OPINION:

Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference is on this week, and it’s keenly watched by geeks everywhere, including yours truly. Online only of course, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prior to the WWDC it seemed the writing was on the wall for Apple’s venerable desktop operating system, macOS.

In the legal stoush between Apple and games developer Epic over market monopoly issues, the Cupertino IT giant’s software boss Craig Federighi said malware on macOS was not acceptable and much worse than iOS.

Some Federighi family members had picked up malware on their Macs. When you have an senior Apple saying so in court, it looked like Red Rover time for macOS but I am happy to say that there’s a new version code-named Monterey coming up this year.

That said, the iOS and iPadOS version 15 mobile operating systems did get the biggest billings and priority at WWDC. You can now even develop and deploy directly to the App Store via iPadOS, and the three are getting increasingly integrated, running on the same hardware so let’s see how long we’ll have good old clamshell Macs available.

Among the standouts at this year’s WWDC is Apple extending FaceTime to Google Android and Microsoft Windows 10.

Kind of: details of how it’ll work aren’t available yet, but you won’t see Android and Windows FaceTime apps. Instead, FaceTime will run in web browsers on the Google and Microsoft operating systems, and it seems, only for joining calls and not making them.

Whether or not Android users will be able to view content from streaming services like Hulu, Disney+, HBO and Paramount using FaceTime remains to be seen, but it’s hard to imagine Apple would nix that. How Apple swung the deal to distribute streaming content – and songs from Apple Music – will probably become MBA course material.

It’s the tiniest of small Apple Walled Garden cracks, and it’ll be interesting to see where it leads.

Will the new features and enhancements to FaceTime be enough to stop Apple from using Cisco Webex internally for video calls however? We’re about to find out, possibly as soon as the next WWDC.

A little-used software on your iPhone is the Apple Wallet. Well, I don’t see anyone using it, but the updated Wallet will be able to store not just your debit and credit cards for Apple Pay but house and car keys as well. The data won’t leave the phone but will be stored in the encrypted Secure Element chip.

BMW is onboard for car keys and here’s the biggest thing, in my opinion: Apple’s trying to get driver’s licences into the Wallet as well. “Sorry officer, I forgot to charge my phone,” next?

In our cars, in our houses, and in charge of our wallets, this had better be secure and privacy oriented.

And that’s a major focus for Big A: the company is continuing to use privacy as a marketing tool, much to the chagrin of data mappers and marketing trackers everywhere.

The updated Apple operating systems will come with some sensible protections for day-to-day tasks like reading and sending email for example.

Yes, that’s how bad it is on the internet at the moment, children: we need something that hides the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses that we use, stops web bug tracking, and lets us use one-off emails to sign up for millions of websites that collect and leak that sensitive information.

Apple will also add the Private Relay service that again makes it harder for trackers to follow you around and create a unique identity for users through browser fingerprinting. Nobody will be surprised if a certain social network giant takes Apple to court for this useful feature that will sadly not be available in China and a number of other countries “for regulatory reasons”.

The Safari web browser also got a privacy tune-up with intelligent tracking prevention that hides your IP address, again to stop it from being linked to what you do on the web.

There’s also the HomeKit Secure Video which joins the above two privacy enhancements as part of the renamed iCloud+ subscription service. Yes, you have to pay for the privacy boost, but at least Apple’s promised the subscription charges won’t go up.

Siri ought to be faster through processing audio commands on iPhones and iPads, and more private too if your dulcet tones never leave the device. Let’s hope that feature will be on macOS Monterey as well.

Apps will be even more limited in what data they can snag from users without explicit permission (cue: more Facebook nagging users to allow “more useful, targeted advertising”).

The new Privacy Report should provide an interesting and disconcerting in equal measure map of what apps are trying to do and maybe even discourage excessive data collection.

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