WWDC 2017 Round-up

Apple goes big with slew of new hardware

Apple CEO Tim Cook presenting his keynote address at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose last week. Apple announced several new models, operating systems and the smart speaker HomePod.
Apple CEO Tim Cook presenting his keynote address at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose last week. Apple announced several new models, operating systems and the smart speaker HomePod.ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

The US tech giant looks set on sustaining consumers' fondness for its products

Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) has traditionally been about its third-party software developers. This year's event, held in San Jose, California, last week, was an exception.

While there were no hardware announcements in the past three WWDCs, Apple this year came up with a slew of new hardware, on top of its software announcements, as if to make up for lost time.

"Very different WWDC than what I expected," tweeted Miss Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at research firm Creative Strategies. "Way more hardware than I thought or (have) seen over past years."

Apple announced refreshed MacBook Air, MacBook, MacBook Pro, and iMac computers. An all-new 27-inch iMac Pro (from US$4,999, or S$6,910) - with mammoth specifications that professional and power users have been yearning for - was also introduced and will be available at the end of the year.

In addition, Apple launched a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro. This model replaces the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Thus, the "pro" versions of iPad have bigger displays than the 9.7-inch iPad (2017) and 7.9-inch iPad mini 4.

The icing on the cake is the new smart speaker HomePod. With Apple's virtual voice assistant Siri built into it, this product for homes is in direct competition with voice-activated speakers such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

"Apple is late to the game, behind Amazon and Google, at least in 2017," said Mr Clement Teo, principal analyst at Ovum.

"But it is a piece of the home connectivity puzzle for Apple."

The HomePod will not be available until December, and only initially in the United States, Britain and Australia.

But Apple's WWDC announcements were focused on reassuring developers that it is still in the game of providing tools to reach consumers, according to principal analyst Frank Gillett of research firm Forrester Research.

At the same time, Apple unveiled new operating systems, with iOS 11 for the iPhone and iPad, macOS High Sierra for Mac, watchOS 4 for Apple Watch and tvOS 11 for Apple TV.

Other announcements that might not get much airtime in the media but are equally important were the introduction of virtual reality and augmented reality (AR) development kits.

"The AR tools give developers a path to bring practical, accessible AR to iPhones with iOS 11," said Mr Gillett.

For example, Niantic, developer of the popular mobile game Pokemon Go (PoGo), has already pledged its support for the use of AR in PoGo on iOS 11. This means PoGo players can walk around the virtual critter and see it in its true 3D form, rather than its current 2D form.

Overall, Mr Gillett felt that Apple has provided developers an upgraded set of tools to keep consumers interested in buying and using Apple products.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2017, with the headline 'Apple goes big with slew of new hardware'. Print Edition | Subscribe