I decided in the end that it was so late that I would just stay up to watch the keynote, have a small nap then watch the ‘Platforms State of the Union’. If you’re wanting a live transcript then Arstechnica as always does a pretty good job (link) however what this blog post is all amount is more about collating some thoughts I had regarding the two presentations.
The start of the keynote presentation they announced a refresh of the MacBook Air, Mac Studio and Mac Pro. A new model of the MacBook Air was announced with a 15″ screen and an M2 SoC, the Studio was refreshed with the M2 series and the Mac Pro was also updated to the M2 series. The Mac Pro comes with 7 PCIe 4.0 slots however although it doesn’t support video cards as a means of display there isn’t anything mentioned about whether nVidia may provide user space drivers for their video card so then it is possible to offload CUDA workflow onto the video card while still utilising the built in video card for everything else. It’ll be interesting to see whether nVidia does that or whether it makes more sense that if you want that extra CUDA grunt that you push the work load into the cloud and let their hardware to the heavy lifting.
iOS 17 and iPad 17 were then announced – updates Phone, FaceTime, Airdrop and Messages being at the top of the list which focused on refinements such as a unique poster that appears when a given person rings up, improving search within messages, sharing location when in messages, being able to share contacts via Airdrop. From what it appears this year is about refinement rather than big whizbang features. When it comes to macOS once again the same situation as well, more refinement and improving what already exists rather than in the past where the marketing was all about the x number of new features being added.
I think the absence of new features probably has a lot to do with the big announcement of the Vision Pro running visionOS. Given that all the platforms share a common core I wouldn’t be surprised if there have been a lot of under the hood improvements particularly in the area of graphics performance to hit a graphics latency of no more than 12 milliseconds. I haven’t tried the developer beta of each of the operating systems but I’d hazard to guess that there will be a noticeable improvement in performance.
The announcement of the AR/VR headset was interesting but at the price it was announced I could imagine it being very much a niche product that may grow once a lower price non-Pro version of Vision is announced but even then I don’t see it being a big mainstream success like the iPhone or iPad. I could imagine it being used particularly in the professional field of being able to show off to a client something that is being worked on, being able to view it in the ‘real world’ then making real time updates rather than the length cycle of prototypes, tweaking then making a new prototype etc. Although US$3499 is a lot of money, if you’re a business and there is the ability to speed up the delivery of a product to the customer and giving the customer a better experience when the product is being developed then in the end it’ll pay for itself.
Regarding software updates and what is taking place – one resource I like to read through is the difference between Xcode 14.3 and Xcode 15.0 beta 1 in the documentation area (link) which outlines the API changes – additions, subtractions, modifications. One addition that stood out to me was the MediaExtension API that has been added to macOS 14 (This framework provides a means for developers to create format readers and video decoders for media that the system doesn’t natively support) which will hopefully mean that ffmpeg could get ported to the MediaExtension API which in turn will enable various bundled applications (Safari, QuickTime etc) to take advantage of the ability to playback formats not natively supported in the OS.
Another way to get an insight into the future direction of Apple, both hardware and software, is to check out the WWDC 2023 sessions (link). It comes as no big surprise that the visionOS and Vision Pro is at the centre but also many videos heavily pushing Swift and SwiftUI (the technology that unifies the development process for all the platforms) to heavily imply to developers that it is the technology of the future and that they need to get on the Swift train now in much the same way that XCode was pushed and pushed. Apple didn’t come out and say “move to XCode because in 2005 we’re moving to Intel” but instead Apple heavily push a particular technology for a reason, they may not give the answer but what is implied is that in the future that particular piece of technology or collection of technologies will form the basis of the products in the future.
Metal is getting pushed in a way I didn’t think it would – in the past there was lip service being made regarding gaming but it appears that this year they’re actualy taking it seriously with the introduction of the Game Porting Toolkit which includes support to bring DirectX games over to Metal 3, the Unity game engine is optimised for Metal 3, the addition of ray tracing etc. If you want to keep up to date with how users are finding the beta versions along with the new features then you can check out these sources (link) (link).
Regarding AI – the focus by Apple isn’t about tick boxes but rather making use of AI by integrating it into applications to improve the experience for the end users. This is the reason I was rather ‘meh’ about the whole AI launches by Microsoft and Google, it is one thing to put on a good dog and pony show for the passes but it is a different thing entirely to transform something from a cool public demonstration into something that is actually useful for the average end user.