Apple’s WWDC from a Windows user’s standpoint

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Today at WWDC 2014, Apple announced a few new features for Mac OS 10.10 and iOS 8. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the keynote live stream video since I am not carrying any Apple products today and Apple insists that only people who use Apple products should be allowed to view it. I suppose I could have dug up my old Mac Pro, plugged it in, dusted off the keyboard and installed the updates to Safari to watch it, but who has time for that? So, my impression of iOS 8 is mainly going to be based on what I read in some of the other media reporting out there.

Mac OS 10.10

I started using Mac OS 10 in the year 2000 when the beta was available. That was 14 years ago, and the majority of the interface hasn’t changed much. It’s still mouse-driven and you still can’t open menus using the keyboard. Unplugging the mouse on a Mac has always made that computer completely useless, while on Windows you can still use keyboard mnemonics to access practically every function. As seen in Windows 8.1, Microsoft’s successful operating system has evolved and grown far more quickly and in a direction more dedicated to future human-computer interaction methods. Mac OS 10 has been mouse/trackpad ONLY for 14 years, while Microsoft invested in evolving Windows for pen-based interaction very early on in 2002 and now has a high-level of multi-touch interaction capabilities with Windows 8 which also works pretty well with 3D air-gestures (as you can see here.) To me, using Mac OS 10.9 still feels like using an OS from 14 years ago. At the rate technology is moving, that’s ancient.

Note the caveman-like posture still required to use Mac OS 10.

Note the caveman-like posture still required to use Mac OS 10.

With Mac OS 10.10, Apple’s first big reveal was new icons. A more “flat” design. That’s good because the aqua glossy theme from 14 years ago is getting old. The new translucent menus (weren’t those there in an early version of OS X?) and widgets on the sidebar seem like relics from Windows Vista.

Spotlight’s update seems to bring in a few features that Windows 8’s search has had for a while. And Apple has finally made their cloud storage service integrated with the operating system just like Windows 8 integrates OneDrive. At least they made an iCloud Drive program for Windows, too. That will be great for the platform agnostic users out there. Apple also lets you send secure links to files stored in their iCloud via email just like OneDrive and Outlook.com can do.

Editing Pictures in email?

What? I’m not sure about this feature. Shouldn’t you be using a picture editor to edit pictures instead of an email program? Why is Apple merging these two clearly separate applications? Somebody should tell Tim Cook that “You can merge a toaster and a refrigerator, but that’s probably not going to be pleasing to anyone.” (That’s what Tim Cook said about Windows 8, by the way.)

I can only assume Internet Explorer 11 isn't listed because it's better than all of them.

I can only assume Internet Explorer 11 isn’t listed because it’s better than all of them.

Continuity

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere!! I loved loved loved being able to control my Windows Mobile phone from a desktop PC back in the last decade (using SOTI Controller and/or Jeyo Mobile Companion). I could use a real full sized keyboard to reply to text messages, and I could copy/paste phone numbers into my phone’s dialer and make the call without having to touch the thing at all. All of those awesome features were removed when Microsoft switched to Windows Phone 7. I thought we might get desktop-through-phone text messaging back with Windows 8 since that new “Messaging” app would have been the perfect place for it. Microsoft even still has a cloud connection for text messages in Windows Phone 8. You can see them in your Microsoft Account. You just can’t reply to them. Apple finally did it right!

You can also now initiate your iPhone’s WiFi Internet Sharing from your desktop computer. This is a feature that I love using in my Windows 8.1 tablets with my Windows Phone 8 device. I wonder if an iPad tablet would be able to pair with an iPhone in the same manner.

iOS 8

Spotlight

It sounds like Apple took a big queue from Windows Phone 8.1 in their Spotlight update. Like Windows Phone 8.1’s Cortana, Spotlight can now handle searches for all sorts of things that Siri can also do. So basically you can type what you’re looking for instead of speaking it.

Cortana supports searching via text and speech, too.

Cortana supports searching via text and speech, too.

Keyboards & Messaging

This is another catch-up feature it would seem. Windows Phone did the “predict the next word” thing long ago. That feature was even in Windows Mobile in the dark ages. I was kind of expecting Quicktype to be Apple’s version of Swype, but it turns out that iOS 8 now supports 3rd party keyboards! So you can most certainly install Swype. Of course, Windows Mobile had this a decade ago, but when Microsoft rebuilt their mobile OS as Windows Phone 7, that kind of extensibility was lost because they wanted to be more like Apple.

In the Messaging app, it looks like Apple copied Windows Phone’s “Mute Thread” feature now except they may have stepped it up a bit with some functions for removing people from group messages.

A location sharing feature is in iOS 8 now. That’s something that Windows Phone 8 had at launch. I wonder if it works cross-platform in a similar manner now. I love that feature on Windows Phone.

Messaging can send audio notes now? Wasn’t that a basic part of the MMS protocol from the turn of the century? Is Apple really only just now getting around to adding this? I suppose self-destructing audio messages is new, but who cares about that? I want my messages saved.

Health Kit

This is a great idea. Lot’s of companies are trying to do this though. Microsoft’s got the Health Vault which integrates with a lot of medical hardware, but doesn’t work very well with many mobile apps like Endomondo or MyFitnessPal. I don’t think it works with Xbox Fitness either. Apple doesn’t have a virtual-reality personal trainer like Xbox Fitness or Xbox 360 with Kinect though.

Siri
HeySiri
Siri now supports keyword activation! That means she’ll be listening for “Hey, Siri” and once you say that, she’ll start listening for more commands. That’s how everything should work. In fact, we had mobile phones in the 90s that worked that way.

Siri can recognize songs that she hears through the phone’s microphone now, just like Cortana on Windows Phone. Well, actually Windows Phone had that feature long ago.

Conclusion

It seems like one of the big selling points of the original iPhone and the supposed reason that everyone liked it so much was because of its simplicity. Today, I’m seeing iOS 8 and it is not simple at all. We’re talking about Windows Mobile level complexity and confusion that everyone hated Windows Mobile for. Interactive widgets in the notifications center? Chat heads in the task switcher? Special hidden gestures for flagging emails? Multiple keyboard options? I’m sorry, but iOS is no longer simple and easy.

As for Mac OS 10.10, again it’s just a minor dot release with some new icons and a few new features. It’s no Mac OS 11. Still, I am so happy to see that Apple has implemented the ability to reply to text messages and initiate phone calls from a desktop computer. I loved that feature in Windows Mobile and maybe now Microsoft will be tempted to bring it back to Windows Phone.

What’s your take on today’s WWDC 2014 keynote?

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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for Pocketnow.com since they first appeared on the market in 2002.Read more about Adam Lein!