June 23, 2020

Thoughts on Apple's 2020 WWDC keynote

Thoughts on Apple's 2020 WWDC keynote

On Monday, Apple held this year’s annual World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote. Like everything else this year, the keynote was held virtually. Below are my thoughts on this year’s announcements.

Apple switches processors (from Intel to ARM)

Mac Pro (1st generation)
A first generation Mac Pro. Photo by Glenn Batuyong (Flickr / CC BY)

The biggest and most heavily rumored news was confirmed at the keynote. Apple will be switching from Intel-based processors to its own ARM-based ones (dubbed Apple Silicon)… the same ones that run iPads and iPhones.

This is a huge change for Mac desktops and laptops, which have been using Intel chips since 2006 (when they switched from Apple’s PowerPC processors). At the time, Apple was switching to using more PC standard parts. It also allowed easier support for running Windows on Macs (for those that did such).

That said, Apple seems to figure this will give them the advantages their iDevices carry, plus avoid dealing with any of Intel’s own problems. iOS apps will also be natively compatible with ARM-based Macs. And ZDNet notes there’ll still be support for Windows 10 on Apple Silicon Macs.

As for the inevitable transitional concerns, Apple plans to offer “Rosetta 2,” a binary translator that allows backward compatibility for software written for Intel-based Macs. If wondering, the “2” comes from the original “Rosetta,” which was offered for the initial Intel-based Macs to allow backward compatibility with PowerPC-based software. The whole transition is expected to take two years.

That said, as long as we’re flashing back to the late aughts, I still expect a wave of people grumbling about their favorite niche software not being compatible with, or updated for, Apple Silicon Macs. I also expect to see debate over whether it’s worth buying a first generation ARM-based Mac.

The newest MacOS incarnation: Big Sur

Bixby Bridge in Big Sur
Aaron Albrecht / CC BY

The next version of MacOS is titled “Big Sur,” another scenic region of California.

Big Sur’s main changes seem to be incorporating aspects of iOS into MacOS. Safari is also getting some updates, including:

  • Privacy updates.
  • A language translation feature.
  • Support for extensions via the App Store.

iOS 14

The biggest change to iOS 14 will be the inclusion of home screen widgets, similar to those on Android. Apple’s also adding a picture-in-picture mode for video.

iOS 14 will work for all iPhone models dating back to the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, which first came out in 2015. That’s good news in my case—I own the latter model, so my phone will receive the current iOS version for another year.

The Apple Watch and watchOS 7

Apple Watch via watchOS 7 is gaining a hand washing detection feature (per the pandemic). It’s also getting sleep tracking features, which should be useful.

Apple TV

Apple TV is gaining support for playing YouTube videos in 4K, which tvOS (Apple TV’s operating system) lacked until now. Apparently, Apple had a dislike of Google’s use of the VP9 codec for 4K YouTube video.

Tags: AppleApple TVApple WatchiOSmacOSTechWWDC