The real importance of WWDC 2021: raw computing power (CPU), raw graphics power (GPU), and big high resolution screens

Photographers can’t professionally fine-tune an image of a mountainous landscape’s foreground and background on a tiny little iPhone screen. A data scientist can’t layout graphs, matrices, vectors, and spreadsheets on a tiny little iPhone screen. A customer service representative can’t troubleshoot a technology problem without searching through several device schematics, handle several different calls at once, be on the phone with one customer, be texting with another customer, and looking at a user’s guide that shows which buttons and switches do what things on a tiny little phone screen. Can you imagine trying to design, read, write, and debug code, and layout your UI with Xcode on an iPhone? (I could on a large iPad or MacBook, but not a phone).

Some people are yawning about WWDC 2021 because of its incremental — as opposed to quantum — leap forwards. If you look around the web for summaries of this year’s WWDC, you’ll find lots and lots of simple lists of new features, the implication being that this year is just about tossing customers a few new gadgets. In this article, I’m positing that Apple’s making a big jump in terms of its strategic long-term planning and direction.

WWDC 2021 is one of the most significant developer conferences in Apple’s history. The company refocused on the Mac and macOS. Apple is reinforcing its focus on iPad and iPadOS. The company is making the desktop and tablet platforms into the center of a business’s, family’s, or individual’s technology life blood: information and tools for accessing searching, organizing, analyzing and storing that information. Cook’s yearly sermon espoused three predominant themes:

  1. having lots of high resolution screen space;
  2. having the computing power to crunch large quantities of data in real time (CPU), and;
  3. then taking that crunched CPU data, including changes made to it, and displaying it in real time on-screen (GPU).

By strategically focusing on the products and services that require enough room to spread your work out neatly, organized, and all at one time, Apple has recognized a much-overlooked reality: the mobile device has matured. Even though Apple is leading more than 200 detailed developer sessions to help coders create apps for the biggest app store in the world, at his initial keynote announcement, Tim Cook spent almost half of his time discussing his company’s great strides forwards on the three topics I listed above: raw computing horsepower, raw graphics horsepower, and enabling customers to work with their precious data on large crisp and clear screens driven by central and graphics processing units that show your data — especially changes made to that data — in real time. Apple didn’t just announce a new in-house CPU this year, they delivered it.

To emphasize the impact of the new M1 CPU, Cook noted that Xcode runs 85% faster than on Intel-based processors, while the GPU is 2 times faster, and machine learning is 3 times faster.

Yes, there are new versions of watchOS, iOS, and tvOS, and lots of new SDKs, respectively, but I still hold to this article’s core premise. I’m not diminishing Apple’s incremental changes to its various product lines; I’m trying to give you an idea of the strategic future direction of the company.

Over the next few days and weeks, please return to join me as I discuss WWDC 2021 development issues in detail. For now, I’ll show you how to prepare for learning about and implementing Apple’s cavalcade of new technologies. Take a look at the following list of links (below) that will enable you to download all the tools you need to try out the new technologies. I’ve also included links to resources that you can watch or read to help you with those tools. You can then start developing new apps using Apple’s developer sessions, new SDKs, and new tools.

NOTE: You need to be a member of the Apple Developer Program to access these resources (for an individual, like a single-member LLC, it’ll cost you $99/year). You’ll find all of this year’s beta downloads aggregated at this link (login required).

You should watch the 200+ detailed developer sessions in Apple’s new technologies to learn about implementing them. In the coming days and weeks, I’ll provide guidance into specific new/improved SDKs, which ones I feel are the most important, and provide tutorials to help you include new features in your apps.

New Developer Tools

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