We are a about 6 months away from WWDC. Now is as good a time as ever to consider features for Apple’s developer ecosystem and here is a list of them.
The important breakthrough of the Apple AirPods is the seamless switching. Screens have always had this feature because of the nature of our eyes! Our ability to multi-task between screens and focus vision enables productivity. Sound and ears though have a completely different relationship. Even though wireless headphones and speakers have existed for a very long time, they have always been outside the spectrum of good software authorship. Volume up, Volume down and Mute. Only three verbs built into all headphones today. Compare that to the amount of magic computers can do with sound. With iOS, macOS and the ecosystem of devices supporting AirPods, I think there is a chance at true productivity with sound. One way to unlock this productivity would be with AirPods APIs. A good description of Apple goes like this — hardware + software. A truer description is — hardware + software + software APIs. Apple’s commitment to software APIs by opening an App Store in 2008 was a landmark move. Apple was smart to incorporate developing and publishing software APIs into its functional nature rather than as an afterthought. It is simply a more engaging version of the product and they would do well to keep it that way with the AirPods.
A lot of my confidence in their ability to do AirPods APIs right is because the Apple Watch exists in its current form. I believe the Apple Watch, sucessful product or not, is fertile ground for iterating on wireless. Be it the tech or form or battery or the APIs. Apple’s engineers and App Store developers are on this ride with watchOS. It has been a bumpy ride for sure and the end might not seem near. But it is worth taking in my opinion. There are a lot of insights and learnings to take away about both machine and man that informs future work. Onward, the Apple Watch needs to install and run apps completely on its own. A battery-friendly cellular stack is the only thing missing from its runtime. The device itself needs to be untethered from a phone first and I am optimistic this will happen. An independent store also greatly helps with discovery, adoption and usage. As observed with the iMessage App Store.
In App iMessage
I confess this one is not from 2016. I expected this to have happened by now and is long due in my list. The extent of integration with iMessage stops with the share sheet. But isn’t there room for more? Messaging is currently this out-of-the-app communication channel which needs human intervention to manually pass information into. Apps don’t know about other users and users don’t know if and how other users are using it. Good app integration with iMessage can take on this problem and I believe it can be as impactful as Slack was for groups of productive people.
This one is engineering focussed and can be argued there is not direct benefit to users. Maybe. Extensions are the preferred way to propagate functionality to the rest of the device. The app is a good space for developers to explore and create experiences. And then there is the rest of the device waiting for apps to spread experiences meaningfully. Today Widgets, Quick Actions, iMessage, Keyboards, Siri are all worthy integrations for apps of any kind. Siloing functionality that can only be accessed through the main app is so 2008. For such an extension heavy platform, it would be good to be able to deliver and update all such extensions independently. Changes to extensions need not be clubbed with updates to the main app. Extensions would do well with standalone delivery and review pipelines. This allows for better iteration cycles for developers, faster fixes and even less effort for the App Store Review team. Reviewing an app and all its pieces for a single change in an extension is common in 2016 and worth doing something about. I expect Apple to already have this working internally. I hope teams at Apple are already delivering features this way.
Apple’s take on hardware and software has always been opinionated. But their turn into a services company is recent. It is fascinating to see an opinionated group taking on services for its users.
Nov 18, 2016
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