Weekend Roundup: Apple’s Latest Devices (and Developer Headaches)

It’s the weekend! Before you slam your laptop shut (don’t worry, all that work will still be waiting on Monday), let’s check out some of the big tech stories of the week, including how Apple’s latest product unveiling may have caused a lot of issues for some mobile app developers. 

Apple Unveils the Next Apple Watch and iPad

Apple’s big September 15th event wasn’t much of a secret, content-wise; long before Apple CEO Tim Cook and a platoon of executives took the (virtual) stage, pundits and technologists correctly guessed that the company would unveil the next Apple Watch and iPad Air. 

But even when outsiders guess the hardware rolling out at an Apple event, the actual release dates for the products on offer is often a huge question mark—and this time around, Apple dropped something of a bombshell for developers and other technologists who work within the Apple ecosystem: The new watchOS, iOS, and iPadOS would release the next day, on September 16th.

While consumers anxious for a new iOS or watchOS feature might greet that kind of news with cheers, it immediately angered those developers who hadn’t yet refined their apps for iOS 14 compatibility. In an editorial on Apple Insider, developer Mike Wuerthele neatly summed up this collective irritation when he wrote: “One day doesn’t really serve anybody, other than Apple, though. And it arguably doesn’t serve Apple, either. Not when it can claim there are great new iOS and watchOS features, but at best key apps can’t use them—and at worst, they break.”

Wuerthele added that the “gold master” OS that developers need to finish their apps was only released after Cook concluded his presentation, giving them mere hours to deal with everything from bugs and testing to approvals. So if you’re one of those Apple users who downloaded a new version of the operating system last night, and you’re wondering why some of your apps are broken… well, chances are good that there’s a developer scrambling right now, probably guzzling coffee by the gallon, to fix those issues. They deserve your compassion. 

A Very Expensive Snowflake 

Even though there’s been a fair bit of economic chaos over the past several months, some tech startups have felt good enough about the market to launch an IPO. One of them is Snowflake, which bills itself as the  “cloud data platform,” with A.I.-powered data warehousing and data science products. Snowflake doubled its valuation (to $70 billion) during its first day on the stock exchange, making “its initial public offering the largest ever for a software firm,” according to The Economist.

That investors such as Warren Buffett are throwing their financial weight behind Snowflake shows how much the market as a whole is paying attention to the cloud space, particularly cloud platforms that allow businesses to store and wrangle massive amounts of data. But can Snowflake compete against the likes of AWS and Microsoft Azure, especially if those well-financed platforms mimic Snowfake’s best features and/or undercut it on price? That’s literally a multi-billion-dollar question. 

Oculus Quest 2 Makes Its Debut

Facebook still wants to make its longtime virtual reality (VR) dreams a reality. Its new Quest 2 is an improvement on the previous iteration, according to reviews, with a sharper screen and more onboard memory (although it remains pretty heavy). However, some potential buyers may cringe at the idea of a mandatory Facebook sign-on. 

Yet another bit of Oculus hardware hitting the market raises the old question: Can VR break out of its niche of hardcore gamers? Facebook has certainly tried to position VR as more of a social tool, but based on sales (especially during a pandemic, when everyone is locked inside), it doesn’t seem as if VR headsets are selling in the same massive quantities as, say, smartphones or tablets.

Plus, it’s clear at this juncture that Apple and other tech players are all-in on augmented reality (AR), which could force Facebook to pivot to compete at some point. When it comes to bulky things you strap to your face, the next several years could be quite interesting.

Have a good weekend, everyone! Stay safe!