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Posts tagged with "wwdc 2015"

Metal for OS X

I worried that “Metal” had become Apple’s version of “Blast Processing,” a catch phrase in the 90s for the Sega Genesis. In commercials, Sega would gloat that only the Genesis had “Blast processing.” The only problem was, Blast Processing didn’t really do anything that mattered.

But it turns out, I was wrong.

Metal for OS X is huge — and it’s going to be a much bigger deal on the Mac than it is on your iPhone or iPad. If you use a Mac to produce professional content, chances are, Metal is about to drastically speed up the professional apps you use like Adobe Illustrator and Autodesk Maya.

Writing for iMore, Brianna Wu explains why Metal for OS X – announced at WWDC 2015 – will be a big deal for games and professional apps on the Mac. It was great to see Campo Santo in Apple’s slides, too.

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iOS 9 Bringing Changes to URL Schemes

Agile Tortoise’s Greg Pierce has an explanation of the changes coming to iOS 9 for apps that want to launch URL schemes:

There are two URL-related methods available to apps on iOS that are effected: canOpenURL and openURL. These are not new methods and the methods themselves are not changing. As you might expect from the names, “canOpenURL” returns a yes or no answer after checking if there is any apps installed on the device that know how to handle a given URL. “openURL” is used to actually launch the URL, which will typically leave the app and open the URL in another app.

Up until iOS 9, apps have been able to call these methods on any arbitrary URLs. Starting on iOS 9, apps will have to declare what URL schemes they would like to be able to check for and open in the configuration files of the app as it is submitted to Apple. This is essentially a whitelist that can only be changed or added to by submitting an update to Apple. It appears that certain common URLs handled by system apps, like “http”, “https”, do not need to be explicitly whitelisted.

In short, Apple wants to prevent apps from being able to scan a user’s device and know which apps are installed. Notably, this change comes a few months after Twitter started scanning user devices to see installed apps and deliver “a more personal Twitter experience”.

As Greg notes, Apple is doing this to protect customers’ privacy. Companies like Twitter had found a loophole to gather data about user devices that iOS doesn’t normally expose, and it makes sense for Apple to prevent this from happening in the future. The problem is that this system based on whitelists and limited number of URLs could be a serious threat to automation apps like Launch Center Pro and Launcher, which depend on launching any URL.

Since last year, various iOS teams have made an effort to obviate the need for URL schemes through extensions. This year, they’re going one step further. I agree with the underlying privacy concerns and I also believe that more developers should embrace extensions – how ironic that Twitter still doesn’t support them and they’re likely causing this change – but it’s important to note that some automation apps are based on the idea of launching URLs, not showing share sheets for extensions.

As Greg notes, there’s some confusion in this first beta of iOS 9. Hopefully Apple and developers will be able to work out a decent compromise by the final release.

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App Thinning and iOS 9

Apple already talked in the keynote about how it had reduced the amount of space required the iOS 9 OTA update from around 4.6GB to 1.3GB, but a more transformative technology only got a passing mention: App Thinning. In short, apps in iOS 9 will leave your phone or tablet with more free space in the first place.

Say you have an iPhone 5C, which uses a 32-bit CPU and a GPU that doesn’t support the Metal API. Download a modern universal game, and that binary includes 64-bit code, iPad and “3x” iPhone 6 Plus assets, and Metal API code that it doesn’t need. It only needs the 32-bit code, “2x” iPhone-sized assets, and the OpenGL graphics code. App Slices will let your device download just the chunks your device needs.

Andrew Cunningham has a good overview of the developer features powering App Thinning, Apple’s effort to reduce app sizes in iOS 9.

I forgot that I had a similar idea in 2012, when Apple was rumored to introduce a Retina iPad that would increase app sizes going forward (as it did). I wrote:

I see two solutions. Either Apple gets the carriers to agree to larger download sizes, establishing a new “average” that should work for most apps (let’s say 60 MB as Panzarino suggests), or they rebuild the download mechanism completely by allowing devices to “ignore” resources they don’t need. The second solution would be a “cleaner” approach, in that it would address the root of this likely scenario – that is, devices downloading apps containing all kinds of images and resources for Retina and non-Retina displays.

By “localizing” images in a way languages are localized on the OS, Apple could find a way to know if an image is destined to an iPad or not. And if so, if it’s also destined to a Retina iPad, or old-generation iPad. Furthermore, in theory, this would also allow Apple to differentiate between images used by an iPhone and iPad which, right now, are always downloaded within the same, single .app package.

App Thinning – and the three core features behind it – sound promising, but we’ll have to assess their effects in practice and wait to see how many developers start supporting them. Apple doesn’t seem to be willing to discontinue lower capacity iOS devices, but at least they’re trying to save space in other ways.

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iOS 9 Search and Universal Links

iOS 9 puts a big focus on getting into apps faster and returning to where you left off quickly. As I wrote last night:

To achieve such new level of contextual interactions between Siri and apps, Apple is relying on deep linking, a feature that’s been available on other OSes or through third-party frameworks and that will be enabled by default on iOS 9. Deep linking refers to the ability to return to a specific area of an app at any given time. In Siri’s case, a deep link will let you return from Reminders to a message, but the technology will also power other areas of iOS to allow users to easily get back to where they left off in an app. For example, deep linking will be used to index content within apps for search. To make the process of moving between apps faster, Apple has built a new back button that will be displayed in the top left of the screen to return to the previous app with one tap.

Besides blurring the line between app and OS, seamless transitions between the web and apps will also be a fundamental theme of iOS 9. The implications are profound – especially for Google.

Apple is taking a dual approach with deep linking: they’re making it easy for users to navigate across apps (not to just launch them) and they’re building new technologies to expose app content locally and link webpages to apps.

Apple calls deep links to native apps Universal Links, and they work by specifying the path to sections of an app with a JSON file on a website.

In iOS 9, your app can register to open web links (using https or http) directly, bypassing Safari. This connection between your app and website helps Apple surface your app content in search results.

Universal Links fall under the bigger initiative of Search in iOS 9, which encompasses the web, Siri, local apps, and even apps that aren’t installed on a device.

App Search in iOS 9 gives users great new ways to access information inside of your app, even when it isn’t installed. When you adopt iOS 9 Search, users can access activities and content deep within your app through Handoff, Siri Reminders, and Search results.

As Apple elaborates:

For an example of how this works, imagine that your app helps users handle minor medical conditions, such as a sunburn or a sprained ankle. When you adopt iOS 9 Search, users searching their devices for “sprained ankle” can get results for your app even when they don’t have your app installed. When users tap on a result for your app, they get the opportunity to download your app.

If this sounds similar to what Google announced in April, it’s because the underlying idea is very similar.

Upon skimming through iOS 9’s documentation, my first impression is that Apple wants to further cut out Google from search on iOS not by removing traditional web searches, but by building a superior user experience. In theory, looking for content from an integrated search box and having results seamlessly transition to native apps or prompt to install new apps seems better than asking users to go to google.com. The new back button, Universal Links, and app/web indexing technologies are aimed at finding information quickly, navigating between apps easily, and connecting webpages to apps directly.

It remains to be seen if Apple’s solution will be widely adopted and if it’ll actually be better than Google search. I have many thoughts, but I’ll save them for the future.

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WWDC 2015: Interesting Tidbits and Links

Every year at WWDC, Apple unveils dozens of new software features and hundreds of developer technologies, and 2015 was no exception. With new versions of iOS, OS X, and a big 2.0 update to watchOS weeks after its public debut, Apple is preparing for a busy Fall across its ecosystems.

Among big additions and redesigns, however, there are always smaller features and hidden changes that the company only briefly mentioned during the keynote or described with a short paragraph on their preview webpages and developer documentation guides. In this article, we’ve collected some of the most interesting details we didn’t cover yesterday, with links to the original articles, documentation, and tweets.

For more in-depth coverage, check out our overviews and first impressions:

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Apple Unifies iOS and Mac Developer Program

As noticed by Brian Webster, Apple has removed the existing distinction between its iOS Developer Program and Mac Developer Program. Now there is just the one Apple Developer Program which gives you access to the software, tools and beta OS releases for OS X, iOS and watchOS. The Apple Developer Program costs US$99 per year, which means developers who work on both iOS and OS X will save a bit of money, no longer having to pay for two US$99 programs every year.

Jonathan Kingsley also points out that developers do not need to have an Apple developer membership in order to test their app on their devices. This will be most useful to those who are just starting to learn app development and those who have not yet submitted their first app.


Apple News Overview

Apple today announced that coming with iOS 9 this Fall would be a new default app; News. As you would expect, News will collect and recommend news articles for you to read on your iPhone or iPad, based on what you like to read. The features of the News app are reminiscent of Google News (for the recommended articles), Flipboard (the ability to follow publishers and topics) and Facebook’s recent launch of Instant Articles (custom, gorgeous articles on mobile).

“News seamlessly delivers the articles you want to read in a beautiful and uncluttered format, while respecting your privacy, because Apple doesn’t share your personal data,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “We already have nearly 20 publishers representing more than 50 titles joining us, including Condé Nast, ESPN, The New York Times, Hearst, Time Inc., CNN and Bloomberg.”

Availability

News will launch as part of iOS 9, coming later this Fall. At launch, News will only be available to iOS 9 users in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.

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Apple Music Overview

At today’s WWDC 2015 Keynote Address, Apple announced its new Apple Music service which will launch later this month on June 30. Apple Music was introduced in a similar way to the iPhone and Apple Watch, with Jimmy Iovine and Eddy Cue talking on stage about how Apple Music is really three core products:

  1. A Revolutionary Music Service
  2. A 24/7 Global Radio Station
  3. Connecting Fans with Artists

Apple Music was first introduced on stage by Jimmy Iovine who described the product as “one complete thought about music” and talking about how Apple Music is “All the ways you love music. All in one place”.

“We love music, and the new Apple Music service puts an incredible experience at every fan’s fingertips,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “All the ways people love enjoying music come together in one app — a revolutionary streaming service, live worldwide radio and an exciting way for fans to connect with artists.”

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