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Apple’s biggest news today is in the plumbing

Apple CEO Tim Cook WWDC 2014
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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Apple didn’t announce any new, must-buy gadgets today at its Worldwide Developers Conference. And from a user’s perspective, the iOS updates it revealed were mostly evolutionary—tuck-in improvements and features ”borrowed” from other companies, such as Snapchat-like self-destructing messages.

But Apple did show off several new, important behind-the-scenes technologies today—let’s call it app plumbing. These include:

  • Extensibility, so apps can talk to each other and borrow each others’ features.
  • Swift, a new, faster programming language.
  • CloudKit, a simple back-end cloud service for app programmers, similar to Facebook’s Parse.
  • Widgets, which will allow apps to have simple interactive features in the iOS lock screen.
  • Fingerprint identity for apps, powered by Apple’s TouchID sensor.
  • HomeKit, a hub for home automation and security apps, services, and devices.
  • HealthKit, a hub for health and fitness apps, services, and devices.
  • Better app search and discovery in the App Store, which could drive more downloads.
  • Better beta-testing tools which will make app production less complex.
  • Metal, a tool for more intense graphics capabilities.

Many of these new improvements will never be known to their users. They will, however, lead to better, more useful, and more entertaining products in the future. And that’s the point.

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