At WWDC 2019, Apple did the impossible and annoyed all the right people

At the Worldwide Developers' Conference, Tim Cook and his cohorts somehow achieved a rare feat: pleasing the vast majority and irritating those who deserved it.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

It was the silence that disturbed me.

Then it was the expressions of good cheer.

Usually, during an Apple show, I get whiny messages from tech types who want to describe, in bloodied detail, all the things that Apple failed to do. Or just to whine that the whole thing was duller than an accountant's bedspread.

Monday's WWDC was disturbingly, well, different.

First, there was a vacuum. Then, coos and aahs began to arrive by text.

"My watch won't need a phone?" said one techie acquaintance. "That's been one of my dreams for years."

I hesitated to suggest that he should see a different shrink or that I'd had a watch in high school that didn't need a phone. I don't think he'd have taken it well.

Still, the notion that Apple might veer toward the Singularity between man and wrist device clearly excited several of my usual moaners.

But that wasn't all.

"iOS 13 looks really good," an AI expert texted me.

"Really good? You sure?" I replied. "You usually use words that rhyme with 'snit'."

"Yeah. All these updates are cool and make sense."

This was deeply peculiar, as he's a diehard Android user.

"That iPadOS could be great," mused another tech-entangled friend.

Yes, he was convinced that this was the moment the iPad Pro could finally become a laptop. Which, oddly, Apple has been claiming it is for almost three years.

Still, I waited for the woes, the no's and the there-he-goes-again's.

Nothing. Just a strange, not even reluctant, heaping of praise.

"Can you believe that monster?" said a developer.

It took a few seconds before I realized she wasn't referring to any world leader's visit to any country of faded predilections, but instead to the new Mac Pro.

She marveled at the power, the speed and the glorious cheese-grater that must have been designed by Jony Ive and a few friends around a filigree coffee table somewhere in rural Wiltshire.

Please forgive me, but I had to chuckle at the way Apple presented that thing. You can buy the monitor for $4999. But if you want to do something with it other than lean it against a wall or perch it on a window sill, you have to pay another, what, $1000 for a stand?

That's the sort of pricing ruse that would make an airline beancounter foam at the gills with pleasure.

I confess, though, that the more human of my regular Apple keynote whiners had a moment of singularly deep pleasure.

This was the quite glorious "Sign In With Apple" feature. 

I'll admit even I found this a stirring homage to civilization. I deeply resent every time a service insists I sign in with my supposed Facebook or Google profiles.

For years and years, these service providers didn't care what Facebook and Google with the data. They merely thought it made signing in easier. And humans didn't care. They just wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Apple WWDC 2019 keynote: Scenes and surprises

Now, even my less tech-inclined contacts were moved by this attempt at restoring even a hint of privacy and the slightest soupcon of decency.

I couldn't help, therefore, chuckle just a little that Tim Cook and his cohorts seemed to have managed what I thought impossible.

They'd annoyed no one other than Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai and their feelingless crews.

No, the Earth didn't shatter. It was still uplifting, however, that Apple -- for once, of late -- had put so much thought into so many things that actually pleased and even surprised its most gnarly critics.

Thinking even a little different still seems occasionally possible.

And now I wait for the new software to fail.

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