WWDC 2015 packs incremental enhancements for business pros

Apple's June 2015 WWDC followed a predictable script. Erik Eckel offers some highlights from the event.

El Capitan

Apple's annual summer World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) followed the typical script in which the company announced computer and mobile operating system enhancements. While it lacked previous events' flair, the session introduced Apple Music, the company's new initiative designed to capitalize on streaming music trends. That said, business users will appreciate several new upcoming OS X, iOS, and watchOS features that were largely overshadowed by the new consumer music service announcement.

OS X El Capitan

The next version of OS X bears the name El Capitan. The beta distribution is set for July, and the general release, as a free upgrade, will be this fall. Apple developers have focused their sights on two factors: improving the user experience and increasing performance.

In improving the user experience, developers are making El Capitan's integrated Spotlight search smarter to help it prove more intuitive and return more contextual information, adding needed Notes enhancements, allowing users to use multiple apps simultaneously, and even adding simple gestures. For example, shaking the cursor will cause it to grow noticeably larger, making it easier to locate on today's larger displays, and a new swiping gesture will help better navigate Mail.

Business users will now be able to compose mail within multiple tabs. Notes adds formatting options and support for images and web links.

A new Split View, meanwhile, enables more easily separating, viewing, and managing multiple active application windows. Even though we now know we typically perform tasks less efficiently when we multitask, we all do it. It's nice that El Capitan will make multitasking a little easier.

Under the hood, Apple says the new OS is faster, claiming a 1.4X improvement in application launching, 2X faster mail receipt, and 4X faster PDF opening. I open several PDFs a day. While I'm only going to save maybe half a minute here or there each day, the time saved certainly adds up over the course of a year, and it enables me to maintain my train of thought and focus in environments where competition for my attention is sometimes extreme.

Thanks to improvements within Apple's Metal initiative, which targets better graphics processing, core animation and graphics tasks boast 40 to 50% faster performance and better battery life. Autodesk is but one of the business applications that benefits from the improvements.

iOS 9

iOS 9 improvements announced at WWDC 2015 include better battery life, enhanced security, and improved application performance, which is always a welcome combination for business users' ubiquitous mobile devices that continue growing in popularity and importance. Apple developers are working to make iOS 9 smarter. iPhones will work to learn behaviors. Fore example, it will begin playing an audiobook where you last left off on your commute the day before. iPhones with iOS 9 will also be able to review telephone numbers contained within email messages to help you determine who's calling when you don't recognize an inbound number. These are seemingly small but important details that make a modern business professional's life easier to navigate, regardless of industry.

Broader Apple Pay adoption and new Apple Pay payment methods are coming. Expect the same improved Split View window management capability described for El Capitan that also enables multitasking on iOS devices. An improved Photos interface features a scrubber bar to help navigate images. But the innovation I'm most excited about is receiving the same Notes upgrades within iOS devices that are coming with OS X. Many users are increasingly dependent upon Notes and the integrated ability to synchronize Notes between devices using iCloud. Incorporating text-formatting improvements, support for number lists, and checklist functionality will help today's mobile warriors fond of the simple note-taking application.

Public transit information is also coming to Maps in iOS 9. Support for multimodal transportation (train, subway, bus, ferry, etc.) makes it easier for commuters and business travelers to determine the best routes and better schedule commutes, which aids every business traveler in arriving to meetings on time, especially when traveling out of town in unfamiliar locations. While not every city's infrastructure will be available at launch, Apple listed a credible number of national and international cities at WWDC.

watchOS 2

watchOS 2, the next iteration of Apple's new Watch OS, will be available in the fall. The free upgrade adds several new features business users will enjoy, including the ability to reply directly to an email message. Using the Apple Watch's Siri application, users will be able to immediately compose their response text and send email replies without having to retrieve an iPhone, iPad, or access a keyboard.

New Faces, the name given to the designs that display on the new wearable, will be released, including the ability to track flight information and status directly from the watch face. Again, this is an incremental non-Earth-shattering innovation but one that, when combined with previous and new enhancements, conspires to make navigating an everyday business trip or challenging professional day easier.

Potentially, the most intriguing watchOS 2 enhancement is Apple's Time Travel feature. Using the rotating digital crown, users will be able to rotate the crown to view scheduled calendar events and weather forecasts in the future, which proves handy, for example, when trying to determine whether a business event or meeting may encounter weather complications. The feature also supports scrolling backward through news stories or advancing to see what the weather will be when a flight lands. Again, these are simple and handy features available at a fingertip that work to collect information from multiple sources in a meaningful way.

What announcements at WWDC 2015 were you most excited to hear about? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.

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By Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...