Wish list for WWDC 2016

Apple’s developer conference WWDC 2016 is expected in early June. Here’s a developer’s wish list of things hopefully Apple will announce this year. This list is in no particular order.

Unified UIKit and AppKit

Developers are presented with two different UI kit when developing for both iOS and OS X. It is high time Apple support targeting both iOS and OS X using one unified kit. At the minimum, Apple should make it easy for developers to use the same iOS UI code to develop for OS X. 

It is speculated that Apple’s own Photos app is using the same ‘UXKit’ framework in both iOS and OS X version of the app. There is hope that Apple will release this framework to the public. It is an opportunity for Apple to revive the Mac platform. Nobody wants OS X to remain a dead native platform forever. 

Xcode for iPad

If we do not see Xcode for iPad soon, maybe Apple should strip the ‘Pro’ labelling for its iPad Pro. How about partnering with IBM for a “Visual Swift” tool for building enterprise iPad apps?

Scripting for iOS

With the success of Workflow, expect to see this popular automation app sherlocked by Apple soon. Where is Automator and AppleScript for iOS when you need them?

iOS as bots platform

Bots are taking over the programming world. Most bots are found in messaging and chat apps. Apple should make its platform the bots platform of choice. Ideally there should be an SDK for developers to add app specific bots and make them available as system utilities. Not sure technically how it should be accomplished. A bot app for a unified bots interface? Or a bot SDK for app to integrate with Siri?

Apple might just build a bot platform on top of iMessages. But the app does require some innovative features to be in competition with the likes of Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat. Just an iMessages for Android might not save the day.

Split screen version 2

Split screen is a great addition in iOS 9. But two features are missing. The first is the ability to drag and drop between split apps. Touchscreen interface without drag-and-drop is like the first version of iOS without copy-and-paste. The second missing feature is the ability to run the same app side by side on split screen. 

App Store and Mac App Store

Developers like to blame Apple when they’re not able to generate enough earning for their livelihood on the iOS and Mac App Store. It’s a debate if the race to $0 dollar app is largely Apple’s fault. But there is so much more Apple can do to help out developers. Some might say it is not in Apple’s interest to care for all developers, since the majority of earnings are from but a few. Developers that are struggling to survive can either choose another way out or hope that at least some help is on its way. Whatever App Store changes Apple put in place, it is doubtful if it will have any impact on the dire situation smaller developers are facing today.  

Many developers have asked for a way to charge for upgrade for years. This is especially true for high price premium apps on the Mac App Store. Apple does not get it. Developer can release a new SKU for the new version of its app, but it is different from a paid upgrade. Without paid upgrade, no discount can be given to existing users. Many premium apps rely on upgrade from existing users, without such the business is just not sustainable. It is painful to see Apple just choose to ignore this feature request.

Apple supports auto-renewable subscription as an In-app purchase option but it has its quirks. First of all, it is not open to all apps and is under Apple’s discretion whether your app can use it or not. Imagine spending the time implementing auto-renewable subscription and then end up not being approved by Apple.

Then there is no option to allow developer to offer an “Unsubscribe” button from within the app. The subscription management is buried within App Store settings page.Then there is the issue of the app not knowing if the user has turn off renew automatically before the subscription actually ends. Developer can’t have the last attempt to prompt user to continue their subscription.

App Store team should seriously review how other subscription services are implemented. The current implementation is just not friendly to the app business.

Apple TV

There are a number of ways Apple can spruce up the current Apple TV. Apple TV is not the best general purpose media player due to its lack of 4K video. It is not the ideal game platform due to the limitation of its default controller. Third party gamepad is supported, but unless Apple release its own gamepad, not many will view Apple TV as a serious game platform. We don’t even get the most powerful A-series processor on Apple TV.

As an app platform, Apple TV is lacking in few departments. Where’s the camera and microphone when you want to develop a chat or video conference app? What is the best practice payment flow like for a shopping app? Where’s the SDK for Siri to develop an Amazon Echo like app? And there is no options for developers to use Apple TV as a HomeKit hub.

Developer News

Apple developers will likely shake their heads after visiting developers.googleblog.com. It is disheartening when you visit developer.apple.com/news/ and read those one sentence news such as “OS X El Capitan 10.11.4 beta 7 (15E64a) Now Available”, “iOS 9.3 beta 7 (13E5233a | 13E5234a) Now Available”. It appears that the news site is run by the App Store team. Need news on the latest development of Swift? Then it is on another site. Need to know the latest developer sample apps released by Apple, then you have to dig elsewhere. Looking for some tutorials on how to use Swift 2.2, head over to IBM blog. 

The news site is build more for managers of developers, with a total lack of articles and insight on how to build better apps for Apple platform. It is in Apple’s best interests to teach and train its developers all year round, not just during WWDC. Is it too much to ask Apple to dedicate some such resource? 

Multi-user support for iPad

One common use case for iPad is as an entertainment and reading device for family members. Multi-user support is ideal to enable such sharing. Apple might think multi-user support will impact iPad’s sale. The lack of this feature will not propel a family to buy more iPad. It will only give them inconveniences.

Apple might want to consider a brand new padOS for its iPad, with multi-user support, terminal command prompt, file management access and full USB support. This will make choosing an iPad Pro over MS Surface a no brainer exercise.

iPad sales is not growing. Maybe its not because of the hardware.

User login for tvOS

It is strange that when you switch on an AppleTV and see the photos, music, apps of one family member. tvOS requires a user account login for its App Store, Photos, Music, Podcasts etc. There is clearly a mismatch. A TV is a communal device shared by many. Hopefully Apple is working on a solution for the next version of tvOS.

Native Docker support for OS X

Docker container technology is storming into cloud computing, and is becoming the tool of choice for many developers, especially for backend app development. OS X is currently not compatible with the container tech used by Docker. Using Docker on OS X is clunky, as it relies on a virtual machine running a compatible Linux instance. It is no surprise to see that OS X is running out of flavour with some developers who choose to run Ubuntu or Debian on their Mac.

Sacha Baron Cohen spoofs Jonathan Ive in “The Brothers Grimsby” Keynote Speech

Sacha Baron Cohen is promoting his new film “The Brothers Grimsby” with a video of him spoofing Jonathan Ive while presenting an Apple-style keynote speech. The promotional video starts with a group of “fans” waiting keenly outside the presentation hall, with Baron Cohen introducing his new character in the film The Nobby with Apple-esque adjectives. You might find video hilarious or totally hate it.

Apple Support is now available on Twitter

Apple Support now on Twitter

Apple has quietly launched a Twitter account @AppleSupport for customer support. The account tweets about tips on how to use Apple products, and is already fielding many questions from users.

We’re here to provide tips, tricks and helpful information when you need it most, and if you have a question, well – we’re here to help with that too.

Apple created @AppleMusicHelp last October for Apple Music support. It has just tweeted “Starting today, follow @AppleSupport for tips & questions on Apple Music + more!”. It now wants you to use the new Twitter handler @AppleSupport to reach Apple.

Answers to your questions about Apple and security

Apple has published a Q&A page as a follow-up to Tim Cook’s open letter, resisting a court order requiring the company to assist FBI to unlock the iPhone of dead terrorist in the San Bernardino incident. In it Apple is asking the government to withdraw its demands under the All Writs Act and said Congress should “form a commission or other panel of experts on intelligence, technology, and civil liberties to discuss the implications for law enforcement, national security, privacy, and personal freedoms.” Apple vs the FBI. Whose side are you on?

The Most Important Apple Executive You’ve Never Heard Of

The Most Important Apple Executive You’ve Never Heard Of

Bloomberg has published a nice profiling of Johnny Srouji, senior vice president of hardware technologies at Apple. Srouji is the chief ‘chipmaker’ at Apple, responsible for the Ax series CPU used in iOS devices. The whole piece is an interesting read in the history of why Apple decides to build its own chip, Srouji’s background, and  includes tidbits on the delay of the iPad Pro.

The Talk Show podcast with Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi

It is rare to have Apple’s top management being interviewed in a podcast. In the latest episode of The Talk Show by John Gruber, we have not one but two Apple heads in the podcast. It appears that Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi were in the podcast to promote the upcoming iOS 9.3 and tvOS 9.2 features. John Gruber however was able to get their opinions on the recent Internet rants about the perceived low quality of Apple software, and the plan for iTunes on the desktop. It might not worth a listen if you’re expecting something new or revealing in the podcast.

Bill Gates’s Desert Island playlist

Bill Gates Desert Island playlist

Bill Gates did an interview few days ago with BBC Radio 4’s Kirsty Young on the programme Desert Island Discs. He was asked to choose eight pieces of music, a book and a luxury item to take with him to a desert island. Mr Gates revealed detail about his life, including his relationship with Steve Jobs.

“Steve really is a singular person in the history of personal computing in terms of what he built at Apple. For some periods, we were completely allies working together – I wrote software for the original Apple II. Sometimes he would be very tough on you, sometimes he’d be very encouraging. He got really great work out of people.

“In the early years, the intensity had always been about the project, and so then [when] Steve got sick, it was far more mellow in terms of talking about our lives and our kids. Steve was an incredible genius, and I was more of an engineer than he was. But anyway, it was fun. It was more of a friendship that was reflective, although tragically then he couldn’t overcome the cancer and died.”

One of Bill Gates’ pick is the song Two of Us by The Beatles: “Steve [Jobs] was really into music and he loved the Beatles and so did I. And he actually mentioned the song, Two of Us, saying that was kind of like this journey we’d been on where we’d been competing and working together.”

Apple AC Wall Plug Adapter Exchange Program

Apple has determined that, in very rare cases, the two prong Apple AC wall plug adapters designed for use in Continental Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Argentina and Brazil may break and create a risk of electrical shock if touched. These wall plug adapters shipped from 2003 to 2015 with Mac and certain iOS devices, and were also included in the Apple World Travel Adapter Kit.

All about Apple’s commitment to privacy

All about Apples commitment to privacy

For years, Apple has been positioning itself as privacy-conscious compared to its competitors. It is no surprised that they have a privacy site (http://www.apple.com/privacy/) dedicated to explain the company’s commitment to protect your privacy and how your data is used. The site has been around for a while, but has recently been updated to cater for new features in iOS 9 and iPhone 6s.

“We use only the necessary data to help create the best experience for you, whether you’re using Maps to locate a restaurant or Apple Music to discover a new artist,” Apple says on the privacy site. “And we never sell your data. We know that the more personal your device becomes, the more critical it is to respect the data that’s on it.”

One key message that has been reiterated by Tim Cook during his media interviews and on the open letter fronting the privacy website: Apple does not need to use your data to make money like others such as Google and Facebook.

Check out Apple’s privacy site. Its full of details on how Apple design privacy into its devices and OSs, tips on how you can manage your privacy, and how Apple responds to information requests from governments.

What Apple didn’t tell you about Apple TV 4

Apple’s “Hey Siri” media event was packed with many announcements, and expectedly a number of details were not revealed at the event. Here are more information on Apple TV 4 you’ll want to know to get a better picture of what to expect.

The fourth-generation Apple TV is 50% taller (35mm vs 23mm) and 50% heavier (425g vs 272g) than previous model. It has A8 processor (vs A5 in 3rd gen) and 2G of memory. This spec is higher than iPhone 6/6 Plus which is using the same A8 processor but with 1G of memory. The beefier memory is much needed for improved caching and to support demanding games.

Apple TV 4 missing optical audio port

Apple TV 4 does not support 4k video. The HDMI port is version 1.4 and is not the 4k friendly HDMI 2.0. The service-and-support only micro-USB port is now replaced with USB-C. The optical audio port is dropped. This undoubtedly will make some users unhappy when they’re connecting their Apple TV via an AV amplifier that has no HDMI support. You will be fine if you connect Apple TV directly to the HDTV or via an AV amplifier that has HDMI input. Apple TV 4 will now support Dolby Digital 7.1 in addition to Dolby Digital 5.1. Great news for those with a 7.1 home theatre setup at home.

Wi-Fi in the new Apple TV is 802.11a/b/g/n/ac with MIMO. The wireless speed with proper setup could be faster than the wired 10Mb/100Mb Ethernet port. You may still want to use Ethernet for greater network latency and Ethernet is a more reliable connection in general. Apple could easily upgraded the network to gigabyte Ethernet at negligible cost. It is astonishing Apple could release a new networking hardware in 2015 with a technology that is older than 10 years. All hints point to a future revision of Apple TV with only wireless networking.

Curiously Apple TV 4 is using Bluetooth 4.0 instead of the latest Bluetooth 4.2. iPad Pro, iPhone 6s / 6s Plus and even the 6th gen iPod touch released this summer are all sporting Bluetooth 4.2. The latest Bluetooth 4.2  has better throughput and is more efficient. You’d expect Apple to support Bluetooth 4.2 for a device that is well suited to become a HomeKit hub. There is zero sign of anything “HomeKit” in the media event.

Apple is dubbing the new black remote “Siri Remote”. Siri integration is touted as the headline feature for you to use voice commands and for search. Unfortunately Siri in Apple TV will be initially limited to five languages in eight countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, United Kingdom and United States. There is no specific if or when Siri on Apple TV will arrive for other countries.

Siri Remote has build-in accelerometer and gyroscope for playing game like a Nintendo Wii remote. To prevent gamers from throwing the remote at their HDTV screens, Apple is selling a wrist strap called Remote Loop that resembled the one Nintendo released for Wii controller years ago. There is no information on the maximum number of remote/controller that you can used during a game session. And there is no pricing yet for buying just the Siri Remote.

Apple TV4 Siri Remote and Game Controllers

Beside using the Siri Remote for games, Apple TV also supports third parties MFi certified game controllers such as the Nimbus Steelseries Controller that is prominently promoted on Apple site.

Updated: Apple has stated in its App Programming Guide for tvOS that while you can use third party game controller with Apple TV, all games made for Apple TV must support the Siri Remote. This will reduce the number of games available during launch period as time is required to add Siri Remote support into existing games. Complex console type games will also be limited as most of them are designed to play with a dedicated game controller.

As for TV subscription plan, it remains a rumour for now. Judging from the accuracy of recent Apple rumours, it is safe bet that we will see a TV subscription plan from Apple materialise towards the end of the year or early next year.