Apple’s WorldWide Developer Conference 2021, the appointment is for tonight at 19.00, will be a special edition. There are two reasons: part of what we will see was finalized in a particular year in terms of work, operating systems and platforms developed almost exclusively remotely for obvious reasons, and above all for the first time it is perceived some friction between Apple and the developer community.
The WWDC is the event dedicated to those who create apps and software and fall at the end of the hearings of a trial, the one that sees Epic and Apple opposed, which could change the logic that governs the App Stores forever. Tim Sweeney, the CEO of Epic Games, was one of the protagonists of WWDC with Fortnite for Mac back in 2015, and today he is one of Apple’s greatest enemies. Enemy number one.
He is not alone: the trial papers have shown that Apple has not always maintained fair behavior with developers. In some cases, see Netflix, it has made some compromises in order to keep Netflix on its platform and in others, for example Zoom, it has allowed the use of some private api to allow the application to have features that other apps could not. have, for example, the active camera in Side by Side on iPad. Some developers didn’t like it.
The relationship between Apple and those who contributed to Apple’s fortune (and enjoyed it as well) will be the cornerstone of tonight’s keynote, and Tim Cook will once again have to convince everyone that developing for Apple offers unique opportunities and even reward possibilities that other platforms do not offer.
It can do this in two ways: by changing what are the current rules of the app store, also in terms of percentages, and by announcing new solutions and platforms that widen the possibilities of monetization and development. It is unlikely that Apple could think of opening up to third-party payment solutions, even during the process there was not the slightest availability towards this front, more likely instead that the percentages will be revised perhaps according to a logic of thresholds. If it is true that today most developers pay nothing to stay on the app store, some of the applications are free or are “reader” apps, it is also true that 30% for those who earn a lot is now considered exaggerated by many. Apple could expand the system in stages, with a percentage that varies depending on the earnings of the developers. Already today, those who earn less than 1 million euros pay only 15%, but the thing could be extended.
The new MacBook Pros may arrive. Or not
There is great anticipation, as always, for new hardware announcements. For some time we have been talking about the new 16 “and 14” MacBook Pro, and we are pretty sure that in addition to these Apple is also working on a new 32 “iMac Pro and a Mac mini Pro. Different products in the form factor, but identical in the heart, a new Apple Silicon designed for medium to high-end solutions and dedicated to developers and content creators.
In a difficult period for the supply chain, Apple may however have decided to postpone the announcement of the new models until the fall, showing WWDC only the heart of the system.
Like last year, Apple had to show Apple Silicon, to make developers understand where it was going and why it needed them to quickly complete an architecture change, this year Apple could show the new high-end SoC to let developers understand what is changing and how. The M1 is revolutionary in architecture, but still remains a consumer processor: the version of Apple Silicon “Pro” that Apple has been working on for some time should instead follow very different logics, to attack some segments where the company has been working in recent years. it is shown to be weaker than the competition. We refer for example to machine learning, scientific computing, ray tracing. The new SoC, which is expected to support up to 32GB of RAM, will have many more graphics cores and many more high-performance cores on board but should also have a set of external co-processors to support to perform operations quickly and in hardware that until now have been accelerated via software or managed, with less than brilliant performance, by CPU or GPU.
Apple, we have already tasted it on M1, is moving away from the concept of a computer made up of CPU and GPU, it is moving towards an SoC composed of several specific Processing Units. Many of these will need dedicated frameworks, they will need programs that take full advantage of them, and the technical times to update professional software, which require a certain stability, are not so immediate. That’s why we believe that even if there will be no MacBook Pros, Apple will show developers what it plans to do in the “pro”, asking them for help in bridging the gap that exists today with NVIDIA solutions in some very specific sectors.
iPadOS is the one that needs more news
The rest of the keynote will obviously focus on updating the different platforms and various services. Something has already been seen: Apple Music Loseless and Spatial Audio should debut today, after the announcement of the past few weeks. This means that all AirPods will also be updated to support Spatial Audio.
We remind you that the Spatial Audio for Apple Music will work on all models of Apple and Beats earphones: the accelerometer and gyroscope are not required, which are indispensable for the “TV” version of Spatial Audio, the one that only works on AirPods Max. and AirPods Pro and expects audio to come from the iPhone or iPad screen. New applications are also planned, such as Calm for relaxation and calorie tracking in Apple Health, it is conceivable to expand new services in other countries where these are currently absent, such as Fitness.
As for iOS and iPad OS there should be updates for the main apps, the arrival of some new apps and some aesthetic tweaks. The most important change will be related to notifications, with the user being able to set a status for notifications by also activating a series of actions. If we are driving, sleeping, working or simply do not want to be disturbed, notifications can be managed differently, and in some cases even with automatic response. See messaging apps like Whatsapp, to which the iPhone may respond with a “I’m driving I’ll write to you later”If someone writes to us while we are busy.
Among the expected news is also a sort of privacy control center, similar to the one that Android introduced on Android 12: you will be able to see in a cumulative panel which apps have requested access to which functions over time. Today iOS indicates whether an application accesses the camera or microphone, but someone may not notice the indicator if the access is very fast, the time of a photo.
Thanks to the new panel we will be able to have a more complete overview, a sort of closing of the circle after the settings adds in iOS 14, the additions to counter the tracking of iOS 14.5 and the privacy labels of the App Store.
More than iOS, it is iPadOS that needs substantial innovations in order to justify even an iPad Pro that looks like a “chained beast” to an operating system that is tight. It is hoped that Apple will finally add queue management, therefore background processes, as well as a more advanced multitasking that also includes dual monitors, so two apps open on different monitors and without annoying black edges. iPadOS is the ground on which Apple can work the most, and although the iPhone still remains its core business the iPad is the one with the greatest growth potential. Especially in the lucrative professional app industry.
The “gifts” that developers would gladly accept on iOS and iPadOS are two: the virtualization framework, now present on macOS, also brought to iPadOS and the opening of the browser to third-party engines and PWAs. MacBooks with M1 can virtualize other operating systems today, which an iPad Pro with M1 cannot do: Docker on iPad Pro would delight many developers. For the browser today every browser on iPad and iPhone must necessarily use WebKit, it is a sort of “skin”: many would like to have a real version of Chrome, or Edge, on iPad or iPhone, in order to create small apps that do not require necessarily the passage of the AppStore but they can take advantage of the notifications and all the HTML5 api, those that in short are defined as Progressive Web App or PWA.
While modest upgrades are planned for tvOS and macOS, mainly related to applications, there is great expectation for homeOS. Apple has let the name slip in the past few days, and it seems that the HomePod may also have an operating system of its own. This is the last stop of the “smart home” train for Apple: either you run up or Alexa escapes.
By creating a new operating system for the HomePod, Apple could finally rival Amazon’s Alexa, effectively responding to the “skills” that led Alexa to its well-deserved success. The home is the only area where Apple has still not managed to settle today, despite having tried and tried several times with HomeKit. A system that is too closed and designed more for device manufacturers than for developers, who have never been able to use the platform as a basis for construction.
HomeOS could instead become an additional source of income for developers, with new opportunities in an industry that has been traveling really fast in recent years.