Sherlocked! Nine technologies Apple disrupted at WWDC

This year’s WWDC keynote was packed with new technologies for iOS and OS X. While that's great for users, it could spell trouble for a number of competing products from other vendors.

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This year’s WWDC keynote was jam-packed with new technologies that will make their way into the next versions of iOS and OS X. While this is great news for users, it could also spell trouble for a number of products that will soon have to compete directly against Apple’s own products.

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Cloud storage

Despite its rocky start, iCloud has matured into a key element of the Apple ecosystem, powers important features like document sharing and automatic backups.

The company’s introduction of iCloud Drive is a clear shot across the bow of products like Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive, which will be faced with pressure from Cupertino’s aggressive pricing and seamless integration with iOS and OS X—and even Windows.


Screen-recording apps

While QuickTime Player gained support for screen recording in OS X Mavericks, Yosemite will take things one step further and allow users to make recordings from a compatible iOS devices.

While this capability is ostensibly intended for developers to create previews of their software for the App Store, it’s likely going to be of use to everyone from educators to gamers—and unlikely to be welcome news to apps like Air Squirrel’s Reflector, which currently provide this functionality for a fee.


Launch assistants

OS X Yosemite features the most significant reimagining of Spotlight in years, with a new look, extended functionality, and floating-window design that puts your searches front and center.

Many of these new features are heavily inspired by several popular launch assistants—such as Running with Crayons’s Alfred—which are going to face stiff competition from the folks in Cupertino.


Developer tools

Apple often borrows ideas from its own developer ecosystem when it comes to tools that help programmers be more productive—after all, that’s where the term “sherlocking” comes from—and this year’s WWDC is no exception.

The latest version of Xcode is probably one of the most significant in recent history, with a large number of new features designed to make writing apps easier than ever, such as the ability to “explode” an app’s visual make-up in 3D—which is uncomfortably close to what Itty Bitty Apps’s Reveal was built to do.


Beta app distribution

Long a bane of every developer because of its complexity and the limitations imposed by Apple’s walled-garden ecosystem, beta app distribution is going to receive a major overhaul in iOS 8, thanks to the company’s acquisition of Burstly, the company behind the popular TestFlight service.

Unfortunately, that means that other companies in this space, such as HockeyApp, will be at a disadvantage when it comes to courting the attention of developers—although, of course, they will still be able to offer cross-platform support as a competitive advantage over Apple’s own solution.

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Photography apps

Where to begin? iOS 8 comes with so many goodies for photography enthusiasts that it’s hard to even make a list: separate focus and light-metering areas, support for time-lapse photography, the ability to use third-party filters thanks to the new Extensibility features, Photo’s all-new editing and management capabilities, and so on—all a clear sign that Apple is making a bid to cement the iPhone’s status as the platform of choice for casual photographers.

All this could make it harder for many third-party photography apps, like TapTapTap’s Camera Plus to differentiate themselves in the marketplace—although it’s also worth noting that Cupertino’s engineers have also announced that they will open a wide range of these new technologies up to third-party developers as well.


Markup apps

Apple’s enhancements to Mail in Yosemite include a new feature, called Markup, that allows users to draw, sign, and highlight all kinds of documents and attachments right within the app, without ever having to open an editor.

While the functionality doesn’t—at least for the moment—extend to the rest of the operating system, there are many third-party apps in this space, and their developers of apps like Skitch will have to up their game to keep pace.

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Messaging apps

Messages will undergo a major overhaul in Yosemite and iOS 8, gaining support for location sharing, video and audio messages, and even the ability to communicate using traditional SMS text messaging.

That’s a clear sign that Apple is getting serious about its messaging platform, and is after the business of its many competitors in this space, such as Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s recently purchased WhatsApp Messenger. Of course, the competition still has the advantage of better cross-platform support, which Apple has, so far, eschewed in favor of a solution that only works within its own ecosystem.


The Internet of things

While it didn’t announce any new hardware at this year’s WWDC, Apple did introduce two new technologies, dubbed HealthKit and HomeKit, that clearly position its platforms at the center of the Internet of things.

The company’s focus on privacy, in particular, will pit its technologies against those announced by rival Google, which caused an uproar earlier this year when it revealed in a report to the SEC that it anticipates selling ads on all sorts of devices—including smart thermostats like the ones made by Nest, which the Mountain View company acquired in February.

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