Without a doubt, the announcement for which the opening session of WWDC 2020 will be remembered is that of the transition to ARM-based processors on the Mac. This announcement echoes the one made by Steve Jobs at WWDC in 2005 when Apple’s transition to Intel processors from PowerPC processors.
With this transition, Apple will complete a journey that began in 2009 with the acquisition of the company P.A. Semi to design the processors of their devices and whose fruits began to be harvested a year later with the introduction of the Apple A4 chip that powered the iPhone 4. Along this path Apple made different steps such as the transition to 64-bits in their devices or the introduction of Metal or Mac Catalyst at WWDC 2019 that were preparing for this new transition.
Apple plans to ship the first Mac with Apple silicon by the end of the year and complete the transition in about two years.
To help developers get started with this new Mac architecture, Apple is launching the Universal App Quick Start Program, which provides access to documentation, forums support, beta versions of macOS Big Sur and Xcode 12, and exclusive access to a Developer Transition Kit (DTK), a Mac development system based on Apple’s A12Z Bionic System on a Chip (SoC) with a total cost of the program of $500.
To apply for the Universal App Quick Start Program, your Apple ID must be associated with the Account Holder of an eligible program and for full details, see the Universal App Quick Start Program terms and conditions.
As expected, Apple has shown that major software companies such as Microsoft, Adobe and Unity already have versions of their applications running on ARM-based Mac prototypes. Yes, including Microsoft Office and Photoshop.
macOS Big Sur
Big Sur is the name of the upcoming release of macOS which also increases its major version number to 11.0. Finally abandoning the 10.x version numbers that started with the transition to OS X Cheetah in 2001.
macOS Big Sur includes some technologies to help in the transition to Apple silicon. With Xcode 12 developers can create Universal 2 application binaries, a single application that includes binaries for both the new Apple silicon Macs and Intel-based Macs. On the other hand, Rosetta 2 will allow to run existing Mac apps that have not yet been updated, including those with plug-ins, in the new Macs with Apple silicon. For those of us who are a little old, these terms remind us of the past transition to Intel processors.
Apple also announced that virtualization technology will allow developers to run Linux on a VM using for example Parallels. I have my doubts that it will be the same for Windows VM and Apple was careful not to say anything about it.
A nice thing is that now developers can make their iOS and iPadOS apps available on the Mac without any modifications.
Apple introduces with iOS 14 changes to the iPhone Home Screen interface where the user can reduce the number of pages by using the new App Library. It also incorporates some improvements in the widgets and these will be able to be integrated with different sizes in the Home Screen breaking the uniformity of the classic matrix of app icons. They are not radical changes but they add some freshness and organization to the endless list of apps that our iPhones’ screens end up becoming.
Developers will have a new way to make their applications known by using App Clips, small parts of a complete application, that will not exceed 10MB, and that allowing to complete a specific task can be easily discoverable by scanning a new Apple-designed App Clip code, through NFC tag or shared in Messages.
I also liked the improvements announced in the Maps app with new cycling directions, electric vehicle routing and congestion/green zones.
On the other hand, I’m sure the new Translate app will be very usefull for many.
Additionally, I think the addition of Spacial Audio to the AirPods Pro and the Automatic switching to any AirPods is great.
I think what I liked most about the iPadOS 14 announcements was Scribble and the Apple Pencil usage improvements on the iPad. It’s great to be able write by hand in any text field or paste handwriting as text.
Other Developer Features
ARKit 4 introduces new ways to capture information about the real world using a new Depth API that is designed to work with the LiDAR sensor in iPad Pro, enabling entirely new types of apps, such as on-site architecture, design, landscaping, and manufacturing.
PencilKit now features Scribble, which makes it easy to create apps with text entry fields that users can write in with Apple Pencil. Developers will also have access to stroke data using PencilKit, all while seamlessly handling both Apple Pencil input and system touch gestures.
TestFlight now supports up to 100 team members for fast build distribution.
AirPods Motion API gives developers access to movement data in real time.
Developers can now enable users to upgrade existing third-party app accounts to Sign in with Apple accounts.
If you’re interested, you can watch the keynote at https://www.apple.com/apple-events/june-2020/ and the Platforms State of the Union video at https://developer.apple.com/videos/play/wwdc2020/102/
You can watch a Monday’s Recap short video at https://developer.apple.com/videos/play/wwdc2020/10691/
To follow the WWDC 2020, navigate to https://developer.apple.com/wwdc20/