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Six Clicks: The best of WWDC 2014

Here is a tour of the highlights of the WWDC 2014 keynote, and what these highlights mean to both Apple and the wider industry.
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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 7 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

Introduction

WWDC is the time when 5,000 developers descend on Moscone West in San Francisco, California for the yearly opportunity to mingle with the brightest and best of Apple's engineers to learn how to make better apps for iDevices and Macs, and to get a head start on developing for iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 Yosemite.

However, for the rest of us, it is the keynote speech that is the interesting part. This is the bit where Apple executives such as CEO Tim Cook and SVP of software engineering Craig Federighi give us an overview of how Apple has been doing over the recent months and what's coming on the software front over the coming months.

Here is a tour of the highlights of the keynote, and what these highlights mean to both Apple and the wider industry.

Previously on Six Clicks:

Six Clicks: iOS 7 tips and tricks

Six Clicks: Most exciting crowdfunded tech

Six Clicks: Encryption for your webmail

Six Clicks: Insanely great Raspberry Pi devices you can build yourself

Six clicks: Great tips and tricks for Android | ZDNet

 

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Apple revels in Mavericks adoption rates

Early on during the keynote, Apple CEO Cook was keep to point out that the latest incarnation of OSX – 10.9 Mavericks – has, since its release in October 2013, grabbed a 51 percent adoption rate among Mac users, while Windows 8, which Microsoft released a year earlier, is still only at 14 percent.

While there are clear differences between the OS X and Windows ecosystems that explain these differences, having more than half of all Macs running the latest operating system does allow developers the opportunity to target the new features that the platform offers.

The speed with which Mavericks was adopted by users, combined with the fact that Yosemite is capable of running on all hardware that can run Mavericks, it is likely that Yosemite will see equally aggressive adoption. 

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OS X 10.10 Yosemite

Apple's next release of OS X – OS X 10.10 – will be called Yosemite, and it will being with is a whole raft of new tweaks and features. Some of the changes – such as UI tweaks involving new fonts, colors, and transparency – are clearly evolutionary, but other changes – such as the tighter integration with iOS and better integration with iCloud through iCloud Drive – are revolutionary.

Yosemite will be available free to all OS X and will be available during the fall. For those wanting a sneak preview, Apple will be offering a public beta this summer, and if you want in then click here to sign up.

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Handoff

It is clear from what we've seen of OS X 10.10 Yosemite that Apple is keen to offer tighter integration between Macs and iDevices, and one way it plans to do this is using a new technology called Handoff.

With Handoff your Mac knows what you are doing on your iOS device and vice versa. So you can start something on one device and instantly pick it up on another. Start working on a spreadsheet on your iPad and jump straight into it on your Mac with a click of a button, or begin jotting notes on your Mac and pick up straight where you left off on your iPhone.

Handoff seems like the glue that brings iOS and OS X together, and it could help Apple sell a lot more Macs.

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Jabs at Google and Android

Apple also took a number of jabs at Android, from how slow it is getting new software to the hands of customers, to how Android is dominating the market for mobile malware. While these pokes were done in what seemed like good fun, Apple was making some serious points in relation to updates, security and malware.

Another point that CEO Time Cook was eager to point out was that nearly half of the customers in China who had bought iPhones over the past six months had switched from an Android device.

"They had bought an Android phone — by mistake — and then had sought a better experience. And a better life," said Cook with a wry smile.

Cook also used WWDC to give one of my headlines from April of this year an outing.

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iOS 8

Also taking center stage at WWDC 2014 was iOS 8, and like OS X 10.10, this is a mixed bag of evolutionary and revolutionary improvements.

Here's what it looks like — and below are just some of the new features coming to iOS this fall:

  • HealthKit – A repository for al the data you collect in other healthcare apps and devices, from pedometers to your weight to blood pressure and heart rate. 
  • HomeKit – HomeKit is to home automation what HealthKit is to your health data. HomeKit will let users control – assuming they have the right third-party hardware and apps – their garage doors, locks, lights, cameras and thermostats with their iPhones and iPads. 
  • Improved Siri – Siri will be able to do more, from wake up using voice when in the car to identify songs using Shazam.
  • Do Not Disturb in Message – Mute annoying conversations.
  • QuickType – A predictive input keyboard that learns from you. The idea is to make responding to messages quicker and easier by making the predictive input contextual.
  • Family Sharing – Now up to six members of a family will be able to share their iTunes purchases across different devices.
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New Swift programming language

This new language is being billed by Apple as a "fast, modern, safe, interactive" programming language. This idea behind it – based on what we've seen from the WWDC 2014 keynote – is aimed at building apps easier than ever.

Swift includes modern features such as multiple return types, closures, generics, type interfaces, namespaces, and much more. Bottom line here is that developers won't be giving anything up by choosing Swift over Objective-C.

The debugging console in Xcode contains an interactive version of the Swift language built right into it called Interactive Playground. This means developers can use Swift syntax to evaluate and interact with a running app, write new code to see how it works in a script-like environment, or even use it to develop new algorithms. This is available from within the Xcode console, or in Terminal.

Apple has designed Swift to do away with entire classes of unsafe code. Variables are always initialized before use, arrays and integers are checked for overflow, and memory is managed automatically. Could it be the new BASIC?

You can download the Xcode 6 beta and peruse the language guide today.

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