Apple’s keynotes have always had a certain mystique, complete with seamless product demos, smooth promotional videos, and a class-of-the-industry organizational flow. While a great product can sometimes speak for itself, it’s the people behind the performances that really sell these events, from Phil Schiller to Tim Cook to Craig Federighi.
With that said, not every Apple exec can sell a $600 device like Steve Jobs. We watched Apple keynotes over the last seven years with an eye for style, strengths and weaknesses.
Here’s what we found:
Apple’s Best Keynote Speakers
6. Tim Cook
Likes: memorizing lines, rehearsing
Cook’s never been especially engaging as a speaker, with a slow and steady demeanor that borders on over-rehearsed. It doesn’t help that he tends to cover the least interesting content, whether that’s how fast tickets sold out or why Apple just built an Apple Store in Berlin.
Like the iPhone itself, however, Cook has improved incrementally over the years, sounding less memorized and more relaxed, particularly during Monday’s WWDC keynote. He’s also learned to hand the stage over quickly, which has allowed Cook to play the snappy tour guide instead of the dawdling storyteller.
Finest moment: The beginning of the 2014 WWDC keynote
5. Scott Forstall
Likes: being smarter than you
Dislikes: acknowledging mistakes
The former Apple executive used to be a keynote staple, serving as Jobs’ #2 presenter in the years following the launch of the iPhone. Forstall was never bad, but he carried a certain smugness on stage, a tendency made worse by controversial releases like Siri and Apple Maps. He had a habit of pointing to the scoreboard (ex: sales, overall satisfaction) in the face of legitimate customer grievances (ex: Game Center, directions).
To be fair, his iOS expertise and raw intelligence always made Forstall a competent presenter, but the attitude behind the words carries a lasting legacy.
In sports, commentators often say that underdog teams in big games are “just happy to be there.” For Forstall, it was the opposite. Of course he should be there. He was the best.
Finest moment: Forstall’s 2011 presentation on iOS 5
4. Phil Schiller
Likes: geeky stats
Dislikes: basic but necessary information
Schiller is a fine presenter: knowledgeable, well-rehearsed, properly-paced—you know, the sort of guy Microsoft would kill to have on hand for its next Surface announcement. Still, Schiller’s routine is predictable. He winds up slowly, hits peak enthusiasm when covering the geekiest details (ex: breaking down a MacBook’s internals), then lands with a bit of a thud when he finally gets around to summary details (ex: pricing, release date).
That said, Schiller’s sensible, everyman demeanor works to great comic effect when he’s forced to do a funny FaceTime chat or physical stunt. Though the most absurd routines have tapered off in recent years, he was once Steve Jobs’ most trusted comedic sidekick. Crucially, Schiller’s play acting always comes off as more reluctant than showy, making him the one Apple presenter whose jokes never seem the least bit arrogant.
Finest moment: Schiller’s “death dive” gag in 1999
3. Jony Ive
Likes: high-minded, philosophical musing
Dislikes: physical stages
With phrases like “crystalline diamonds,” “unapologetically plastic,” and “highly-polished chamfered edge,” it’s a miracle Ive can get through Apple’s product videos with a straight face. But Jony’s magic always comes along about halfway through each video, where, despite all the platitudes, Jimmy Kimmel jokes and YouTube spoof videos, you find yourself nodding along. As a matter of fact, I do want a phone with a “bespoke assembly” and “a clear lacquer hard coat.”
Only Ive would describe electronic gadgets in such lofty, ludicrous terms…and yet, only Ive could pull it all off. While he doesn’t do keynotes, Ive has become such a staple in Apple product videos that he deserves mention on this list.
Finest moment: Selling a plastic, year-old phone (iPhone 5c) as “the distillation of what people love about the iPhone 5.”
2. Craig Federighi
A rising star and natural speaker, Federighi is by far the most charismatic presenter currently at the company. Regardless of the product, topic or audience response, he emits an unwavering, boyish enthusiasm, beaming his way through spec lists, bad jokes, and routine product demos. Before 2012, he was a small-time extra, lucky to be on stage for 10 minutes at a time. Since then, he’s become the face of Apple’s keynotes, presenting for nearly 50% of WWDC 2013, and fully 70% of Monday’s event.
Federighi’s not perfect: he loves sprinkling his comments with empty superlatives (“incredible,” “awesome,” “really nice”), while his constantly cheerful buzz leaves little room for emphasis (how do we know what’s important and what’s not?). But his ability to make 78 minutes of keynote fly by faster than an episode of Silicon Valley makes him easily the best presenter of all current Apple employees.
Finest moment: Owning the stage for 70% of the 2014 WWDC keynote
1. Steve Jobs
Likes: bold, blanket statements
Dislikes: unreceptive audiences
In the end, of course, there can only be one choice for Apple’s greatest presenter: Jobs himself. With the confidence of Forstall, the mesmerizing qualities of Ive and the enthusiasm of Federighi, Jobs combined the strengths of his successors to sell everything from the iMac to the iPhone. Jobs also had the Clintonian ability to make people believe something just by saying it. Ive needs pleasant music, a white background, expensive machinery and a non-specific European accent to convince people: all Jobs had to do was open his mouth.
Jobs did have a speaking flaw—he would get visibly annoyed at his own audience when they didn’t respond how he expected—but his various gifts far outweighed the occasional flash of temper.
Apple might still be able to put on a show, but today it needs four guys to do it. Before, one was enough.
Finest moment: Announcing “three revolutionary products” in 2007
This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.
Apple didn’t announce an iWatch at its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, nor was it expected to.
But what happened instead was just as intriguing: With iOS 8, Apple quietly laid the groundwork for what could be a great wearable platform, adding the raw ingredients to compete with Google, Samsung and others.
One of the big new features in iOS 8 is interactive notifications, which allow users to directly respond to e-mails, calendar appointments and social media posts without going into the app itself.
Yes, it’s one of several features that Apple “borrowed” from Android, and this may not be a coincidence given that actionable notifications are the centerpiece of Google’s own wearable platform, Android Wear. Instead of just seeing static notifications on your wrist, Android Wear will let you respond to them while leaving your phone in your pocket. Without a similar system in iOS, Apple would have been at a big disadvantage.
Interactive notifications aren’t the only smartwatch-friendly feature in iOS 8. Apple is beefing up Siri with streaming voice (so you can confirm what you’re saying as you talk), support for more languages and the ability to activate voice commands by saying “Hey, Siri.”
Siri will also be able to control home automation setups through HomeKit, which makes a lot of sense for a wearable device. You don’t want to have to dig out your phone or tablet just to tweak the thermostat or turn down the lights.
And of course, there’s Health and HealthKit, which will allow users to keep track of all their fitness tracking applications. Wouldn’t it make sense to keep an eye on these stats while exercising, without having to strap an iPhone onto your shoulder?
I’ll cheerfully admit that the case for an iWatch isn’t airtight. There are still tough hardware problems to solve, including battery efficiency, fashionability (for both men and women) and pricing, and I can still pick out some things I’d like to see on the software side (such as third-party app support in Siri).
But Apple’s never been known to tick every feature box at once. Instead, the company tends to take its time building up from a foundation. In hindsight, that’s exactly what Apple did as it built up iOS on the iPhone, before launching the iPad a few years later. With iOS 8, it’s a lot easier to believe that an iWatch is coming next.
Get ready for widgets, better OSX integration, family sharing and more
Get ready, Apple fans: The next mobile operating system upgrade, iOS 8, is coming to iPhones and iPads this fall. It’s got a couple big new features: HealthKit, for tracking your personal fitness data, and HomeKit, for integrating “smart home” apps more directly into iOS (including Siri support—eat your heart out, Clapper).
But iOS 8 promises lots of little new improvements, too. To boot:
1. Interactive Notifications
Giving up Android’s far-superior notification center feature was my biggest sacrifice when I converted from Android to iOS for the iPhone 5. Apple’s now promising a notification center that’s far more customizable, with third-party widgets ranging from ESPN for sports scores to eBay for staying on top of your bidding game. These widgets will let you perform certain tasks right from iOS’s “Today” screen. Finally.
2. Better Keyboards
Apple, the company oh-so-famous for its walled gardens, has also for the first time opened up iOS to third-party keyboard apps. Among these is Swype, which lets users, well, swipe their fingers across the keyboard to type out words, another feature long-enjoyed by Android users but lacking from iOS. Apple’s iOS 8 is also coming with QuickType, a predictive typing feature that’s new to iOS but old hat to Android users.
3. OSX Integration
Oh, joyful day: iOS and OSX, Apple’s desktop OS, are about to get much closer. With iOS 8 and Apple’s upcoming OSX 10.10 Yosemite, you’ll be able to make calls and send SMS text messages (not just iMessages) from your Apple desktop or laptop remotely via your iPhone. It’s probably good to be a little bit skeptical about this, though: Apple’s previous attempt at marrying iOS iMessages with OSX has not gone well.
Some other nice features: You’ll also be able to “handoff” documents from an iOS device to an OSX machine and vice-versa, and it’ll be easier for OSX machines to activate an iOS device’s wireless hotspot mode.
4. Muting Conversations
Ever been trapped in a terrible iMessage conversation with a bunch of people you don’t care about, but you’re too nice to leave it outright? Good news: You can now mute those awful chats, meaning you’ll still get the messages but you won’t be bothered by alerts about them. Nice.
5. New Photos App
Apple’s new Photos app will let you view and edit images from across your myriad i-Devices, which is nice. But there’s even bigger news for the iPhoneographers out there: iOS 8’s camera will natively support selecting different points for focus and exposure, which only third-party apps could previously do. And Apple’s also letting third-party apps get under the camera’s hood, finally allowing access to more manual controls.
Translation? People who really love photography will get more out of iOS 8—and, by logical extension, Apple’s next iPhone—than any Apple iOS to date.
6. Hey, Siri
Great news, lazy people: Siri’s getting voice activation. Just say, “Hey, Siri.” Which is maybe a little friendlier than “Hello, Glass.”
7. Family Sharing
Up to six family members will soon be able to share app purchases across their multiple devices. The catch: All those devices need to be tied to the same credit card—no Netflix-style password-swapping here. The family sharing feature also means stuff like calendars can be shared across devices, meaning you’ll never have to leave notes on the fridge again.
8. Wi-Fi Calling
Stuck somewhere with Wi-Fi access but crappy cell reception? Then you’re in luck: iOS 8 will enable voice calls over Wi-Fi, though the feature will probably be carrier-dependent. If carriers were smart, though, they’d see it as a good way to get even less traffic crossing their already-strained networks—if an iPhone user is on Wi-Fi to make calls at a given moment, they’re presumably also using Wi-Fi, not mobile data, to use their data-intensive apps.
Don't call it a rip-off: Apple adds its own imprint on features that Android users have long enjoyed.
Apple gave its fans plenty to swoon over at its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, but it also gave its haters a lot to sneer at.
Although Apple introduced each feature as if it was brand new, some of iOS 8’s biggest additions have been available in some form on Google’s Android platform for years.
- Interactive notifications will let users quickly respond to messages, accept calendar appointments, “Like” Facebook posts and more without having to enter the app itself. Android has offered these kinds of actionable notifications since 2012.
- Apple will add a row of word predictions above its software keyboard, just like Google Keyboard for Android. iOS 8 will also support third-party software keyboards, which Android has always allowed.
- Apple has extended iCloud to support all file types, and will let users easily access their files and folders across all their devices. It’s similar to the Google Drive integration found in Android 4.4 KitKat and Chromebooks.
- Notification Center will support third-party widgets for things like sports scores and breaking news. Google has allowed third-party widgets on the Android home screen for years.
- The App Store will allow video previews, just like Android’s Google Play Store.
- Sharing in iOS will be open to all apps instead of just a handful of Apple-approved ones. Android’s Share button already allows sharing to any app that supports it.
For one thing, Apple isn’t just copying Android features verbatim. It’s adding its own spin. Notifications, for instance, will be interactive straight from the lock screen, which is not currently the case on Android. The addition of widgets in the Notification Center also shows an Apple-like touch: It lets the home screen stay as simple as possible, while moving more advanced functionality off to the side for power users.
Even app-to-app sharing is more advanced than what Android offers. It’ll allow developers to create photo filters within the main Photos app (this feature is actually borrowed from the “Lenses” function in Windows Phone), and extensions such as text translation or document watermarking that work across many apps.
Taking concepts from Android and refining them is not a new approach for Apple. Although Android was first to allow multitasking, Apple’s version had tighter controls on how apps could run in the background, saving system resources and battery life. Android was first to allow copy-and-paste, but Apple’s version was better-executed when it finally arrived. Google, in turn, tweaked Android over time to better handle system resources and to make copy-and-paste more consistent.
Meanwhile, Apple is adding plenty of other features to iOS 8, including HomeKit to make home automation simpler, HealthKit to unify all your health tracking apps, and a bunch of ways to make all Apple products more connected.
This is exactly how competition should work. Instead of just blindly copying Android, Apple has found ways to improve upon key Android features, while adding other things that are entirely new. Now it’s Google’s turn to try and do the same.
Whether you prefer iOS or Android, that’s a very good thing. Over the last couple years, mobile operating systems have felt stagnant, with only minor tweaks to the way we use them. The new features in iOS 8 are a sign that there’s plenty of room left to innovate. I have a hard time getting snarky about that.
Apple's Metal could transform the complexity limits of games in iOS 8, but if it wants to eventually compete with game consoles -- and the company referred to "console-level" graphics during its WWDC presentation repeatedly -- it still has an interface problem to solve.+ READ ARTICLE
Apple’s gaming strategy — anemic enough in the past that some might view those three words used in the same sentence as oxymoronic — took an interesting turn at the company’s annual WWDC 2014 conference on Monday. Apple software engineer VP Craig Federighi surprised onlookers after steering lengthy presentations on OS X Yosemite (Apple’s latest version of OS X) and iOS 8 by revealing something the company calls “Metal,” which Federighi prefaced as “huge in the area of 3D graphics.”
Metal, says Apple, is designed to supplant OpenGL, or the Open Graphics Library, as the mechanism in iOS whereby developers get their hooks into the hardware — in this case, Apple’s powerful A7 system-on-a-chip processor. Calling OpenGL “increasingly…a thick layer of overhead between the game and the hardware,” Federighi claimed Metal would dissolve most of that layer and replace it with one that offers “near bare-to-the-metal access to the power of A7.” According to Federighi, the difference is “stunning,” with draw call rates clocking up to 10 times faster (“draw call rate” refers to the process whereby an application renders different types of visual data to the screen, though there’s some debate over its importance as a performance bottleneck).
That, in theory, would reduce processing overhead, allow developers room to access the “compute” aspect of the GPU portion of A7 (in addition to graphics), and Metal supports both precompiled shaders and “efficient” multithreading. (Shaders are employed to “color” aspects of an image or create other visual effects, and precompiling them can reduce load times.)
Technical claims of API prowess aside, it seems Apple’s been working with Crytek, Epic, EA and Unity to come up with Metal-based demos. The first three of those companies are long-reputed for pushing graphical boundaries in games: Crytek with Crysis and Ryse, Epic with its proliferative Unreal Engine and EA with subsidiary DICE’s Frostbite technology.
Federighi said these companies had only been fiddling with Metal for a few weeks, but managed to achieve “stunning” results, then he brought up a clip of EA’s Plants vs. Zombies — a “console-level title” — running in iOS 8 with over “1.3 million triangles on the screen at a time.”
How does that compare to a pre-Metal 3D game? I have no idea, but I’m guessing Apple wouldn’t risk boasting about the metric in specific terms before an audience largely composed of developers if it wasn’t a meaningful leap.
(Federighi added that EA was using its Frostbite engine here, though when he said EA “thought [it] could never come to mobile,” it’s not clear if he meant the console-native version of Frostbite, or he meant EA’s Frostbite Go, a version of Frostbite designed specifically for iOS and unveiled over a year ago.)
Federighi went on to highlight footage of a game by Crytek (from The Collectables, a squad-based tactics game for iOS announced last year — the big deal with Metal, apparently, is that they can do up to 4,000 draw calls per frame, says Federighi), before turning the stage over to Epic founder and Unreal Engine co-creator Tim Sweeney.
Sweeney, sounding a bit stilted, as if reading from a script (which he doubtless was) demonstrated a tech demo alongside one of his colleagues that he called “Zen Garden.” Zen Garden was built using Unreal Engine 4 (the latest UE version, released in early April this year) and designed to highlight detailed special effects, like drawing thousands of leaves on a tree in realtime and watching them flutter to the ground, or poking around in a fish pool filled with hundreds of fish (each able to have CPU time dedicated toward making them individually intelligent), or animating thousands of butterflies as the screen panned and shifted around a complex-looking 3D backdrop in realtime.
Again, it’s impossible to tell how any of that compares in specific terms to some of the highest-end console games today, like Ryse or Killzone: Shadow Fall or Battlefield 4, so we’re left to with generalizations and pretty — if not mind-blowingly so — imagery. Sweeney noted Zen Garden would be available on the App Store for free when iOS 8 ships later this year, so maybe a gaming performance analysis outfit like Digital Foundry can make something of its meaningfulness at that point. Federighi said no more about Metal after Sweeney left the stage — no tout list of third-party developers, or of games in development, or timeframe estimates on when we’ll see iOS 8 Metal-enhanced games.
What this wasn’t, then: Apple throwing down the gauntlet and squaring off with Microsoft’s Xbox One or Sony’s PlayStation 4. Not yet, anyway. The company seems to be stepping, component by component, toward an inexorable confrontation rather than throwing all its weight behind a fully articulated console-competitive games platform — built on iOS — today. Call it an overabundance of caution, call it oblivious nonchalance toward the highest grossing entertainment medium by revenue on the planet, I suspect it’s probably just a company taking its time, fully cognizant of the fact that multitouch devices have serious limitations — interface hurdles that have to be overcome, if indeed they’re worth overcoming — if Apple wants to eventually present tablets (or post-tablets) as console-alternative gaming devices. And that’s still a big if.
Apple's latest software makes the case for leaving all your Android and Windows devices behind.+ READ ARTICLE
While wrapping up the keynote at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, CEO Tim Cook used a familiar refrain: “You’ve seen how our operating systems, devices and services all work together in harmony,” he said. “… This is something only Apple can do.”
Cook has brought up the “only Apple” talking point before, but it’s never felt this accurate. iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite don’t merely ask that you use nothing but Apple hardware; they also suggest that your family and friends should do the same. You’ll all have a better experience, Apple argues, when everyone’s using iPhones, iPads and Macs.
There are a few layers to this strategy, and you can see them play out in iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite:
- On the personal level, if you have an iPhone, you can use a Mac or iPad to make phone calls or send text messages. You can also start doing something on one device–for instance, editing a document in iWork or writing an e-mail–and immediately pick up where you left off on another device with one click or swipe. Apple is also launching a new iOS Photos app that syncs your edits across all devices, with a Mac version coming later. Apple refers to these features as “continuity,” and they only work when you own several Apple devices.
- On the family level, iOS 8 will allow a group of users to share calendar appointments, photos, reminders and even purchased apps. If you have children, they can ask you for permission to buy an app, and you can approve the purchase remotely from your iOS device. The idea is that you’ll have a stronger family unit when everyone’s on the same computing platform.
- Beyond you and your family, Apple has come up with more ways for Apple users to communicate among themselves. In the Messages app for iOS 8, users will be able to exchange brief audio messages and share their locations on a timed or indefinite basis. Much like FaceTime for video chat, these communications exclude users of other platforms, and they’ll likely become extremely popular regardless.
The common thread here is that all these features get better as more people own more Apple products. Although Apple has benefited from network effects before–most notably in the virtuous cycle of the App Store–this is a bit different. Apple has essentially found a way for its own popularity to fuel features that no other platform has.
If I sound both excited and alarmed, that’s intentional. As impressive as Apple’s new software sounds, I’ve always tried to avoid being too invested in any one platform, and have instead relied on services that are readily available everywhere. By doing this, I’ve made it easy to adopt whatever hardware suits my needs, whether it’s an extra-large phone, a smaller tablet or a touchscreen laptop. I’ve never had to wait for Apple to release the kinds of devices I want.
But with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Apple is taking an axe to that approach. It’s come up with entirely new kinds of services that can only exist across Apple hardware. If you want those services, you need to go all-in with Apple. Tim Cook’s words ring truer than ever.
Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference keynote Monday is sure to have pleased some and disappointed others. At the annual confab of software developers for Macs and iDevices, CEO Tim Cook and other executives presented new versions of Mac OS X for computers and iOS for iPhones and iPads. Both systems appear to borrow from one another liberally, evolving to work in tandem much more elegantly.
But there was another, arguably more radical product on display: Apple itself. There was no slick marketing video extolling its virtues. And there was no explicit mention of its “magical” changes by any of the executives that padded into the spotlight. But it was there, center stage at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. This is clearly a different (and perhaps more interesting) company than the one Steve Jobs left behind when he died three years ago. It seems a company that, increasingly, reflects the ideas, taste and sensibility of a group, rather than an individual.
Jobs architected and oversaw the greatest corporate turnaround in the history of capitalism. It was only natural that, in the wake of his death, the question of whether Apple could really sustain its momentum would persist. It’s a doubt that’s lingered like a bad smell at many of the firms that survive near-death episodes, from IBM to Chrysler.
Apple observers even got a sense of what the company’s employees think of the question last year when it introduced a Lilliputian new desktop, the Mac Pro. Unveiling the machine, marketing boss Phil Schiller said curtly, “Can’t innovate my ass.” And last month when Internet Software and Services chief Eddy Cue said “We’ve got the best product pipeline that I’ve seen in my 25 years at Apple,” it was a not-so-subtle-nod to investors and fanboys not to worry—some cool stuff is on the way. Still, the fact that the company’s last all-new product, the iPad, came out in 2010 is going to be catnip for doubters until the world finds out what those products actually are.
But where many people have been looking for a major new product—an iWatch, say, or an Apple-branded television set—the real innovation may have been in who runs the company and how. Under Jobs, Apple was a firm that largely brought in executives from less well known or glamorous outfits and grew them internally. Bob Mansfield, the technology guru, came from Raycer Graphics. Scott Forstall and Craig Federighi, the software guys, came with Jobs from Next. Designers like Tony Fadell and Jonathan Ive were essentially consultants from smaller firms who were convinced to sign on full time. And current CEO Tim Cook came from Compaq. (The only exception that comes to mind: Ron Johnson, who had a well-covered career at Target before helping create the Apple Stores.)
But consider Apple’s executive bench today. Angela Ahrendts, the former Burberry CEO, is planning an overhaul to Apple’s juggernaut retail division. Paul Deneve, the one-time CEO of Yves Saint Laurent, is likely helping with the company’s wearable devices. And there are Apple’s two newest recruits, Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre,who are coming on as part of the company’s $3 billion acquisition of Beats Electronics. These are all executives who, by virtue of their star power, are likely to have a higher profile of their own.
There are a lot of obvious reasons this is the case, not least of which that Apple is a much stronger, richer, more attractive company to work for than it was in the late 1990s. Then, Wired ran its famous “Pray” cover; now, it’s number 5 on the brand-new Fortune 500 list. And yet, even during the presentation this morning you could sense the shift. Keynotes have always had special guests and humorous asides, but today they seemed a little looser, a little more relaxed. Software head Craig Federighi called from backstage with a somewhat ham-handed hair and makeup malfunction, for instance.
A company with thousands of employees is never going to only reflect the vision of an individual, even a legend like Jobs. In fact he often ended public presentations with heartfelt praise of the company’s employees and their families, as Cook did again today. But as far as Apple’s next big thing goes, it’s already here.
Apple's WWDC keynote just wrapped up. Here's what's coming from the tech giant this fall.+ READ ARTICLE
More WWDC coverage here.