SAN JOSE — Apple kicked off its annual three-day developer conference in San Jose with a dystopian look at the future. Really.
A new Apple ad showed what the world could look like without apps, triggered after a hapless Apple employee unplugged something in a server room. Hipsters panic trying to read paper maps, cars pile up in the roads. and a girl hands out printed selfies. An “app” black market sets up shop in a back alley, complete with a physical Tinder and booth for crushing real candy.
The Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is usually where Apple previews its software updates. Tim Cook took the stage on Monday and will be joined on stage by other Apple executives and possibly the disembodied voice of design chief Jony Ive, as is tradition.
“I’m dispensing with the updates other than to say Apple’s doing great,” said Cook.
Apple TV adds Amazon
After touting the work of Apple’s developers, Cook announced that Amazon is coming to Apple TV with its Prime Video app. Cook said Apple was pleased about the partnership, and mentioned some original Amazon content like Transparent.
The announcement marks a detente of sorts between the two companies, which have been locked in a streaming rivalry for years. In 2015, Amazon went so far as to pull listings for the Apple TV from its online store.
Apple previewed the next version of watchOS 4, its operating system for the Apple Watch. There are new watch faces. A Siri face will show more info from the assistant, like flight times, controls for smart home devices and third-party notifications. A kaleidoscope face shows trippy animations, and new Toy Story character watch faces let Woody tell you the time.
The watch can communicate with some gym equipment to share data between the two — like your heart rate or the treadmill’s incline. Starting in the fall, Apple Watch compatible equipment will start coming to gyms from companies like Cybex, Schwinn and Matrix.
If you hit workout goals, you’ll now get fancier animations to give you a greater sense of satisfaction. There are new workout updates, like one that can tell when you’re swimming and reach the end of the lane. The free OS upgrade will be available in the fall.
Apple is pushing the Mac as a machine that’s made for virtual reality, with new hardware and software updates built for VR.
The company is releasing a new version of its operating system for Macs. Coming this fall, macOS will be called High Sierra.
The OS is getting VR support, says Craig Federighi, including support for Unity, Unreal and Metal for VR. Expect more details later during the event.
There are number of small changes in High Sierra. Safari is adding autoplay blocking, so loud videos don’t start playing without your approval. The browser is also adding “intelligent” tracking prevention in order to cut down on ads that follow you around the Internet.
The Photos app is adding new filters, and Apple says it has improved the face detection feature. Categories, faces and favorites will be synchronized across devices.
Apple is porting its Apple File System to macOS. It’s a mostly under-the-hood change, but users will notice a difference. For example, duplicating a file will be nearly instant. Video compression will be higher quality, according to Apple.
“It’s time for a more modern file system,” said Federighi.
Still to come
Despite bringing Prime to Apple TV, Apple is expected to announce an Amazon rival: a Siri smart speaker.
Amazon’s Echo speaker has been a sleeper hit. The device, a black column with an always-listening microphone, is powered by a Siri-like assistant named Alexa. Part of its success has been due to Amazon’s willingness to let external developers create “skills” for the assistant. Apple, by contrast, has been stubborn about letting outsiders tap the power of Siri, and the company has fallen behind as a result.
Apple isn’t just going after Amazon. Google recently launched its own Echo imitation, the Google Home, powered by the still-nameless Google Assistant. Microsoft is partnering with third-party speaker manufacturers to bring its own assistant, Cortana, to homes.