It’s been nearly a full day since Apple announced a long list of software features and enhancements for nearly all of its core hardware products at WWDC. The iPhone and iPod Touch will get iOS 13, MacOS 10.15 Catalina gains the ability to run iPad apps thanks to Project Catalyst, and the Apple Watch will see its share of improvements.
Also: WWDC 2019: Mac Pro, iPadOS, iOS 13, WatchOS 6, and everything Apple announced
Apple announced a lot on Monday, but for me, the most intriguing announcement was giving the operating system that runs on the iPad its own name. By unbundling the iPad from the same OS that runs on the iPhone, Apple can add iPadOS specific features without having to worry about confusion or the resources required to bring the same features to the iPhone.
Not only does the name change give Apple more freedom with new features, but it also signals that Apple is taking the iPad and its future as a computer replacement more seriously. To be clear, the main features of iOS 13 are still present in iPadOS. Dark mode, Appel Sign In, the new Find My app, and everything else Apple announced on Monday is part of iPadOS.
There’s a lot to like about the direction Apple is taking the iPad with iPadOS. Here are the features I’m looking forward to the most, and one feature that somehow is still missing.
Widgets and smaller app icons are coming to the iPad’s homescreen in iPadOS. If you so choose the Today view, which currently lives to the left of the homescreen, it can be permanently pinned to the homescreen.
I never really use widgets right now other than to quickly glance at battery percentages, check the weather, and glance at the day’s agenda. The process now requires me to purposely seek out that information. By bringing the Today widgets to the homescreen, I can passively monitor the information I’ve deemed important.
What I’m most excited about with the new homescreen is that the addition of always on display widgets will force developers to come up with new and creative uses, adding to the iPad’s functionality.
I’ve griped about Safari on the iPad many, many times. The third-generation iPad Pro is still the best tablet I have ever used (I recently purchased one after Apple’s loan period expired), and I’ve used it daily for work, but it still has the same mobile Safari experience that I have on my iPhone. On a phone, it’s fine, but on the iPad, it’s nothing but disappointing and frustrating.
In iPadOS, Apple has revamped Safari to be what it calls a “desktop-class browser.” Safari will default to the desktop version of all websites you visit and will optimize the site for touch interaction on its own.
Apple even specifically named Google Docs, WordPress, and Squarespace as websites that now work in Safari on the iPad during the keynote.
There’s even a download manager in Safari now! If Apple can nail a desktop-class version of Safari in iPadOS, it will fully replace my MacBook Pro, and that’s something I desperately want to happen.
With iPadOS, you’ll be able to create multiple windows of the same app. Each window acts as a standalone version of that app, so you can work on a budget spreadsheet in one window, and use another window to work through a sales spreadsheet. The windows can be used next to each other, or in split view next to another app.
The demo shown during the keynote looks promising, but I couldn’t help but feel as if there’s going to be a steep learning curve. How do you open windows? How do you know you can open a new window? What about managing windows?
Slide Over was also improved, with the ability to stack apps in Slide Over. The feature looks a lot like multitasking on the iPhone XS Max, with a swipe across the bottom of the app to quickly switch between other apps currently available in Slide Over. A swipe down on the bottom of an app’s Slide Over window will reveal the complete underlying stack of available apps.
All this looks like it will make quickly switching between iPad apps and multitasking better than it currently is, but I’m afraid I’ll have to wait until well after the public beta program launches in July, when developers begin releasing updated iPad apps before we can truly see how effective the new approach is.
External storage support
The new Files app looks a lot like the Finder app on MacOS, and that’s a good thing. Mac users who have decided to ditch an older computer will have a level of familiarity with managing files and folders on iPadOS.
I’ve always wanted a better way file management system on the iPad. I was never a fan of having to remember which app I saved a file to, and then have to figure out how to move that file from one app to another — especially if one of the developers had failed to implement file sharing properly.
In addition to what appears to be a more intuitive Files app, Apple has also added support for external storage to iPadOS. Meaning, you can connect a USB thumb drive or an external hard drive to your iPad and manage files on the drive, copy files to/from the drive, and do all the normal file management stuff you’re accustomed to doing on a computer.
I never bought into Apple’s thinking that iPad users don’t want to use external storage as a reason for the lack of support, and the addition in iPadOS is the right move.
Where’s multi-user support?
Lack of multi-user support in iPadOS is disappointing. The keynote kicked off by taking a look at the next version of TvOS for Apple TV, showing off its support for multiple users, and instantly my confidence in the iPad getting the same feature grew.
Alas, the keynote came and went and we’ve yet to see any reports, leaks, or rumors after developers were able to install the beta that showed multi-user support hidden somewhere in iPadOS.
I’ve never been more optimistic about the future of the iPad after seeing Apple’s initial iPadOS release. This isn’t a release that provides one or two features with building blocks for future releases. Arguably, Apple added more features to the iPad in a single release than it ever has.
Once the public beta launches, I plan on taking a closer look at iPadOS and how it performs overall.
Fortnite’s mystery ‘superstar’ virtual music tour kicks off next week – TechCrunch
Epic Games is teasing the biggest in-game event since Travis Scott psychedelically stomped through Fortnite’s virtual meadows.
The mysterious new event, which Fortnite-maker Epic is calling the “Rift Tour,” will kick off on Friday, August 6 and run through Sunday, August 8. In the teaser announcement, Epic invites players to “take a musical journey into magical new realities where Fortnite and a record-breaking superstar collide.”
In-game events building up to the mystery show series will run from July 29 through August 8, so players can hop into Fortnite to check out new Rift Tour-themed quests and rewards now. The cotton-candy-colored event will offer a custom loading screen and a fluffy cloud kitty emoticon, among other digital prizes.
The Rift Tour isn’t a one-and-done event. Like the Travis Scott event, Fortnite will host five different show times across three days to make it easier for players to catch. Epic says they’ll have more details to share on Monday, August 2, so Fortnite players will have to wait for more hints or an official announcement about who’s performing.
So … who’s performing? So far, all signs point to Ariana Grande. Leakers have been saying as much for more than a week, and the documents revealed through Epic’s court battle with Apple also detailed plans for in-game events with both Grande and Lady Gaga.
At Forbes, Paul Tassi also connected the dots on how recent leaks point to Grande, including some visual themes from her music videos and a reference to her pet pig Piggy Smalls.
Since Epic is calling its latest virtual event a tour, that suggests Grande won’t be alone, if she is indeed the mystery superstar. A Lady Gaga appearance could also be in the cards, since Epic apparently had plans for Gaga to appear in a December 2020 concert that never materialized. Kanye West is also releasing his newest album on August 6, but it seems less likely that Epic would be willing to partner with West given his myriad recent controversies. And “Donda,” West’s latest album, was originally scheduled for a different date before being delayed.
Whoever it winds up being, we’ll likely know more on Monday. Even if you’re not a Grande fan or a regular gamer, Fortnite’s in-game concerts are some of the most creative and visually exciting virtual events to date.
Everyone should fall through the metaverse with their friends while a skyscraper-sized virtual rapper shoots neon lightning bolts at least once.
Why companies and brands need to tune in – TechCrunch
What comes to mind when you think of livestreaming? In the U.S., most people would name their favorite celebrity leading a Q&A on Instagram or a gamer doing a speedrun on Twitch.
In China, it’s shopping, streamed live.
Livestream e-commerce has taken off in China in the last few years and is expected to yield more than $60 billion this year. In 2019, 37% of online shoppers in China (a cool 265 million people) made purchases on livestreams — and that was well before quarantine. In 2020, it’s estimated to have reached around 560 million people.
During Taobao’s annual Single’s Day Global Shopping Festival in 2020 (China’s Black Friday), livestreams accounted for $6 billion in sales — nearly doubled from a year earlier.
Starting to see a trend? The big U.S. companies have noticed, and they’re jumping on the bandwagon faster than you can say, “Swipe up to buy now!”
Last December, Walmart livestreamed shopping events on TikTok. Amazon released a live platform where influencers promote items and chat with customers. Instagram launched a Shop feature that encourages users to browse and buy within the app. Facebook also kicked off Live Shopping Fridays for the beauty and fashion categories.
“It’s an entertaining way for shops to tell the story behind their products. It brings buyers closer than ever to their favorite creators and allows them to have a voice in the conversation.”
Startups are growing fast to keep up with the heavy hitters — PopShop.Live raised $20 million to let people buy everything from books and toys to jewelry from sellers who livestream their offerings, and Whatnot raised a $50 million Series B, largely to expand its livestream commerce infrastructure. There’s also a burgeoning category of SaaS tools such as Bambuser, which is working with brands like Klarna to test native livestream shopping directly within branded apps.
At this pace, retailers will all welcome livestream commerce teams like they have influencer partnerships in recent years. It’ll just be part of the digital equation to stay competitive and relevant in the future of marketplaces and e-commerce.
From B.C. to 5G: The evolution of shopping
What is old is new again. Your grandparents spent years watching QVC because it balanced the experience of speaking with an associate with the convenience of their retirement community’s TV room. Livestream is today’s version of “shoptainment,” where hosts showcase products dynamically, interact with their audiences and build urgency with short-term offers, giveaways and limited-edition items.
Now, with livestream commerce, hosts can form deeper customer connections and answer questions in real time. It’s a new standard of communication that holds a longstanding truth from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to smartphones: People shop to kill time and are more likely to buy when they feel connected with a salesperson.
Twitter shuttering NY, SF offices in response to new CDC guidelines – TechCrunch
Just two weeks after reopening its New York and San Francisco offices, social media giant Twitter said Wednesday that it will be closing those offices “immediately.”
The decision came “after careful consideration of the CDC’s updated guidelines, and in light of current conditions,” a spokesperson said.
“Twitter has made the decision to close our opened offices in New York and San Francisco as well as pause future office reopenings, effective immediately. We’re continuing to closely monitor local conditions and make necessary changes that prioritize the health and safety of our Tweeps,” the spokesperson added.
The company initially just reopened those offices on July 12. It declined to reveal headcount per office.
The CDC this week recommended that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with high Covid transmission rates amid concerns about the highly contagious Delta variant.
Earlier today, TechCrunch’s Brian Heater reported that Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that the company will require employees to be vaccinated before returning to work on-site. It was part of a larger letter sent to Google/Alphabet staff that also noted the company will be extending its work-from-home policy through October 18, as the COVID-19 delta variant continues to sweep through the global population.
In a message to TechCrunch, Facebook’s VP of People, Lori Goler, confirmed a similar policy for the social media behemoth.
Amazon also responded to TechCrunch’s inquiry on the matter, noting, “We strongly encourage Amazon employees and contractors to be vaccinated as soon as COVID-19 vaccines are available to them.”
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