Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

This Week's Sponsor

Unite 5 - Turn Web Apps into Supercharged macOS apps

By Jason Snell

WWDC 2017: Here’s hoping

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

Tim Cook welcomed everyone to last year’s WWDC.

There are so many angles to take with the run-up to an Apple event. You can handicap rumors, stick to the most likely scenarios, or even hope your wildest dreams come true. For this article, though, I’m going to focus on what I most want to see—with the caveat that I’m only listing things that I think are within the realm of possibility.

iOS: Professional features

All of my desired features on iOS are about more advanced features, especially on iPad Pro. To me, Apple’s decision to not take the Mac in the same direction that Microsoft is taking Windows—all-in on touch interfaces—is a signal that the company believes the future of computing lies on iOS, not macOS. Fair enough—but if iOS is ever going to become a destination for all of those people who depend on the Mac to do their jobs, it’s going to need to add a lot of functionality it doesn’t currently offer. iOS 9 offered us some hints that Apple was headed in that direction, but iOS 10 delivered almost nothing in that vein. With iOS 11, hopes are high.

The multitasking features introduced in iOS 9, while a major boost to productivity—I’m writing this article on my iPad while looking up links in Safari via Slide Over—are first steps. It’s time for more: an improved multitasking app picker, drag-and-drop support, and other improvements that reduce the overhead in managing apps when in Split View.

Now let’s talk filesystems. No, the iPad and iPhone aren’t Macs. But when Apple introduced the iCloud Drive app in iOS 9, the jig was up—Apple was admitting that sometimes, you want to store a file someplace in one app and then open it via a different app. In iOS 11, I’d like to see Apple turn the iCloud Drive app into a more expansive Files app that lets you browse iCloud, other storage services such as Dropbox and OneDrive, and even—gasp—USB or networked storage devices.

iOS could also do audio a lot better. On the playback side, devices should be able to play two different audio streams without pausing one and playing the next. On my Mac, my web browser can play some audio while I’m listening to music, but on my iPad, any sound playing in Safari and my music is gone. On the recording side, I’d like apps to be able to record system and microphone audio in the background, so that musicians and podcasters can have more power in using iOS devices for audio production.

Finally, yes, I’d love to see new iPad Pro hardware, most specifically that rumored 10.5-inch iPad Pro—a device that packs the full resolution of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro into roughly the same size as the “classic” 9.7-inch iPad. And if iOS 11 supports pointing devices or there’s a Smart Keyboard with a trackpad attached, all the better.

Mac: A grab bag of old and new

Top of my list on the Mac side is something that seemed unlikely to happen until Apple got a bunch of writers together to explain that it really was committed to the professional market. What I want to see—and, I suspect, what the developer audience in attendance wants to cheer for—is an on-stage restatement of that commitment, with actions to back it up.

Ways Apple could demonstrate this commitment include shipping new MacBook Pro models with refreshed Intel processors, shipping new professional-level iMacs, and teasing the forthcoming Mac Pro. The act of updating the eight-month-old MacBook Pro with fresh processors alone would suggest that Apple realizes it needs to do better when it comes to turning around processor updates.

So many WWDC attendees are iOS developers these days. The iOS App Store thrives while the Mac App Store withers. I’d like to see Apple formalize a way for those iOS developers to easily create Mac versions of their apps. I’m not talking about running iOS apps on the Mac, necessarily, but if Apple made it easier for developers to take UIKit (the building block of iOS apps) and similar features and move them to an equivalent on the Mac, that could be a huge boost for the platform. (Apple’s Photos app, for example, uses a private “UXKit” framework that suggests the company has built some of these migration tools for itself. Maybe this could be the year everyone else gets them, too?)

I expect that Siri will be front and center at this year’s conference—across all of Apple’s existing hardware platforms, and perhaps new ones if the Siri Speaker stops being a tech unicorn and starts being a real product—and I’ll remind you that the Mac just got Siri last fall. It’s not a full-blown implementation, however, and I’d like to see Siri become consistent across all Apple’s platforms, especially the Mac. Support for HomeKit, the “Hey Siri” voice trigger, and SiriKit extensions would be a good start.

I’d also like to see Apple show signs of its commitment to the Touch Bar. If Apple truly thinks the Touch Bar is the future, it would be good to see Touch Bar improvements right away—including support for third-party apps to pop items into the Control Strip at all times. More reasons for third-party apps to adopt the Control Strip—and for users to use it more—would also be welcome. A Magic Keyboard with Touch Bar would hammer the message home. Without a sense of forward movement, I’m going to start to suspect that Apple’s not really committed to the Touch Bar, and it’s not good enough to be left to languish for another year.

Finally, I want Apple to release a new MacBook with faster processors and a second USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 port. I have a hard time seeing how this is part of a WWDC announcement, but I want it bad enough that I’m asking for it anyway, Santa.

Other stuff

Look, I’ve been asking for a Siri Speaker for more than a year1 I like my Amazon Echo a lot and would love to see Apple’s take on this product category. More generally, though, I want to see Siri become more capable—integrating with more apps on iOS, as well as with web services.

Finally, as someone who has spent an awful lot of time using (and writing about) Apple’s Photos apps, I want to see some great new features—and improvement of a bunch of old features. Machine-learning metadata should sync across devices. Families should be able to share full-quality photos easily and automatically. Search should allow you to find more than one metadata tag at a time. Memories should be more intelligent. Books and Calendars should pick up the auto-selection and layout features already deployed in Memories.

Maybe this is all too much to ask. But on Monday morning when I’m sitting in my seat at the convention center in San Jose, these are the features that will make me the most happy to see. I don’t need to see them all—but for the next few days, I’ll live in hope.

  1. I can’t have been the first person to use that fake product name, can I? 

If you appreciate articles like this one, support us by becoming a Six Colors subscriber. Subscribers get access to an exclusive podcast, members-only stories, and a special community.

Search Six Colors