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Boldness in Apple events needs matching by boldness in the company getting things right

WWDC stands for Worldwide Developers Conference, but the keynote exists with the public in mind. Apple occasionally digs into territory that makes app creators squeal with glee, but that first part of the conference is geared toward keeping the wider public invested, by giving them a sneak peek at features coming to their Apple devices.

SharePlay. Coming soon… ish.

The snag is this builds expectations. People assume all these goodies will be ready and usable the second they upgrade iOS and iPadOS. The reality is different. This year, the much-touted SharePlay – a flagship feature of iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 – isn’t going to be ready on time and developers have been warned it won’t appear in subsequent beta releases either. This means you won’t be using FaceTime to play movies and albums with friends and family come September.

This might disappoint, but Apple is prizing reliability and quality over its own schedule, even if it has to take a bloody nose in the process. It would prefer a feature to work than be on time and sub-standard. Similarly, iCloud Private Relay will be launched as an optional beta only, and a question mark remains over Universal Control (designed to allow you to effortlessly move a cursor – and documents – between Macs and iPads), which has yet to even appear in any beta. Elsewhere, Safari’s been on a journey this summer. Although a browser revamp will be part of iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, the more divisive elements on display during the WWDC keynote have been toned down or can optionally be disabled.

Surprise! SharePlay is removed from the iOS and iPadOS betas.

At this juncture, it’s easy to ask what went wrong. Was Apple over-ambitious or over-confident about what it can achieve within a given timescale? Has it over-promised and under-delivered? Should it scale back the frequency of operating system releases, rather than issuing major upgrades annually?

Arguably, the only major error Apple made – as in previous years when Messages in the cloud and AirPlay 2 were delayed – was in messaging. The company needs to be bold with its aims and yet make it clear that new features won’t all ship on day one. But delaying SharePlay isn’t in and of itself a bad decision – because otherwise the main thing that would get shared is footage of a much-touted Apple feature not working. And that’s not good for anyone.

Related reading: Apple’s biggest WWDC breakthroughs are the fusion of man and machine