Apple’s WWDC keynote this year is an mix of mostly consumer-focused, end-user features and the occasional nerdier developer-centric discussion, plus a healthy heaping of hyperbolae. (The App Store, compared to the invention of the telescope and the discovery of electricity – did I hear that right?) But, if you’re paying close attention, there are some tidbits of good news for people using Apple’s platforms for creative work – or making the tools those people use.
Before we talk about Apple Music, let’s look at the OS news.
1. Metal in OS X will open up new visual possibilities. Metal is mostly a tool for graphics, but it does two things: first, it radically simplifies coding (it even uses standard C++ for shaders), and second, it improves performance. That combination of ease and efficiency can make life easier for developers. Theoretically, someone could use these APIs to write audio processing routines, but it’s more likely to be used for graphics. I mention it here, as creative coders working with visuals might find this makes interesting visual performances and eye candy more fun.
Plus, if you use things like Adobe’s suite, it may run faster – and that’s good for video editors and the like.
2. OS X is getting incremental performance updates – and no news is good news. We don’t know much about this fall’s revision to OS X, so it’s mostly too soon to comment. But improved app launch and other incremental updates are hardly anything to complain about, yet. Also, each year around this time Mac watchers start making gloom and doom predictions about how Apple will replace OS X with iOS and destroy all your serious apps. It … doesn’t look like that’s happened here, for another year running. Sorry.
3. Multitasking on iOS will make music making loads of fun. If you like routing audio or MIDI between apps, you’ll love this. I really can’t wait to use effects and drum machines side by side, for instance – and the UI actually makes more sense than the one you get loading plug-ins into a DAW. Bravo.
4. iOS updates finally won’t be a chore. This had become a nightmare for app developers: iOS users failing to update because they couldn’t download the update. It’s not music-specific, but I know plenty of music developers who found it a huge issue. Leaner OS updates finally resolve that problem.
5. watchOS hardware is opening up. There are some intriguing changes in watchOS – mic input, audio playback (including to Bluetooth), and accelerometer and Taptic Engine data. Because Apple Watch is, by design, more restricted than the iPhone or iPad, I think it’s really more of an accessory to existing apps than it is a separate platform. But that said, these are the sorts of little changes that should at least allow some experimental watchOS apps for music.
Also, an open source version of Swift is rather interesting from a creative coding standpoint. I think it’ll become news if someone ports it to Windows – because then, you could imagine people learning creative coding for music, visuals, and design via Swift.
Also, it was nice to see music apps for deaf people – that isn’t hyperbola; that’s magic.
Photo courtesy Apple.