It’s saying something that the most exciting announcement at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference keynote this year might well have been the news that Apple TV owners will soon be able to control YouTube with their voice, telling their TV to “Search YouTube for cute pug videos”.
It says two things: it says that voice control of YouTube on your TV is an addictive, bordering-on-life-changing feature, as Android TV owners already know; and it says that Apple’s annual software developer conference in San Francisco, once boiling over with major announcements, was set to a high simmer this year, with plenty of small announcements and few major ones.
The Apple Watch will be getting a new operating system that makes applications easier to launch, and makes them launch faster. iPhone owners will be able to wake their phones just by lifting them, the way Android users have been able to do for years, and they’ll get to see long-forgotten photos that their phone will automatically dredge up for them. Apple Macs will be getting a new operating system that incorporates the Siri personal assistant, so computer users will be able to talk to their desktop and notebook computers the way they talk to their phones.
Indeed, the relationship between iPhones and Macs will be drawing even closer than ever. Other new features in macOS (the operating system that powers Apple’s computers) include improvements in Continuity, the system that allows Apple devotees to commence a task on one Apple device and continue it on another. Now Apple users will have a “Universal Clipboard” across all their devices, so that something copied into to clipboard, say, of their iPad, will be available for pasting on their Mac. And not just text. Photos and videos can get transferred between devices using the Universal Clipboard, too.
Voice search on Apple TV devices (tiny set-top boxes which Apple sells for $269) won’t just be limited to cute pug videos on YouTube. Apple says it has now catalogued some 650,000 movies and TV shows, and Apple TV owners will be able to call up content with their voice by saying to their TV such things as “Show movies about baseball” or “Find high school comedies from the ’80s”.
If none of that got Apple developers excited, the company did throw them a bone: major Apple apps such as Maps, Messages and Siri, have all been turned into platforms that third-party developers can accessing, allowing them to incorporate hitherto Apple-only features into their own apps. So the most exciting feature to come out of this year’s WWDC may not be cute pug videos after all, but may be some non-Apple app yet to come.
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