My Favorite WWDC 2018 Sessions

Every year I look forward to WWDC — it’s like Christmas morning for apple developers, where we get to take the wrapping paper off the next version of Xcode and the various iOS, tvOS, macOS and watchOS SDKs.

This year is no different! The press focuses more on the operating systems themselves. But I’m a lot more interested in what SDK goodness is coming down the line to provide more tools and hooks to build even better software! 2018 hasn’t disappointed at all!

Here are the top five sessions I saw in terms of value to me personally this year:

Platform State of the Union

Always my first stop, to get the executive vision of where the platform is heading.

Practical Approaches to Greater App Performance

High value session packed with practical techniques based on real-world experience. Excellent session packed with practical knowledge!

Building Faster in Xcode

Lately I’ve been working in more complex projects, developing frameworks and just working larger codebases. This session was quite enlightening in terms of how to solve for dependencies and speed up the build process.

What’s New in Swift

As Swift continues to evolve, yet mercifully more slowly now, we have to keep up! Last year I developed instructional content for Packt Press where I had to really understand every nuance of Swift as part of that effort, and I’m always up to learn and start using the new language features.

Introduction to Siri Shortcuts

I did some work with Siri in the past, and have to admit being disappointed it was so limited to specific domains (none of which I work with!). I’m really excited to see Siri start to branch out, and found this session really informative.

Evaluating mobile projects to make the right bets

Over the years I’ve developed a specific methodology to pick the best bets from the many possibilities I see. I look at new mobile ideas and opportunities by validating them with this set of five questions.

Over the years I’ve developed a specific methodology to pick the best bets from the many possibilities I see. I look at new mobile ideas and opportunities by validating them with this set of five questions:

Would the user experience be awesome?

Users (a/k/a customers) will be the final arbiters of whether our solution is good or not. History informs us that, in the long run, we can’t force a specific user experience down our users’ throats. When we try, they seek out alternatives and leave us behind. PCs replaced mainframes because users insisted on a different user experience. Laptops replaced desktops (at a higher cost per user mind you) because users wanted more mobility. Mobile replaces laptops where users want an ultraportable solution and/or all-day battery life. Building solutions that users actually want to use is much more likely to lead to a successful project.

Is this solution adequately disruptive?

I see a lot of mobile solutions that have no legitimate reason to exist. A 15″ screen with a keyboard and mouse still is the best form factor for some solutions. For others, the desktop experience isn’t optimal but was used out of habit (or standardization, which is often nothing more than a formalized habit). Generating excitement for changing how a process is done — such as moving the form factor to mobile — is a lot easier if the new process is disruptive (in the progressive sense). To be most successful, the mobile solution should completely reinvent the process and change way the stakeholders think the process should be done.

Is this something that can only be done using mobile?

Building on point #2, we might find that not only can mobile be disruptive to the process being met, but perhaps there has been no other way to apply technology to the process before. Processing a car return to 100% completion even before the customer has been able to remove her luggage from the trunk is a great example. Prior to mobile POS, the customer either returned to the counter, or left not knowing what the final charges would be (with the resulting irate phone calls to the call center later).

Can we add value with features that are specific to mobile devices?

Sometimes we might not be solving a problem that was impossible without mobile technologies, or we might not be reinventing the process. If not then do we have the opportunity to take the business solution to a much higher level using features that existing technologies don’t offer? If we knew the location of the user, would that change the game? Would a user’s proximity to other users or to our products/services provide entirely new opportunities to serve them? If we used device sensors (e.g. GPS, accelerometers, microphones, cameras), would we create a much better solution or user experience?

How can this be funded?

Users have been conditioned by the public app stores to obtain most of the mobile software they use at no cost. This is in stark contrast to how consumers were conditioned on PC platforms in the past. Almost all PC-based software was purchased by users, and they paid for periodic software updates. In that kind of environment, we need to consider how a project will be funded. If we add a mobile “feature” to an enterprise product with no incremental cost to the user, will that drive sales or customer retention sufficiently to show acceptable ROI? If we develop something entirely new, how will users pay for the cost to provide the software? Will they pay for the software directly, pay for the back-end services the app enables, or will we recover the costs by advertising? Good ROI is possible, but requires more planning than in the past when software revenue was more transactional than it is today.

3 Days with the Apple Watch

I received an Apple Watch on Friday (38mm Stainless w/Black Leather band, in case you’re curious). I was just taking stock of how the product is working out for me, and thought I’d share some initial impressions.

I received an Apple Watch on Friday (38mm Stainless w/Black Leather band, in case you’re curious). I was just taking stock of how the product is working out for me, and thought I’d share some initial impressions.

First, let me say I don’t consider myself an “Apple fanboy”. I have a Dell XPS15 with Windows 8 that I love to use…and while I gave up on Windows Phone, it took years to finally make that decision — one I took no joy in.

Like many, I had read a lot of press reviews of the Apple Watch when they came out a few weeks ago. But I actually found much of the press coverage a poor guidepost for what has been my initial experience with the actual product.

Here are some observations

It really is easy to use. Unlike a certain prominent reviewer, I didn’t find it difficult to use at all. It took three hours — not three days — to get the hang of using the watch. It has some new gestures I’ll need to get used to, but otherwise it seems pretty intuitive. I probably haven’t found all the product features yet, but that doesn’t matter. I don’t need to explore every dusty corner of the product to make a publishing deadline.

It looks a lot nicer in 3D on your wrist than it does in 2D on the web. Those close-up photos make the watch look really thick. And, well, it is thick compared to my old Seiko. But when perched on my wrist, it’s thickness isn’t something I notice. It feels small and elegant more than thick and nerdy. This is subjective, and YMMV.
Lefties Rejoice! I’m left-handed, and have never had a watch with the crown on the “correct” side (for me). It took about 60 seconds to switch the band around, and the watch asked me which arm I would wear it on (right, for me). Why aren’t more products built for use with either hand?

The battery life is fine. I put the watch on at 7AM, and it’s 5:08PM as I write this…I have 76% battery remaining. That’s not the “terrible battery life” I’ve read about (compared to a smartphone, anyway). Like a smartphone, I assume the battery rundown time will depend on how the device is used, and vary from day to day. I assume that the longer the display is on, the more notifications, the more web browsing and phone calling, the faster the battery will drain. Like free beer, I won’t ever turn down more battery life. But lasting all of my waking hours is acceptable. It’s the little things that really matter. I’m so far loving the little things that make my life just a little better.

While getting my teeth cleaned at the dentist this morning I dismissed an incoming phone call without needing to fish out my phone — that was awesome.

Great that I could see that the e-mail that came in while typing this text was from a VIP contact that I need to look at, but based on the subject it can wait until I’m done typing this article.
So nice to use the watch to switch between Pandora playlists from the kitchen counter while I was making a sandwich on Sunday afternoon (yes I could also use my phone to do that, but it wasn’t on me at the time).

Not everything is perfect. While the watch presents voicemail for playback, I still haven’t been able to make it play. And not every phone call has been displayed on the phone for dismissal or answer — not sure why. But it’s early days, and hopefully I’ll figure it out (or go to the genius bar and have them explain it to me).

A wrist-worn device that displays not only the time, but also my upcoming calendar, the weather, fitness levels, incoming phone calls, let’s me glance at what that last e-mail chime was for, etc., is pretty cool. It won’t be worth buying for everyone, but aside from healthcare, food and shelter, no product needs to be.

While this is a “version 1 product”, my overall experience so far makes me think this is the right evolutionary path for personal technology. As with the smartphone itself, Apple wasn’t the first to think of doing this, nor was it first to market. But the company has, in my view, designed the right experience and executed a product with the right mix of compromises. Apple’s leadership in the category will no doubt float other boats higher, and help the mobile industry move to the next level.

Originally published at on April 25, 2015.