Apple imagery sends pundits into a frenzy

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This article appeared in the April 2018 issue of CRN magazine.

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Apple imagery sends pundits into a frenzy

COMMENT  |  Apple has announced the dates for its 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), and as usual posted a cool graphic on its website to promote the event. Also as usual, the punditsphere has gone absolutely bonkers trying to decipher the hidden messages and clues about what to expect that we all assume Apple has cleverly hidden in said graphic.

In case you haven’t seen it, it’s at Go have a look.

As you can see, it’s a rather lovely 3D rendering of various interface elements and developery things like angle brackets and curly brackets, all positioned over what appears to be a pinboard of the type that electronics enthusiasts use to build their projects before soldering. It’s all very intriguing.

Obviously the fact that it’s in 3D has led most pundits to assume that WWDC 2018 will offer announcements related to virtual reality and augmented reality. That there is some razor-sharp punditry, given that toolkits for AR and VR were announced last year and have yet to be fully rolled out. If the graphic for WWDC18 had featured a picture of Grumpy Cat, you could safely assume we’d be talking about those subjects.

The fact that some of the interface elements pictured are iOS elements and some of them are macOS elements suggests to many that Apple is going to announce some sort of common framework for interface design on Apple’s multiple platforms. Which is somewhat less razor-sharp, since the great strength of Apple’s multiple platforms is that they are built on a common foundation but have unique interfaces that take advantage of different modes of interaction on different devices.

Remember Windows 8? That’s what happens when you try to make your operating systems work the same way over different types of devices.

My take: Apple has a bunch of different operating systems, and it has tried to include pointers to each of them in the graphic — much the way you try to include all of your kids in the Christmas card pic. Even the one who’s always picking his nose at the table and makes funny faces in every damn photo. I’m looking at you, watchOS.  The pinboard background is intriguing, since it suggests — to many an observer — that there might be a hardware announcement. That would be unusual but not unheard-of at a developer conference. Or it might just be Apple saying that the development of software is not dissimilar to the development of hardware. Who knows?

Then there is the unrelenting whiteness of the thing (albeit with shadows to make it at least slightly more visible than a polar bear in a blizzard), which has given rise to laments that this is confirmation Apple will not implement “dark mode”. If you’re not sure what “dark mode” is, don’t worry — apparently it’s not coming anyway.

It could also mean that Tim Cook told someone to make a cool graphic that would appeal to developers, and lots of Apple’s stuff is bright and shiny and oh so clean-looking, and when the designer came back with this, Cook said “yeah, that’ll do”. Like he said “yeah, that’ll do” to the silly notch in the top of the iPhone X screen.

What I’m saying is, maybe it’s just a pretty picture. The keynote could prove me wrong.

I’m reminded of when, a few weeks ago, Axl Rose of Guns ’n’ Roses fame tweeted that “Tim Cook is the Donald Trump of the music industry”. Again, the pundit sphere went wild. What could he mean? Does he just mean that Cook is the boss? Is it some slur on Cook’s honesty? Surely it’s not about his hair. Does Cook even play golf?

More likely: Axl Rose has no idea what he’s talking about and people shouldn’t read his tweets. Kind of like Donald Trump.

To my mind, no-one seems to be asking the most important question. It’s a question that has plagued my mind literally for decades, since the first WWDC that I attended back in 1997: If Apple writes “Worldwide” as one word, why are there two Ws in “WWDC”?

It’s driving me mad.

Matthew JC Powell is a technology commentator, philosopher and father of two, in no particular order

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