Apple WWDC: goodbye iTunes, hello absurdly expensive Mac Pro!
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Apple WWDC: goodbye iTunes, hello absurdly expensive Mac Pro!

Aurel Stevens
Zurich, on 04.06.2019
Post-editing: Eva Francis
At the Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple set the course for its software development in 2019. And a new Mac Pro was finally unveiled. A great device, were it not for the hefty price tag.

Every year, Apple introduces new versions of its operating systems at the WWDC. It's all about the software: what can the new iOS do? What's happening with macOS? App developers are told what has changed and where there are new opportunities to get involved in the Apple ecosystem.

Apple events follow strict choreography. First, its own ecosystem is praised, then come well-measured, easily digestible snippets of information about everything imaginable. On 3 June, Tim Cook surprised us by kicking off with hardware.

I've rearranged things to start with the most important news. The Mac Pro can't be important because – sorry – after five years, the last power user has long since moved on.

The strategy

You have to look at the WWDC event from the perspective of what Apple wants. On 25 March 2019, Tim Cook announced that Apple is positioning itself as a media service provider.

Apple's roadmap is dotted with blind spots
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In a nutshell:

  • Apple is now a content provider through «Apple TV+», offering its own exclusive shows and series à la Netflix. There's a flat rate for subscribers, whichever Apple device you use.
  • Apple is combining new mobile games under the label «Apple Arcade». The development of curated, iOS-exclusive games is supported by substantial resources.
  • Its print offering under «Apple News+» boasts an impressive collection of prominent glossy magazines.
  • Apple is offering a virtual credit card (the physical version is optional) and expanding Apple Pay in an effort to exclude banks from the food chain. It's also a way to capture market share from emerging services such as Revolut.

It's only logical that Apple is abandoning the neglected iTunes media centre, as had been suspected. This means that iTunes will be replaced by standalone apps for music, films, games and magazines. These are Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and the previously announced Apple TV app, which will run on some smart TVs. On Apple TV boxes, the app is its own OS: tvOS 13. It now offers multi-user access with personalised recommendations like Netflix does.

The backup feature – previously also integrated in iTunes – has finally been moved to a sensible location: in the Finder. The change is part of the new macOS 10.15, Catalina.

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At the same time, Apple is also launching its own login service like Google and Facebook. That could be interesting, as Apple has shown much less of an appetite for user data when it comes to privacy. The Login with Apple service will enable users to register with third-party services using disposable email addresses. Sounds promising.

A dedicated OS for iPads

iPads are getting their own operating system: iPadOS. This separation will move Apple's tablets away from iOS and bring them closer to macOS. The reason? iOS can't really handle multitasking. With a standalone operating system, your iPad will finally be able to handle multiple tabs and apps will be able to make the most of the much larger screen.

Now onto screens: macOS Catalina and the brand new iPadOS mean that Apple tablets can now be used as external screens for Macs.

The similarity to macOS is also reflected in iPad apps being easy to convert into desktop ones. Developers are supported by software called Catalyst. Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi showed a native Twitter application for macOS as an example.

However, iPads do inherit some properties from the desktop OS, namely the desktop version of a download manager from Safari. You can also directly connect USB-C sticks to iPads and transport files easily.

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Until now, you would have had to use isolated proprietary solutions with special apps and the «Sharing» feature. I find it remarkable that Apple dares to praise this basic function as a feature. It's embarrassing that it's taken until 2019 to get native support for this.

iOS 13

iOS is all about evolution, not revolution. Apple has been working hard on its inner workings. The most visible change for end users is the new dark mode, a feature that has been available on macOS for around a year. OLED displays should even save energy. (On LCDs such as the iPhone XR, black requires all three diodes and uses more power.)

Apple Maps has also been overhauled. You can now change between a bird's eye view and a first-person perspective like in Street View. Siri has got a bit smarter, reads out news and lets users reply verbally.

There's nothing to get you on the edge of your seat, but as long as everything is safe and stable, it's fine by me. iOS 13 runs on the same devices as iOS 12, from the iPhone 6s up. The 6s was launched in autumn 2015. Apple has again gone with five years of software support after recently extending this period.

This news should bring tears to the eyes of every Android fan. Even update ultimate Google only guarantees two operating system versions for its own Pixel smartphone.

A new Mac Pro

Apple's MacBook Pro and iPad hold a substantial share of the notebook market. Apple's portable devices are hugely popular. They not only look good, they're built to a high standard and are continually developed.

When it comes to desktops, however, things have ground to a halt. There have been no updates for years, especially when it comes to the powerful Mac Pro workstation series, which impresses with enhanced Intel processors and flexibility. Apple has long been criticised for a lack of a new workhorse with oomph.

On 3 June, it was finally time and the new product was introduced. Hallelujah! The weird, outrageously expensive model from 2013 is finally being replaced. I christened it «the cheese grater». The case can be opened from all sides.

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The new Mac Pro has a Xeon processor with up to 28 cores. The mainboard has space for eight PCI boards and up to 1.5 TB of memory. The AMD graphics card has 56 TFLOPS of power and the power supply is just as strong, providing up to 1400 watts. Prices for the new workstations start at $5999, with devices available from autumn.

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The powerful processor should obviously be accompanied by a fitting monitor. This will also be available in the autumn with the Pro Display XDR. It impresses with 6K resolution and «extreme dynamic range». But the display costs a further $4999, and that doesn't include the stand. You'll either have to buy a $199 wall bracket or the «Pro Stand». The cost? $999.

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Yes, you read that right. The monitor stand costs a thousand dollars. That makes the cheapest combination of Mac Pro, Pro Display XDR and stand almost $12,000. OK...that definitely provides entertainment value. I'll get my popcorn out ready for your comments.

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Aurel Stevens
Aurel Stevens
Chief Editor, Zurich
I'm the master tamer at the flea circus that is the editorial team, a nine-to-five writer and 24/7 dad. Technology, computers and hi-fi make me tick. On top of that, I’m a rain-or-shine cyclist and generally in a good mood.

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