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Apple's Potpourri of iPad Obsolesce, Web Tweaks, and APIs

By Doug Mohney
June 16, 2016

Apple's World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) this week was full of little bits and pieces of tweaks and upgrades for the company's devices to work better with each other and with Web standards, with the biggest news that the next version of iOS will end up making 40 percent of all currently existing iPads obsolete.   The company is also (belated) moving more forward by adding more APIs to Apple services for developers. 

When iOS 10 rolls out, support is going away for the iPad 2, iPad3 and first-generation iPad mini. Up to some 40 percent of all iPads currently in use will no longer get security updates and patches, says Ziff Davis. Exactly what the "lower 40" will do come this fall is unknown. Apple is probably hoping for a fall and holiday surge in new iPad sales, but it also pushes existing customers to examine (Android) alternatives before plunking down to stay with Apple.

On the plus side, security is going to improve in iOS. The company has set a deadline of January 1, 2017 for all apps in the App store to turn on App Transport Security (ATS).  Turning on ATS forces an app to connect to web services over an encrypted HTTPS connection, keeping data secure in transit.   ATS was enabled by default in iOS9, but developers could toggle it off for their apps to send data via unencrypted HTTP. 

Security will also get better in macOS Sierra this fall through the new release of the company's Web browser, Safari 10.  Plug-ins like Adobe Flash -- seriously hated by Steven Jobs -- Java, Silverlight, and Quicktime will be disabled by default. When a web site offers a choice between Flash and HTML5, Safari users will automatically get the HTML5 version, which is faster and easier on battery usage.   People will be able to activate "legacy" plug-ins explicitly if needed on a one-time basis, with the option to keep it on every time the website is visited.

Apple's move sticks with the general trend across all Web platforms that plug-ins are generally bad and annoying, while HTML5 is goodness and leads to a faster, better experience without the overhead of plug-ins.

There was also big news for developers and APIs as Apple's new roster of APIs, including all of its platforms -iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS are intriguing.  SiriKit, the Siri API, got big buzz for its ability to bring in an app's user interface directly inside of the native Siri experience. SiriKit can work with audio or video calling, messaging, payments, searching photos, workouts, and ride booking, and is expected to expand to other app types in the future.   You'll be able to use Siri with Uber to get a ride, for example.

Voice got a boost with SFSpeechRecognizer, allowing developers to transcribe audio into text using Apple Siri services, and a VoIP API. Transcription can be done in real time or by using a recorded audio file and is also a part of iOS 10's overhyped voicemail transcription addition with SFSpeechRecognizer while the VoIP API allows third-party apps lo display inbound calls from the iOS lockscreen.

Developers will be able to add Apple Pay into websites and watchOS applications, so Mac and iOS devices can directly pay for goods and services.   The door is now open for adding 3D Touch to third-party apps.  

Messaging got a developer's boost with the ability to add customized "stickers" to drop into chats and the ability for creating iMessage apps with user interfaces that appear inline in the chat interface.

Finally, Apple is on the AI buzz wagon with the release of its basic neural networks subroutines (BNNS). The APIs have been pretrained/prepackage for image recognition and are available across all of the company's devices, including tvOS and watchOS.

There are a lot of new Apple APIs, but it should be noted that Apple is a bit late to open up its services when compared to continuing efforts by everyone from IBM Watson to Microsoft in providing new cloud-based services for developers.  

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Contributing Editor

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