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Apple's WWDC 2014 keynote was the most exciting in years

Just a few minutes into Apple's recent WWDC keynote, it was apparent that things were going to be a little bit different, a little bit more soulful if you will. After all, it's not too often that one sees a top Apple executive casually joke about calling the next iteration of OS X "OS X Weed."

For a number of reasons, I found this year's keynote to be the most interesting and exciting in recent memory. Specifically, there seemed to be an infectious air of excitement at Moscone West this past Monday; Tim Cook seemed looser than usual and Craig Federighi absolutely killed it with an engaging balance of humor, information, and enthusiasm. All in all, Apple executives appeared at ease, confident, and all too eager to show thousands of developers what the company had been working on over the past many months.

Federighi's penchant jokes aside, I found Apple's 2014 WWDC keynote to be incredibly engaging for the simple fact that it was actually full of surprises. Go figure.

In recent years, the Apple rumor mill has gotten so damn good at snuffing out Apple's software and hardware plans that Apple media events have served to merely confirm what many in the blogosphere already knew weeks earlier.

But this year was different. If you go back and look at any of the "What to expect at WWDC" articles, one would have assumed that the most important feature in iOS 8 was going to be an app called Healthbook. As it turns out, Healthbook is actually called HealthKit and the feature-set was hardly a focal point of the keynote presentation.

Apple on Monday made a number big announcements that will discernibly improve the iOS and OS X user experience. And best of all, none of the tech sites that typically break Apple rumors anticipated even 5% of what Apple had in store.

Indeed, there were so many new compelling features to introduce that WWDC maestro Craig Federighi was quickly zooming from feature to feature in an effort to cover as much ground as possible. Even features that would ordinarily occupy a few minutes of stage time (Siri enhancements in iOS 8, for example) were relegated to just a single slide. Apple's recent $3 billion acquisition of Beats? Nary a mention.

By the time the keynote ended after nearly 2 hours, there was no shortage of information to digest; iOS extensions, iCloud Drive, iOS/OS X continuity features, support for third party keyboards, phone calls on OS X, Quick Type, a new programming language!, revamped spotlight functionality, App Store enhancements, and the list truly goes on and on.

Last year, the main focus of WWDC was the new design aesthetic of iOS 7 spearheaded by Jony Ive. OS X Mavericks was a respectable upgrade in its own right, but it didn't really blow anybody away. But this year, iOS 8 is less about how the system looks and more about the cool new things you can do with it. As for OS X Yosemite, I personally think it's the most exciting and intriguing OS X update in years.

Looking back, Apple's WWDC keynote this week taught us a few things. First and foremost, it demonstrated that the innovative spirit at Apple continues to thrive despite assertions to the contrary. Second, it reminded us that Apple media events can be downright exciting when we don't have a checklist of every new feature on the agenda. And third, it's never been more apparent that one of Steve Jobs' most significant contributions to Apple was putting in place a top notch executive team more than capable of taking Apple to new heights in his absence.

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