My picks for the cream of the crop from WWDC 2017

Tim Cook and company introduced an unusually large number and wide array of products at this year’s WWDC — revealed in a keynote that I believe was the longest one ever delivered by Apple. Although numerous summaries of the event have been posted by now, I wanted to offer my own list of the most notable items from Apple’s latest buffet.

1. The 10.5” iPad Pro

This is the big one for me. Over the past several years, I’ve migrated from my MacBook Pro to my 9.7” iPad Pro (with keyboard and pencil). I no longer use my MacBook at all. Although I remain content with my current iPad, I’m tempted to upgrade to the newer 10.5” iPad Pro. Why? Because it offers numerous useful new features: a larger display size (while maintaining about the same dimensions overall), greater speed, better cameras, USB-3 support and (based on what I’ve read) the impressive ProMotion display.

With any iPad Pro, the machines will take another leap forward when iOS 11 comes out this fall. This update has more — and more significant — iPad-specific new features than any two previous versions of iOS combined. I’m especially looking forward to the drag-and-drop capability, the Files app (at last!) and the redesigned more flexible Dock.

The new iPad Pro is by far the closest Apple has come to a tablet that can be a viable alternative to a laptop for many people. This is the future of Apple’s mobile hardware.

But let’s not get too carried away. I confess that I’m hedging my bet here. I have a desktop iMac (which I’m using right now to write this article). I intend to keep it. Yes, my iPad Pro has replaced my MacBook, but has not yet replaced my using a Mac altogether. In that regard, my views are similar to those of Brian Chen: If you do a lot of typing, the iPad Pro is not yet ready to be your sole device. When doing work, I also prefer the larger displays, multiple windows and superior file storage options of a Mac.

2. The iMac Pro

The all new iMac Pro (touted as the most powerful Mac of any kind that Apple has ever produced) is a stunner. Unfortunately, it won’t be available until the end of the year. Even then, unless you absolutely require what it delivers, you may hesitate at the price. The Pro starts at $5000 for a base model but will go much higher for a maxed out configuration (according to one article, a top end model may go as high as $17,000). Still, I recognize that the iMac Pro is an important and lust-worthy new entry.

In many ways, the iMac Pro is the successor to the ill-fated 2013 Mac Pro. In fact, rumors indicate that, until recently, that’s exactly what Apple intended it to be. However, as we now know, a still more high-end Mac Pro (with more customization options) is due in 2018. For the pro user, this is all great news. Apple is back in the pro market — in a big way.

Also noteworthy, although far less dramatic, Apple updated its existing iMac line-up. There are upgraded internals that add speed (starting with the Kaby Lake processor), Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports and continuing improvements to the brightness and color of the display.

I will not buying any of the new iMacs. Given my relatively modest needs, the Pro is clearly out of my price range. As for the other iMacs, I have no immediate need for Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C — and I am completely satisfied with my 2015 iMac’s speed and display. However, if you have an older iMac and have been debating getting a new one, these are  the updates you’ve been waiting for.

[Note: I did buy Apple’s new extended Magic Keyboard with numeric keypad; it’s something I’d hope to see since first purchasing my iMac.]

3. HomePod

Apple’s new entry into the audio-assistant and music speaker arena, HomePod, leaves me a bit perplexed.

On the one hand, I am immensely pleased that the product exists at all (although, as with the iMac Pro, it will not ship until December). Over the past months, I have many times lamented that Apple was passing up an opportunity to compete here. With the HomePod, Apple now has at least a chance to catch up with the Amazon Echo and other entrants in this category. And HomePod appears to be a worthy entry, with high enough quality sound to make it a competitor for Sonos speakers as well as for the Echo. This has huge potential for Apple — and I hope it succeeds.

Still, HomePod is not something I intend to buy — at least not for a long while. I am already too entrenched in the Echo eco-system — and see little advantage to switching. I suspect many others are in this same position.

For top sound quality, rather than a HomePod, I much prefer my Echo Dot connected to my Yamaha soundbar (which also serves as a speaker for my TV and can connect directly to Apple devices via AirPlay). The HomePod also loses on price. At $350 each ($700 for a pair, needed for a stereo effect), it is more expensive than any Echo and/or speaker setup most buyers would otherwise consider.

Perhaps its relatively high price is why Apple chose to market the HomePod primarily as a speaker alternative, rather than as an Alexa-like assistant and a HomeKit hub. While this initially struck me as an odd marketing decision, I suspect we will see Apple tout the non-music features of HomePod much more in 2018.

4. All the rest…

Although not on a par with the big three products covered above, Apple introduced numerous other worthwhile and newsworthy items at WWDC, primarily included as part of the iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra updates coming this fall. My favorites are:

• Apple peer-to-peer payments. A Venmo competitor, this will allow you to make peer-to-peer payments via Apple’s Messages app. Could this be the tipping point for the eventual end of cash? Maybe. We’ll see.

• Safari on Mac blocks auto-play videos and ad-tracking. It’s too early to know how well this will work, but if it’s effective, it will prevent two of the most currently annoying aspects of web browsing. Here’s hoping.

• Apple File System (APFS) on macOS High Sierra. “With macOS High Sierra, we’re introducing the Apple File System to Mac, with an advanced architecture that brings a new level of security and responsiveness.” This is the first major overall to the file system since the introduction of HFS Plus almost two decades ago. With the almost total conversion to SSDs, rather than mechanical hard drives, it’s a much needed shift.

• Augmented Reality. iOS 11 will include Augmented Reality capabilities. I’m not sure how practical they will be initially, but I’m eager to try them out. In any case, it’s important for Apple to make a move in this increasingly critical area.

• Amazon on Apple TV. I prefer using Apple TV, over the numerous other options I have, for viewing Netflix and HBO GO. That’s why it’s been irritating to have to switch out of Apple TV when I want to view Amazon Prime video. No more. Amazon is coming to Apple TV this fall!

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3 Responses to My picks for the cream of the crop from WWDC 2017

  1. Carl Jobs says:

    Nothing on the new Macs?!

  2. Ted says:

    There IS coverage of the new Macs. It’s in the iMac Pro section.

  3. mike salesin says:

    When the first wireless keyboards for the iMac came out (as well as the wireless trackpad) I really thought apple should have an extended keyboard with a numeric keypad. I wrote an email to Steve Jobs and asked if Apple had any plans to produce such a keyboard. I got a two word reply from Steve, “No plans.” I now have my wish and, like you, have it on my desk. Definitely a winner!

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