Moving World Weekly roundup 20140604

Apple's WWDC conference


A weekly round up of news and views from the tech, creative and business world.

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Head in the iCloud

Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) is one of the few places where UI improvements to a search bar receive rapturous applause. Taking place earlier this week, Apple’s keynote speech revealed a host of iterative updates to Apple’s desktop and mobile operating systems to create a more coherent experience between the two. OS X Yosemite promises a cleaner, flatter look more in line with the visual overhaul of iOS 7 last year, although there is little evidence of Helvetica Ultra Light or rainbow gradients.

Javascript and Python developers had cause for excitement over Apple’s new programming language – Swift – which promises to make it easier to create apps for Apple devices. A healthy flow of new apps is important to Apple, as a large portion of its profits come from software sold through the iTunes store. New APIs for the smarthome and wearable devices show Apple is intent on positioning the iPhone at the centre of this product ecosystem: Apple wants your smart home to be centered around your iPhone, meaning it has a significant presence in the space, without directly competing against products like Nest, August and Mellow.

Most significantly, a host of features hope to make it more effortless to switch between working on an iPhone and Mac. Apple showed a renewed focus on seamless working through the cloud – something it has had trouble with in the past – by closely integrating their proprietary storage service, iCloud, in both OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 (although iCloud remains unlikely to draw Android or Windows users away from Google Drive and Dropbox). The ability to send and receive phone calls and SMS messages on Mac products will further blur the line between desktop and smartphone devices, a vision that makes the prospect of getting ‘Apple Bingo’ and owning the whole set of iProducts even more attractive.


Wear, drive, scan and fly my pretties!

Last week saw “Queen of the Net” Mary Meeker release her much-awaited set of annual trends. Meeker has been tech fore-telling since 1995, when she wrote “the Internet report” while working at Morgan Stanley and has since become an institution, putting the Pow! into Powerpoint.

The main outtake of the presentation is the final bye-bye to the browser as, in Meeker’s words, the future of computing is all “wearables, drivables, flyables and scannables”. We are already becoming more accustomed to uploading and sharing our data by mobile device, thanks to apps like Fitbit and Tinder. These single purpose apps are simpler, with one clear reason for use, and have far more enjoyable (and often addictive…) user experiences as a result. Companies are attempting to move towards this model, with Facebook splitting their offer into a suite of standalone apps including Messenger, Paper and Instagram.The next stage of this is less swipe-y and more sensor-y, providing opportunities to analyze data brought in by embedded inputs. The information these inputs provide will be mined to give wider insights about user behaviour. This will lead to significant changes in tech and industry as experts will be able to use patterns from this ‘big’ data to solve even bigger problems.

The counter argument to these advancements was a hot topic elsewhere as Google introduced their self-driving cars, which apart from looking like hamsters, highlighted the issue of surveillance as a mainstream worry. Increased level of control over your vehicle means GPS and sensors in your car will immediately be able to know if you’re going over 50 MPH, or doing other naughty things, no matter where you are.


Où est la screen share?

Right now Universal Translators are only a work of fiction, but it seems that may be about to change: cue Skype and its new live translation technology due to be released, supposedly, by the end of the year. Microsoft (who bought Skype for $8.5bn in 2011) is developing technology to listen to a user and instantly translate what they’ve said into another language for the person on the other end of a Skype call. Though the recent tech demo at Southern California’s Code Conference had a couple of bugs (that will likely be fixed before the official release), this still leaves us with a lot to think about. While the ability to communicate with someone of another language is not unprecedented (thanks to Google Translate), doing so live has never before been possible. This technology is poised to change the way that international relationships, business and otherwise, are handled.

The most interesting aspect is the algorithm – it has not simply been programed at the benchmark level of intelligence they need, but is actually learning. Gurdeep Pall, the vice president in charge of Skype at the Code Conference had this to say: “Say you teach it English. It learns English, then you teach it Mandarin. It learns Mandarin, but it becomes better at English. And then you teach it Spanish. It gets good at Spanish, but it gets great at both Mandarin and English — and, quite frankly, none of us know exactly why.”


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