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Monday, May 26, 2014

(Our) Ten Predictions for Apple WWDC 2014 Announcements

With Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) starting in just over 1 week, let's bring out the crystal ball and see how close we can get in our predictions for major announcements.

We like to think that, as app developers focused on business apps, we have good insight into Apple's roadmaps and strategies because we pay attention to trends instead of fads.

So, here goes ....

1.  iBeacons

A personal favourite of ours (we have several AusIndustry R&D projects in the works right now), iBeacons are low-emission Bluetooth devices (tiny chips with a battery attached) that can "blip" out an identifying signal every few seconds to announce their existence and identity to their surroundings. These "blips" can be picked up by mobile phones, which can then in turn decide to act on that knowledge. Think of them like lighthouses that travelling mariners can use to know their location.

Since iBeacons were announced quietly (with just one slide of the keynote) as a concept at last year's WWDC, the technology has quickly taken off in the hearts and minds of the developer and hardware community. iOS 7.1 included a significant update to handle iBeacons more efficiently and consistently.

Expect announcements of alliances with at least one third-party hardware supplier OR (less likely) Apple may disrupt the embryonic hardware market with their own devices.

2.  Internet of Things (IoT)

This is a massive emerging category with cashed-up players like Cisco, Samsung, Google, and others already elbowing their way around.

In a nutshell, IoT is every device around you being connected online in some way. "Stuff" being online instead of just "computers". 

Talking with those "things" in a consistent way is essential, and if you do it through your mobile phone you can have that elusive "single point of truth" to command the things around you.

CarPlay was a foray into this for Apple and we expect it to explode this year. In particular, we expect a new framework for developers to start connecting to IoT devices and for manufacturers of those devices to include to allow such connectivity.

3.  Beats by Dr Apple

Obvious one here. Apple is rumoured to have bought Dr Dre's Beats Electronics and Beats Music for $3.2B a few weeks back. They're going to want to announce a new line of neat hardware, most likely centred around the technology that the Beats brand has developed over the years. There's some cool tech behind those massive hipster headphones, so look out for that soon.

Of course new rumours say that the deal may be off. Our take: Nah - they're just holding off for a hard announcement at WWDC. The deal is already sealed.

4.  iWatch

Part of the Internet of Things trend - "wearables" such as the Samsung Galaxy Gear watch and unconfirmed upcoming Watch Phone are struggling to find their feet. Apple may join the bandwagon on this. We're not particularly excited at this point, but some people are.

Fitness applications ("Healthbook" is a term being repeated a few places) are an obvious extension to this, either through the watch form-factor or as wristbands with minimal screen features.

5.  iPhone 6

iPhone 6 and new standard iPads will be announced later this year at separate events.

6.  iOS 8 & OS X

These are no-brainers since both have a 1-year release cycle. The one interesting change could be a further merging of features and even code-base to create a Frankenmac - the mythical MacPad with a detachable keyboard with trackpad (the latter would be the real leap).

7.  More $$ to Developers than Google

Another obvious one, at least if you follow the Monetization trends of the iOS and Android ecosystems. Apple apps make more money for developers than their Android counterparts.

Expect BIG Dollars being quoted, and no mention of Android by name.

8.  Apple TV Update

We love the Apple TV (ATV) in our own boardroom here at Creative Intersection because it lets us effortlessly show laptop and iPad/iPhone content to the entire room. It's also a handy way to show our portfolio as a Flickr-powered screensaver.

Beyond that, the ATV is pretty boring since it just does what it should. A quiet little worker-bee tucked behind a flatscreen.

Apple have had the opportunity for a long time now to take ATV in a cool new direction by allowing third-party apps to be installed (via a new ATV App Store). They haven't done so, and haven't seemed to be able to find much breadth to the offering beyond basic content delivery (videos, movies, and music).

Our guess is that ATV won't get any love this time around either, except maybe for an upgrade to the hardware supporting Ultra-High Def (4K) TV's.

Other speculation around a screen-included Apple TV - for us at least - falls into the "never going to happen" basket. Why? There are too many TV's on the market and very little chance that Apple can find a way to revolutionise and disrupt the market, and make good profit at the same time.

9.  Transformer MacPad

There are a lot of rumours about hardware announcements, including a larger iPad, retina Macbook Air, and of course the continuing improvements in computing power with the latest 64-bit CPU's in the mobile range.

Multi-tasking in iOS 8 is also a strong contender.

Put those together with the trend for the past 2 years of integrating more-and-more iOS/Touch-centric icon-based features into OS X and you have the perfect storm for creating a device that can compete against the Surface 3 as a laptop and touch screen device. The big leap would be to allow a trackpad to be used with an iOS device for a more office-friendly computer (have you ever tried using an iPad with a keyboard for office work ? Most people miss the mouse/trackpad and never quite get over it.

10.  Updated General Hardware

General updates to hardware will be announced, as per usual. Probably a Retina Macbook Air.

What we'd like to see is a re-introduction of the top-of-the-line Macbook Pro 17-inch model, but sadly that ship has sailed. 

11.  Home Automation

OK - so there are 11 items in our list of 10 predictions - we added this one on 27th May.

This one is a late addition based on what seems like co-ordinated noise on social media and various news outlets (meaning that it may have come as a teaser from somewhere near the Apple Core - bad pun).

Home automation would be a fairly untapped market and actually is a logical next step. This would be about maturing a specific subcategory within the "Internet of Things" (our #2 prediction), and with the right device and service support (for safety, security, and consistency) as well as a channel-to-market provided by Apple, this could be a hot new "thing".

As part of our attendance at WWDC 2014, our Managing Director (Ian Exaudi) will be blogging daily ... so check back to see how close we came with our predictions!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Timelapse of 3D Prototype Printing

Ever wonder how additive 3D printing/prototyping works ?

Layers of melted plastic are added in increments of a fraction of a millimetre (1/5th mm in this case) until the model is finished. The effect is that the prototype object appears to grow out of nowhere.

To help show our customers how our 3D printing and prototyping service operates, we have created a simple timelapse video of a prototype being printed in 3D.

The item is a clever little device we invented a while ago and made available for free to the public via Thingiverse. It attaches to an iPad mini or iPad Air "Ultrathin Keyboard Cover" and changes the viewing angle to a more comfortable one.

Check out the video here (total printing time was about 1hr 14mins).

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

WWDC Rumour: Apple iOS 8 Could Include Split-Screen Multitasking

The rumours are heating up as we close in on Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) for 2014.

The latest rumour to surface is that the next update to the iPhone/iPad Operating System (iOS) will allow users to run multiple apps at once and even drag-and-drop content between those apps. This is a luxury that Microsoft Surface users have lorded over their iOS cousins for a long time.

Currently, iOS only allows certain types of apps to continue to perform limited work in the background when another app is on the screen (e.g. Playing music or checking GPS location data) - so this would be a quantum shift in multitasking on iOS devices and is likely to help greatly in the quest to bring tablets further into the business environment.

..... and of course, we will bring you more details as we will have our own representative from our Brisbane production facility personally attending the WWDC Conference in early June.