By Dan Moren
June 26, 2020 8:46 AM PT
WWDC 2020 Thursday: Session impressions
Note: This story has not been updated since 2020.
WWDC sessions have a way of getting more technical throughout the week, so for the laypeople among us, it gets a little tougher to pick out those aspects that the general populace might be interested in. I mean, I know you’re all waiting with bated breath to hear about function calls and implementing error handlers, but let’s not get too excited. Anyway, here are a few quick tidbits I picked up from Thursday’s sessions.
It’s been a long time since I’ve played a game on a PC (or even my Mac), but I was once a decent FPS player back in the era of Quake 3 and I’m totally dating myself here, aren’t I.
Keyboard and mouse input have often been considered the gold standard for gaming1, and with the advent of support for external pointing devices as well as the new Magic Keyboard, Apple has moved quickly to provide APIs for games that want to take advantage of playing via these devices.
The system for using these devices is built on top of the same framework provided for external game controllers, but provides certain features tuned towards using keyboard and mice. For example, you can check whether keys on the keyboard are in up or down state, you can lock the pointer to avoid triggering system events like showing the Dock (and hiding the system cursor), and you can even implement support for scroll wheels on mice.
It’s even possible to switch between the usual cursor and keyboard support and game-related input within the game, for situations where, for example, you’re using a keyboard and mouse to play a multiplayer game, but want to allow users to access menus between matches.
Gamers will no doubt welcome these advancements, just as they did for external controller support. They also provide additional accessibility options for those who can’t or prefer not to use the touch screen or an external game controller. Moreover, they reinforce both the idea that pointer support isn’t just something Apple threw together, as well as investing in the longevity of both of these devices as input methods on both iPadOS and macOS.
Maybe I’m in the minority, but I do actually use Siri fairly often to play a specific song, album, or artist. While Apple had previously added the ability for third-party music apps to hook into the virtual assistant, it’s now made some further enhancements, allowing for both support on more platforms and additional features.
The HomePod will use a new cloud playback API as well as integrating the same media intents used on iOS, and Apple TV will also now support third-party media intents, meaning that you can use Siri on the remote to play music (and presumably other media) in non-Apple applications.
There’s also a new UI for an Alternatives feature that allows apps to provide other options, in case what starts playing wasn’t exactly what you were looking for. So, for example, if you asked Siri to start playing an album but it plays the wrong song, you could use this to pick a different song from the album.
Sign in with Apple was one of last year’s most exciting announcements, and adoption for the feature has been on the rise. But there were some limitations with the approach, and this year Apple is targeting one specific way to bolster adoption: converting existing user accounts to Sign in with Apple.
Some services do this already, but Apple’s providing a standardized API for doing so, via a few different entry points. One is when you log into a service for which you have a weak credential, like an easily guessable password. You can be prompted to update your account to Sign in with Apple, if the service provides it. Similarly, if the password manager in Settings alerts you that you have a weak password, it can offer the option to convert the account for you. Finally, developers can offer an option within their app for users to choose to convert their account.
Once the conversion process, which is largely transparent, has concluded, the old weak credential is removed, avoiding the risk of duplicating accounts. (I will say it was unclear to me whether that involves changing the account on the service’s back end, as opposed to just changing the credential within iOS/iPadOS. Is Apple trusting third-party services to merely do the right thing, and not hold on to existing account information, or does it enforce this policy somehow?)
These days, when I have the option to use Sign in with Apple when creating an account, I often take it, but there are so many services on which I already have accounts that I’m looking forward to this option being more widely available.
- I’ve been playing a lot of Sea of Thieves on my Xbox recently, and since the game has cross-play with the PC, one of the multiplayer options is to prefer sessions with only players using Xbox controllers, so you don’t get consistently and mercilessly slaughtered by keyboard and mouse users. I hear. 😭 ↩
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @email@example.com or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]
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