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Reflecting on the WWDC 2021 keynote

What Apple’s latest announcements mean for Apple users — and for Sketch

Every year, WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) marks a pretty important spot in our calendars. It’s the moment where Apple announces what’s in store for the major fall updates to iOS, iPadOS and macOS.

As long-time Apple users, we’re always curious to see what innovations Apple has in store. And as product designers, these announcements can be inspirational; everything from small visual tweaks to bigger features can give us ideas on how to improve our offering.

So, every year we gather around the virtual screen to watch along, comment, laugh and discuss it all together as a company — live. This year we even had some fun with real-time collaboration, creating and updating a WWDC bingo card (‘Craig Federighi running’ ✅ ‘Everyone is a Memoji’ ✅ ).

Another great year for Apple enthusiasts

As Apple users, there was a lot in this year’s keynote that we liked. Low Power Mode coming to the Mac is a personal highlight for me — sometimes I’m happy to trade long compilation times in exchange for cooler palm rests and longer battery life.

The updates to Maps look visually stunning, but I (and many in the Sketch team) really hope it expands to more places in Europe before too long. Similarly, the new-look Safari in macOS has us intrigued. We’re very curious about how this will feel in real life — and how we can make the most of it for our own website.

Stealing the show (but not your personal data)

We’re big supporters of Apple’s stance on privacy. In fact, we’ve built our own real-time collaboration feature in such a way that neither us nor your boss can track your exact cursor movements, or whether you’ve inserted enough rectangles in your document.

Our web app is also completely free from trackers, and our marketing website analytics are set to anonymize IP addresses. So overall we applaud what Apple is doing in Safari and Mail to hide IP addresses, and the VPN features of iCloud+ are great steps forward, too.

We’re big supporters of Apple’s stance on privacy. In fact, we’ve built our own real-time collaboration feature in such a way that neither us nor your boss can track your movements or actions.

But what stole the show for us was Universal Control. If Apple has really managed to create a seamless transition between devices for something as fundamental as a mouse cursor, hopping between screens as if they’re all just external monitors on the same system could change how many people work. We’ll have to try this in real world scenarios but it looks incredibly cool — and very useful.

A quieter year for Sketch

Of course, every year we’re also watching the keynote with an eye on what this could mean for Sketch. For us, this time is a mix of anticipation and excitement — and yes, even a little fear. Last year we’d expected a quiet year for the Mac. Instead, Apple surprised us with a complete redesign of macOS, causing us to shelve existing plans and divert our attention away from projects like Collaborative Editing.

Big updates like this are great fun to work on and allow us to really shine as a native app, but they’re also incredibly disruptive. Fortunately, this year looks to be a quiet year for the Mac — as well as Apple’s platforms in general.

SharePlay, Swift and the SOTU

That’s not to say there’s nothing here that excites us. SharePlay really piqued our interest, and while the keynote mainly talked about sharing video streams, the State of the Union presentation afterwards talked about also sharing other kinds of content. It left me wondering whether we could use SharePlay to make it even easier to get started with real-time collaboration in Sketch. It’s something we’ll definitely be looking into.

It left me wondering whether we could use SharePlay to make it even easier to get started with real-time collaboration in Sketch. It’s something we’ll definitely be looking into.

It’s also great to see the Mac keep pace with features on iOS. A few years ago, the Mac would get iOS features late, if ever. Recently, we’ve started seeing the Mac catch up — and this year it seems that features will launch across most platforms at the same time. It’s clear that Apple’s move to unify its technologies, from lower level frameworks to a high-level UI framework like SwiftUI, is working. I can’t help but admire the technical advances here.

On a more developer-centric note, we’re pleased to see the new Swift async/await land in Xcode and we can’t wait to start using it. Similarly, Xcode Cloud looks a very interesting prospect.

A lot to be excited about in the future

Our main takeaway from this year, though, is that it’ll be a quieter summer for us. And that’s great news! It means we can try our hands at integrating Sketch with some new technologies, such as SharePlay, while continuing with our existing roadmap. We’re far from running out of ideas there.

In fact, after launching real-time collaboration and relaunching Sketch, we’re excited to get to work building some great new updates. Whether that’s bringing comments and annotations to the Mac app, or significantly improving our web experience with a new rendering engine.

But before I give away too much, I’ll wrap it up — and get back to watching the rest of the WWDC videos that are going live this week. We’ll be back with more news soon.