Tim Cook's 'iOS Everywhere' plan is coming together

You say "Workflow", I say "Future of ambient computing and a voice-based user interface".

Apple, Workflow, iOS, Automation, iOS 11, Siri, AirPods, Apple Watch, ambient computing

Apple’s acquisition of popular iOS actions automating app, Workflow is a huge step toward building an iOS Everywhere ecosystem.

Automate this

Workflow lets you combine a series of actions to create new workflows. These actions can encompass multiple steps and multiple apps.

Such Workflow “recipes” can be shared, and are available across a range of tasks, from playing music to creating GIFs and more.

(The Running Late action will find your next event, figure out the travel time, create a text with an ETA and send a message to whoever you are meant to be meeting, for example).

Apple has cut the cost of Workflow (it is now free) and the app remains available at the App Store, so you can download it today. You can create your own workflows using the app’s simple interface. Please take a look at Federico Viticci’s MacStories site to learn how to use Workflow effectively.

“The next level”

Workflow developers Ari Weinstein, Conrad Kramer, and Nick Frey will join Apple to continue working on the app.

"We are thrilled to be joining Apple,” Weinstein said in a statement to TechCrunch.

“We can't wait to take our work to the next level at Apple and contribute to products that touch people across the world."

The acquisition follows Apple’s decision to lay off its long-term automation product manager, Sal Soghoian, who formerly ran the Automator and Apple Script teams.

The loss of one and gain of the other suggests Apple’s future vision for automated actions must encompass iOS. This makes sense, why shouldn’t you be able to commit complex actions using Workflow, Siri, and your AirPods?

Et tu, Siri?

Workflow won an Apple Design Award in 2015 because of its extensive accessibility features.

Confirming the deal, Apple in a statement called the app’s VoiceOver implementation “outstanding”. “…With clearly labelled items, thoughtful hints and drag/drop announcements, making the app usable and quickly accessible to those who are blind or low-vision”.

I can’t help but imagine Siri being beefed-up with Workflow-like automations.

You can already use Workflow automations in one tap from an Apple Watch, so it makes complete sense to be able to commit such actions using AirPods or other devices, with or without a display.

After all, if you can use Workflow if you’re blind, it means you can use it even when you don’t have a display.

Alexa is history

You can imagine Siri-compatible Workflows that will allow you to order a taxi, figure out travel time, figure out an ETA and let people you have arranged to meet know you are likely to be late.

That's nice, but it really isn't a massive stretch to then imagine Workflows – when supported at a deep level inside the OS – enabling actions to be initiated from an iOS device that are subsequently completed across all your systems, including your Mac.

It's a little like Alexa’s IFTTT service, but capable of much deeper, far more productive tasks across a range of platforms and applications.  

“Workflow will become the glue that holds together a number of new Voice First domains for Siri,” notes Multiplex.

More importantly, the move to voice first command of complex actions means you’ll be able to keep your iPhone in your pocket (or on your wrist) while enabling these actions using other Apple wearables.

I’m in no doubt that the Workflow acquisition will mark a key moment in Apple’s evolution of an ambient computing paradigm. This is all about what UBS analysts Steven Milunovich and Benjamin Wilson last year called, “Tim Cook’s iOS Everywhere”. 

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