The Keynote We Needed: WWDC 2014

As you’re likely aware, Apple held their annual keynote at their World-Wide Developer Conference, 1 during which they announced updates to OS X and iOS, all of which look rad and I’m super-excited for. 2 The most important part of the keynote, however, wasn’t any of the announcements that they made, but in the way they made them.

If you’ve followed Apple like I have, 3 you’d have likely noticed that the post-Jobs Apple hasn’t been exactly lighting barns on fire with their keynotes. That is not to say that Apple hasn’t announced awesome new products, of course… It’s more that the presentations have come off as uneasy, hesitant, and just generally awkward, not unlike a kid at an 8th grade dance who is trying desperately to figure out how dancing with someone else is supposed to work. 4 It wasn’t particularly pretty, and it certainly didn’t help put the narrative that Apple was a sinking ship 5 and had “lost its cool”, whatever the hell that means.

This keynote, as you may have guessed, was different: Tim Cook, Craig Federighi and everyone else from Apple that took the stage seemed confident. One could categorize the jokes that were being made as “playful”, even though I wouldn’t because that word creeps me out when not associated with puppies or kittens. It felt lighter, more self-assured, and would be best recapped by a GIF of Cook and Federighi walking away from an exploding helicopter while sunglasses fall from the sky, landing smoothly on their heads, while dropping microphones. 6

So what changed? Did the announcement of the acquisition of Beats Electronics, and associated hiring of Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, add enough charisma to Cupertino that Apple couldn’t help but be more self-confident? Did they get drunk before coming on stage? Was it that they were surrounded by over 6000 Apple developers, which means they were clearly in a space filled with people who have livelihoods that are dependent on Apple’s survival?

It could be just about any of those things — I mean, except for the drunk one (probably) — but I have another theory. One that, much like the best theories, can never be disproved and, since I’m about as qualified as any financial analyst to comment on Apple’s mind state, I’m going to go for it: This was actually the first post-Jobs keynote.

“But wait,” you may be thinking, “didn’t Jobs leave Apple (and, subsequently, the entire planet) in 2011?” And you’d be right; this is not the first keynote where Apple was without Jobs physically being there. However, it was always said that Jobs and company had the product pipeline and updates planned out for anywhere from three to five years — which, if you do the math, would mean that Jobs had a hand in everything coming up to 2014 at the earliest.

I think the first sign that we were really in a post-Jobs Apple was the release of iOS 7 at WWDC 2013 — it was a huge departure from what iOS had been up to that point and the first release since Jony Ive, who had only been the hardware designer at Apple to that point, had taken control of software design. The other product announced there, though, was OS X Mavericks which, while an improvement, wasn’t much of a change (design-wise, anyway) from what we have had for the past few years.

But look at OS X Yosemite’s design versus OS X Maverick’s design — the following picture, which I found on Reddit, shows the docks of the two operating systems, and you can’t possibly mistake one for the other.

OS X Mavericks vs OS X Yosemite Dock
The docks from OS X Mavericks (top) and OS X Yosemite (bottom). By the_Ex_Lurker on Reddit.

It goes far beyond simple design, however — take, for instance, iCloud Drive. Jobs was pretty fixated on eliminating the file system that users had (for the most part) become accustomed to in iOS, and it was pretty clear that he wanted to bring that to OS X eventually as well. This was why programs could only access the folders they created when using iCloud and not access any file the program could possibly open 7: it streamlined the file system, albeit to the detriment of being able to move out of a program or edit things in multiple programs or any one of a number of use-cases, all of which drove me nuts.

On Monday, though, Apple announced iCloud Drive, which will allow you to not only see the files that a program saves in iCloud, but to open them on your computer or in additional programs. Furthermore, you can save other files to iCloud Drive as well, making it more comparable to Dropbox in functionality. Even crazier? iCloud Drive will be accessible on OS X and Windows, which I honestly didn’t see coming. There’s a list of additional changes that are coming that I could bore you to death with to support my thesis, but I’m not going to because I don’t want to cause the tens of people who read this site to fall asleep spontaneously.

This, to me, leads to what could be the largest, if not explicitly spoken, thing that was announced at WWDC: the new Apple. A confident, charming, playful 8 company that knows it’s got some great products coming, and more awesomeness that we don’t even know about yet in the pipeline. And that excites me to no end.

  1. Known as “WWDC” from here on out, since that’s what it’s known as already, anyway. 
  2. My only disappointment was their lack of any time machine announcements… Not the OS X backup system, mind you, but an actual time machine that could bring me directly to the fall so that I could get all the new shiny stuff right freakin’ now
  3. Although I certainly hope you have not and, instead, actually lived your life in a manner you feel is personally fulfilling. 
  4. Or me at any wedding I happen to go to. Either/or. 
  5. Despite having the majority of profits in both PCs and mobile devices, releasing products that every other tech company is trying to copy, blah-blah-blah. 
  6. I do not have such GIF-making abilities, however, so that’s not going to happen here. 
  7. Okay, yes, there were security issues and other things related to iOS sandboxing as well, but let’s ignore that for sake of this argument, huh? 
  8. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go vomit all over the place now. 
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