Apple’s WWDC 2013 Highlights: iOS7, OS X Mavericks, Mac Pro

Apple's WWDC 2013 Highlights: iOS7, OS X Mavericks, Mac Pro

Apple events are ridiculously highly anticipated, with rumours flashing around the web in the days and weeks beforehand and analysis by the truckload in the days after. Even its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC)- aimed, as the name suggests, for a technical and specialised audience – attracts this kind of attention. So how do you figure out which bits have any relevance to you, especially if you’re unsure about what the difference is between an SDK and an API and don’t really want to know? Read on.

For mobile devices: iOS 7 new look and features

Apple’s head of industrial design, Jonathan Ive, who now is responsible for software as well as hardware, makes his mark. When Ive was tasked with overseeing Apple’s “user experience” design, it was widely expected he’d bring his uncluttered sensibilities to bear. It perhaps wasn’t anticipated to be so radical though. The next version of iOS (also due in a few months) has been completely redesigned.

As well as swiping down from the top of the screen for Notification Center, you’ll be able to swipe up for Control Center. From Control Center, you’ll be able to adjust brightness, switch on Airplane or Do Not Disturb modes and toggle the rotation lock – all things you used to have to go into Settings for. Control Center also offers quick access to a timer, calculator and the redesigned Camera app.

Ive’s minimalist touch can be seen in apps such as Game Center, iBooks and Calendar, which had previously used what’s called “skeumorphic” design elements – they resembled real-world materials such as felt, wood and leather. The iOS 7 versions have none of that. The 3D look of previous iOS versions has also been toned down significantly. It’s not quite as “flat” as Windows Phone, but you’d be forgiven for saying there’s a resemblance.

The other big news for iOS 7 is AirDrop, which will enable easy peer-to-peer sharing of photos and other documents with other iOS users nearby – without even having to bump your phones together.

“We completely ran out of green felt” Steve Jobs was a fan of the faux-leather and stitching of iOS, but Ive’s flatter, cleaner redesign of the interface marks the real start of the Tim Cook era.

For Macs: OS X Mavericks

Apple has announced new features, and no more references to cats. Having run low on potential big cat names for its operating systems, Apple is calling the next version of OS X “Mavericks” – named after a popular surfing spot. In keeping with the surfing theme, Mavericks will include a newly-redesigned version of the Safari web browser with better performance, smoother scrolling, and better co-ordination with the iPhone and iPad versions of Safari.

Other closer ties with iOS (the operating system on iPhones, iPads and iPod touches) include the e-reader iBooks, and a native desktop version of Maps (which will let you plan a route on the Mac then send it to your mobile device).

Mavericks includes much-needed enhancements to the OS’s support for users with multiple displays, plus a greatly-enhanced Notification Center. You’ll be able to respond to Mail and Twitter messages without having to open an app – a great time saver.

Use those screens. If you have multiple displays – say, a big monitor as well as your MacBook’s screen – Mavericks will allow you to run multiple full-screen apps on different displays at once and drag content between them.

Under the hood, as it were, there are tweaks to massively improve power consumption. So portable Mac users will see better battery life, while the desk-bound will have lower power bills.

Tag it. OS X uses user-defined tags to aid faster searching across hard drives as well as online services such as iCloud.

Step back in time. People who were using NeXTStep back in the 1990s probably didn’t realise it, but their tabbed windows were going to be a hit in the 2013 version of OS X. Here Craig Federighi drags a file from one tab to another to copy it.

New Mac Pro gets a new shape

Although the WWDC is primarily a software event, it has been used in the past to announce new hardware products. This year there are updates to the MacBook Air (with bigger and better batteries and processors) and a sneak peek at a radical new Mac Pro.

The future Mac Pro (no release date was announced) features a cylindrical casing and is one-eighth the size of the current model. It swaps the present Mac Pro’s size and internal expandability for portability and massive external expandability via four USB3 ports and six ThunderBolt 2 ports.

“Can’t innovate any more, my a***” Phil Schiller shows off the cylindrical Mac Pro with a dig at Apple’s critics.

The other hardware announcement was a new AirPort Extreme base station supporting much faster wireless networking using the 802.11ac protocol (also used by the updated MacBook Air and, one assumes, other future Macs, iPads and iPhones).

All in all, it was the most information-packed WWDC keynote for several years and answered very firmly the question of whether Apple had lost the capacity to innovate post-Jobs.