New hardware, new software, and a week to hang out at sessions with 4,000 of my closest friends. It's Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC 2006) and, according to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, it was the largest one ever. There were 4,200 developers from 48 countries along with 1,000 Apple engineers.
This year's show opened with a video featuring the actors who play the role of the PC and the Mac in Apple's recent series of television commercials. After welcoming the audience of developers, Jobs let the audience know that others would help him on stage. This, in and of itself, was unusual. There are often supporting roles in the WWDC and MacWorld keynotes but only one featured artist. Not only did Jobs share the stage with Bertrand Serlet, Phil Schiller, and Scott Forstall, but he allowed them to make many of the morning's announcements. In a way, they represented the three faces of Steve.
Jobs told the developers that the previous quarter had been Apple's best Mac quarter ever. He said that the 1.33 million Macs sold represented a growth rate ahead of the industry, which means that Apple is gaining market share. Three-quarters of the Macs shipped were Intel-based. Apple now claims 12 percent of the U.S. retail sales in notebook computers. With this, Jobs brought SVP of Worldwide Product Marketing, Phil Schiller, to the stage. Schiller is no stranger to WWDC keynotes, but this time his role was a bit different. Schiller introduced the latest in Apple hardware.
First up was the expected replacement to the professional desktop. The Mac Pro is built around a pair of Dual-Core Intel Xeon 5100 processors available at 2GHz, 2.66GHz, or 3GHz. Schiller said that the 128-bit vector engine is faster than the velocity engine they replace and that each processor has a 4MB shared L2 cache. Each chip sits on a 1.33GHz frontside bus. Check out the tech specs. As expected, the replacement to the G5 desktops had to be 64-bit.
Schiller stressed the improvements in performance per watt saying that this new chip is three times more efficient than the G5. You might expect a new enclosure for the Mac Pro. There is no longer any need to include the cooling paths that defined the last case. Instead, Apple has decided to load the existing case with options. There are slots for four internal hard drives that can just be snapped into place and could hold up to 2TB. There is room for a second optical drive and more connections have been moved to the front of the case. Airport and Bluetooth are not included. 1GB of memory is standard but the computer can ship with up to 16GB of memory installed.
Now that Apple has attacked the performance "myth" by adopting Intel machines, they are taking on the pricing "myth." Schiller said that Apple is working to fight the perception that Apple computers are more expensive than Windows boxes. Before turning the keynote back to his boss, Schiller also announced that in October the new Intel-based Xserves will ship. The new features that most appealed to the audience were redundant power and new software for lights-out management.
Once again, the upper floors of Moscone West are full of signs taunting Microsoft. One reads "Hasta la vista, Vista" another announces that Leopard is Vista 2.0 and a third says that Redmond also has a cat (like Tiger, Panther, Leopard ...), "a copy cat." On the posters, whether deliberate or accidental, only the top half of the X appears. Almost like a "V" for Vista. Some developers found this taunting mean-spirited, while others said that it is smart of Apple to position themselves as the innovators in the operating system war.
Jobs pointed out that Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger for Intel is actually the sixth release of Mac OS X in five years. Cheetah shipped in Spring 2001 and was followed by Puma that September. Jaguar released July 2002, Panther a year later and Tiger in April 2005. Jobs said that there are now 19 million active Mac OS X users and that Tiger is Apple's best-selling software product. The sixth release was the Intel version of Tiger, which as Jobs pointed out, was a port of 86 million lines of source code to an entirely different architecture.
Jobs next introduced Bertrand Serlet, SVP of Software Engineering, to take a look at what Microsoft has been doing in that same time frame as they've worked to ship a single release. Serlet showed screenshots from the current beta of Vista and compared it to features that have been shipping on the Mac since Tiger or before. He began by showing similarities in the desktop and moved onto the Windows version of Spotlight saying, "after the WinFS debacle, they've been scrambling."
Serlet said that Safari RSS was added in Tiger and now we're seeing IE7 RSS with the same layout of the filter box on the right. Like the Mac Mail application, Vista now splits their Mail client from the calendar. He showed side-by-side screenshots of iCal and the new Windows Calendar and pointed to their obvious similarities.
"Underneath it all," Serlet concluded, "it is still Windows. It still has the registry at its core. It is still dll hell and it still has this well-loved feature called activation." Before turning the program back to Jobs, Serlet said that the lesson is clear, "if you can't innovate you just imitate. [... Vista] is features from our past."
Before moving on to the Leopard preview Jobs added that Microsoft is spending "$5 billion a year on R&D but all they can seem to do is copy Google and Apple."
The meat of the keynote was devoted to describing 10features that are coming in Leopard. Jobs emphasized that they are being careful not to announce everything that will be included in Mac OS X 10.5. Leopard is scheduled to release in Spring 2007, just after the announced release date for Vista, and Jobs is holding back some "top secret" items for now. As calculated, this has fueled speculation, which is a time-honored Apple strategy for building interest in upcoming releases.
Jobs then brought up Scott Forstall, VP of Platform Experience to help introduce the 10 selected features. The two took turns introducing the new features. The Leopard presentation at MacWorld in January will likely be quite different, here in front of an audience of developers they led with a geek-targeted feature. In Tiger there was 64-bit support at the Unix layer. In Leopard the 64-bit support is extended through Carbon and Cocoa. Forstall said that you can run 32-bit and 64-bit apps side by side, and that the 64-bit apps are not emulated or translated--they all run completely natively. [Editor's note--64-bit will probably not be evenly implemented throughout Leopard, but that remains to be seen.]
The Time Machine demo was important for several reasons. This new Mac OS X application is designed to help users backup and restore their data. Forstall said that in their estimation only 26 percent of users back up their data. Most of these, however, do so in a manual and ad hoc way. Every once in a while they burn some files to a CD. Only 4 percent have a regular automated backup strategy. Time Machine is automatic backup for the Mac. It is interesting to see what wasn't said here. The backup is to a hard drive or a server. There was no mention of .Mac accounts. In general, .Mac seems to be less important as an Apple strategy.
The Time Machine UI is stunning. It allows people to look at a directory and zoom back in time until they find the file that is missing or has been changed. The animation was due to another new feature in Leopard: Core Animation. Forstall showed a cool demo of album art being animated programmatically with results looking similar to the Apple iTunes television commercial.
Core Animation is the stand-out new feature in Leopard for both good and evil. It feels a bit like the early days of fonts where people went crazy using too many different fonts in every document just because they could. Core Animation allows developers to include wild effects in their UI. It's up to developers to show taste and restraint. Chris Howard wonders in Apple Matters if Core Animation might be the key to the top secret features coming in Leopard. He writes, "Core Animation is going to totally change the interface, and Time Machine was a sampler. [...] Imagine, for instance, a file viewer that would let you flick through your files like you would flick through a book. You saw a hint of that already in Time Machine."
Another advertised feature is that Leopard will ship with the "complete package." This was to include "cool software out in beta and other software that only shipped on new Macs." No, they aren't bundling iLife with Leopard--at least that wasn't what was announced. Boot Camp, Front Row, and Photobooth will all be part of the operating system. I'm not sure we should count that as one of the 10 features.
The new virtual desktop was also advertised as a separate item. It's nice, but it isn't the "new way of working on your Mac" that it's being billed as. There have been third-party apps that let us do this now. It is a welcome addition to the interface and may be new for many end users, but the developer audience has probably tried some virtual desktop app on Tiger.
Leopard includes improvements to Spotlight. You can now search other Macs on your local network as well as servers. The rule of thumb is that if you have permission to read a file, then you have the ability to search it with Spotlight. Again, there was no mention of any .Mac tie-in here. Search has also been improved to include Boolean operations and to allow the specification of file types. Like Launchbar and Quicksilver, Spotlight has been tuned to work better as an application launcher. Also recent items have been added to Spotlight because users most often want to find items they've been working on most recently.
Universal Access has received more attention. The text reader is vastly improved and includes an option for speeding up the reader. There is now Braille support, closed captioning support in QuickTime, and faster and better navigation for people with special needs.
Steve Jobs loves templates. He loves to demo templates in iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, and now in Mail. Many of us get too much email bloated with attachments each day. With the improvements in Mail, you may get more. You can now create HTML email using stationery templates. They are pretty--they look like iWeb pages. But now they can clutter up your in box.
The two other new features in Mail are more welcome but could be differently implemented. If you send yourself email with a reminder of something you need to do, Jobs shows that now you can create a Note that is stored in a different mailbox. Similarly, you can now create to dos from your email. If someone sends you an email that contains a task you need to perform, you can easily highlight the task and create a to do item. In fact, there is now a system-wide to do service that developers can tap into for their own applications.
More impressive than that, however, was the new end-user tool named Web Clip. Anyone can turn any part of a web page into a Dashboard widget. In the demo Forstall highlighted a comic strip and quickly created a widget. Each day as the comic strip is updated the widget will display the new image.
Jobs also showed off the changes to iChat. There is now support for multiple logins, invisibility, animated buddy icons, video recording, and tabbed chats. The eye candy was nice. There is now support for Photobooth effects and you can use stills or video as backdrops for your video chats. The most important addition to iChat is the ability to share iPhoto slide shows and Keynote presentations in what is being called iChat Theater. This allows for conferencing over video iChat with full-scale presentations.
At the end, Jobs mentioned in passing that Xcode 3 would be announced in an afternoon session and that the CalDav standard and multiuser support was coming for iCal. Developers were given a preview disk of Leopard directly after the keynote.
As with Tiger, I think there is a lot in Leopard for developers to play with. I think that the strength of these two releases is in the enabling technologies that Apple is providing along with their own applications that point to ways in which to take advantage of these technologies. What do you think is coming in Leopard that we haven't seen yet?
Daniel H. Steinberg is the editor for the new series of Mac Developer titles for the Pragmatic Programmers. He writes feature articles for Apple's ADC web site and is a regular contributor to Mac Devcenter. He has presented at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, MacWorld, MacHack and other Mac developer conferences.
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