is very natural to rest your hand on the tablet and work that way. We think touch is at its best and we wanted to build, and have built, a really deep experience around a multi-touch first user interface. Grafting touch onto something that was fundamentally designed around a precise pointer really compromises the experience.
Those were carefully chosen words by Federighi. He does not say that there won’t be a touchscreen Mac, instead he notes that the simple addition or “grafting” on of a touchscreen to the Mac would be a compromise. Importantly, the compromise that he refers to is not one related to ergonomics, but rather the fact that macOS is currently designed around an interaction model driven by a precise pointer.
I agree with Federighi. I certainly wouldn’t want to see a Mac with a touchscreen bolted on, with no adjustments to the UI of macOS. But as someone who regularly uses the iPad Pro in a laptop-esque configuration with the Smart Keyboard, I see the value in having a touchscreen on a Mac, provided that there are also UI changes to macOS. I don’t expect this any time soon, but I do think it will happen.
Fast Company published an article on Monday about Apple’s approach to product design. Today, it posted the full text of its interview with Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi that was the basis for much of the article. I enjoyed Rick Tetzeli’s piece, but there’s nothing better than reading the quotes that were pulled for the article in the context of the whole interview.
Tetzeli’s conversation with Cue and Federighi is filled with additional details about how Apple approached the development of Apple Maps after its rocky launch in 2012. Tidbits like this from Cue on how app usage helps Apple improve Maps:
Let me give you a good example: a golf course. How do we know when a new golf course opens up? We’re not exactly driving around looking for golf courses. But we know it’s there, because there are all these golf apps that get used at a golf course. If we see that all these golf apps are being used at a particular location, and we don’t show that as a golf course, we probably have a problem.
Federighi, who didn’t have many quotes in Tetzeli’s article, had this to say about how Apple approaches new features and products:
We think in terms of experiences. We all use these devices every day, and we think about what we’d like them to do for us. Those aspirational experiences lead us down all sorts of roads technologically, to all kinds of problems that we need to solve. So we think, “Oh, we’d like your Watch to unlock your Mac,” because we need to unlock our Macs every day. It doesn’t start with, “Hey, we’ve been doing development in wireless and they want something to use their technology for.”
Finally, Federighi confirmed what I have always felt has had a profound effect on the way Apple has been run since the late 90s:
I think it’s significant that upper management has lived through periods of austerity [1999 to 2001] and appreciates that this hasn’t been a straight ride up. People who look at Apple’s success and think we look at it as “okay, great, we’re done” don’t appreciate what’s really going on here.
That’s just a small sample of the sort of detail contained in the over 4500 word interview with Cue and Federighi, which I highly recommend reading in its entirety.
Craig Federighi, Senior Vice President of Software Engineering at Apple, writing for The Washington Post:
That’s why it’s so disappointing that the FBI, Justice Department and others in law enforcement are pressing us to turn back the clock to a less-secure time and less-secure technologies. They have suggested that the safeguards of iOS 7 were good enough and that we should simply go back to the security standards of 2013. But the security of iOS 7, while cutting-edge at the time, has since been breached by hackers. What’s worse, some of their methods have been productized and are now available for sale to attackers who are less skilled but often more malicious.
A cogent argument from Federighi. It follows on from Tim Cook’s open letter and interview with ABC News, as well as Bruce Sewell’s testimony to a congressional committee.