Hardware, software and surprises: Key takeaways from Apple’s WWDC 2017 keynote

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Tim Cook WWDC 2017
Tim Cook uncorked a load of surprises during the WWDC 2017 keynote.
Photo: Apple

If you felt worried about Apple’s supposed lack of innovation, today’s action-packed WWDC keynote should have allayed your fears. Apple execs sprinted through a 2.5-hour technology showcase filled with hardware updates, serious software upgrades and even a whole new product category.

The whirlwind presentation showed the end result of a busy company with almost unimaginable assets. Far more than a sleepy kickoff to an annual developers confab, today’s stunning presentation showed the magical output of an innovation machine firing on all cylinders.

Anyone who pegged Tim Cook as asleep at the wheel better think again. Here are the key takeaways from Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference 2017 keynote.

Each year at WWDC, Apple showcases the new features destined for its operating systems in the coming months. More importantly, the company uses its annual keynote to offer developers — and the rest of the world — a peek at Cupertino’s long-term ambitions. WWDC is where Apple broadcasts its vision for the future.

WWDC 2017 key takeaways

iOS 11 brings plenty of powerful new features.
iOS 11 brings plenty of powerful new features.
Photo: Apple

iOS 11 brings powerful new features (especially for iPad)

With iOS 11, Apple is packing in more new features than ever in what looks to be the biggest update ever released for the mobile operating system.

A smarter-than-ever Siri and new machine learning features mean your iPhone and iPad will be more proactive about making suggestions and displaying notifications. The revamped Control Center finally adds customizable buttons, which basically turn your iPhone into a remote control for your life. Big improvements will make Messages even more useful, and Apple finally is diving into augmented reality with iOS’ new ARKit (more on that below).

The iPad got some much-needed love on the software side of life today, too. iOS 11 finally makes the iPad a viable PC replacement by bringing powerful productivity tools to Apple’s tablet. System-wide Drag and Drop lets you move photos, music, files and more in between apps.

“It’s a dragfest!” said Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi.

Plus, a new Files app allows you to organize documents, photos and other files the way you want. And the new app dock at the bottom of the screen brings some macOS-style usability features that will make you miss your Mac less.

“iOS 11 really takes iPad to a whole new level,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said.

And then there were the hot new iOS 11 features Apple didn’t even mention. The WWDC 2017 keynote was just that jam-packed with awe-inspiring revelations. — Buster Hein

Macs finally get the love they deserve

The new iMac Pro brings awesome firepower to the desktop this December.
The new iMac Pro brings awesome firepower to the desktop this December.
Photo: Apple

After years ignoring the Mac Pro, and 2016’s divisive MacBook Pro launch, Apple clearly lavished some love on its computer lineup over the past year.

First, today’s WWDC keynote rolled out the expected upgrade to the Mac’s core operating system. Dubbed macOS High Sierra, it will bring Apple’s vaunted APFS file system to all Macs, which means some stunning speed bumps for existing machines.

Then Cook and company doubled down, showing off new iMacs and laptops shipping today. Finally, the Cupertino crew went all in, giving true believers their first look at the “seriously badass” iMac Pro that will zoom onto desktops later this year. — Lewis Wallace

Augmented reality is about to get real

Tim Cook has been boosting augmented reality for a while, and today he finally revealed the fruit of Apple’s efforts: a full-featured API platform built into iOS 11.

Called ARKit, the AR programming tools will allow iPhones and iPads to add virtual objects to any scene by detecting things like depth, surfaces, ambient light, motion and scale.

In an onstage demo, a real-world tabletop got covered in virtual objects like a lamp and coffee cup, which interacted with each other (the coffee cup cast a digital shadow when the lamp next to it lit up). An impressive game demo showed a spaceport under attack from virtual spaceships that flew above and around the table.

The result will be a slew of apps capable of introducing virtual objects that know about — and interact with — the real world. This will turn our iPhones and iPads into “the largest AR platform in the world” virtually overnight, said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering.

“It’s AR like you’ve never seen it before,” Federighi said. — Leander Kahney

10.5-inch iPad Pro looks like a stunner

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro brings a bigger display in a familiar form factor.
The 10.5-inch iPad Pro brings a bigger display in a familiar form factor.
Photo: Apple

With Apple’s latest A10X Fusion processor, the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro packs the best performance of any iPad ever. It also sports the best display yet: It refreshes at 120Hz, delivers 600 nits of brightness, and brings True Tone, wide color gamut and HDR video support.

Then there’s a new feature called ProMotion, which combines hardware and software acceleration to boost display performance and make Apple Pencil even sharper than ever.

All that tablet-y greatness gets jammed into the 9.7-inch iPad form factor we’ve come to know and love, and the bigger screen means the 10.5-inch iPad Pro offers a full-size onscreen keyboard (and works with a full-size Smart Keyboard).

“The iPad is the ultimate multi-handed, multi-touch device,” said Craig Federighi as he showed off all the great new features coming to Apple’s next-gen tablet, which is available for order today at a base price of $649 for the 64GB Wi-Fi-only base model. The new 10.5-inch iPad Pro ships next week. — Lewis Wallace

Apple Watch just keeps getting better

Kevin Lynch shows off the new Siri watch face for Apple Watch.
Kevin Lynch shows off the new Siri watch face for Apple Watch.
Photo: Apple

Apple continues to refine the UI for its popular smartwatch with watchOS 4. Some nice Siri upgrades — including a new Siri watch face — will make Apple Watch more powerful than ever. New machine-learning tricks will enable the digital assistant to predict what you’ll need or want before you even know it.

“This is an intelligent, pro-active assistant — right on your wrist,” Apple technology VP Kevin Lynch said of the new Siri watch face.

A new Apple Watch dock will bring up apps faster. And Toy Story and Kaleidoscope watch faces bring even more variety to Apple’s supremely personal wearable.

Exercise and fitness features also received a lot of attention. watchOS 4 makes its quicker to start workouts by reducing the number of taps to start training, and there’s even a new exercise mode for high intensity interval training. The upgrade also makes it easier for Apple Watch to communicate with gym equipment, making the device the best platform for fitness junkies. — Buster Hein

Getting serious about Siri

Apple’s virtual assistant gets dinged often for its sometimes inane inability to perform tasks that seem simple. But Apple isn’t giving up on Siri. If anything, Siri is about to become even more front and center on your Apple devices.

SiriKit, the framework that lets developers invoke Apple’s AI assistant for use in third-party apps, can do more than ever in iOS 11. The emphasis on Siri is encouraging — and badly needed. In iOS 11, Siri will know your voice, the context of your query, your interests and how you use your device. Ultimately, that will let Siri know what you want next, said Federighi. The upgraded Siri can even work as a translator. — Lewis Wallace

One more thing … a new smart speaker called HomePod

HomePod can be asked sophisticated music questions.
HomePod can be asked sophisticated music questions.
Photo: Apple

In a refreshing throwback to the good old days when Steve Jobs would delight the world with “one more thing,” Tim Cook showed off Apple’s latest product: a smart speaker called the HomePod.

It’s not the sexiest name, and it wasn’t totally unexpected. (In fact, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo pretty much nailed the smart speaker’s specs in a note to investors last month.)

Still, the HomePod brought a little hardware razzle-dazzle to the WWDC 2017 keynote. Will it be bold enough to “reinvent the way we enjoy music in the home,” as Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior VP of marketing, predicted?

On paper, and in the quick demo, the HomePod sounds like a quintessential Apple product: A high-end music device that works a lot like competing products but puts an Apple stamp (and a fat Apple price tag) on the audio enchilada. HomePod, designed to work seamlessly with Apple Music and also function as a voice-activated HomeKit hub, lands this December at a cost of $349. — Lewis Wallace

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  • thomr875

    Is there a reason no i7 core in iMacs? I don’t read a lot of tech news so maybe have missed the obvious.
    Thanks.