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WWDC Keynote: Oh Boy, Just What I Always Wanted

by Daniel H. Steinberg
06/12/2007

Did you ever have one of those birthdays where you got most of your presents ahead of time? Maybe you were getting a calculator, and it made no sense to wait until the school year had already started so your parents gave it to you early. Then your birthday came and they reminded you that you already got your main gift, but here, honey, we bought you a couple of nice shirts too that you can wear to school.

That was kind of what Apple CEO Steve Jobs' WWDC keynote address was like this year. We'd already gotten most of the features in Leopard. With 300 new features shipping in Leopard, Jobs chose to highlight 10 of them. We'd already gotten all but the first three.

As for the new shirts, we have Leopard's new desktop, the new Finder, and a full demo of Quick Look. Add to that the announcements that Safari is now available on Windows and the SDK for the iPhone is really the same as developing for Safari, and you're left holding up that green print shirt trying to look grateful, telling your parents that it's just what you always wanted.

In many ways, the problem was in the presentation. We had been led to believe we would be getting much more. Really, Leopard is a wonderful release, but we thought there would be so much more. We had heard the rumors of an iPhone SDK but we thought it would be, you know, a real SDK. We thought we might be able to get our hands on a phone early, and at least half of the audience was willing to pay full price for that privilege.

When you walk into an Apple WWDC keynote, you walk past shrouded banners. When you leave the keynote, the banners are revealed, displaying the new secret features that Jobs talked about. But this year, we walked out to see that one of the banners was for Core Animation and another was for Time Machine. We knew about those. We've known about those since last year. It's as if our parents borrowed our calculator and rewrapped it so that we could open it up on our birthday.

It's hard to explain. It's not that we aren't grateful. It's a great present. It's just something we've been given already. We're looking around under the discarded wrapping paper to see if there's anything else.

And I'm a PC

John Hodgeman, who plays the PC guy on the Mac ads, appeared on the big screen dressed in a black turtleneck and jeans and kicked off the morning keynote, saying, "Hello everyone, I'm Steve Jobs. I've got some big news: I quit." He explained that he was shutting down all of Apple since Vista has sold tens of dozens of copies. He then held up the Microsoft iPod killer, the Zune.

Actually, once you think about it, this set the perfect level of expectation for the upcoming keynote. The bit was funny--but it was essentially the same as what we heard at last year's keynote.

Jobs announced that there are 5,000 attendees at this year's conference. He reviewed the transition to Intel and brought Intel CEO Paul Otellini up on stage to receive a specially designed award of appreciation. Before talking about the operating system, he introduced Bing Gordon, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Electronic Arts, and then John Carmack, owner and CTO of id, to show games that are coming to the Mac.

A Quick Look at Leopard

Leopard has a new desktop. If your dock lives on the bottom of the screen, then you may like the new three-dimensional look and the stacks metaphor. If your dock lives on the right or left side, you may not like this look quite as much.

Stacks is a nice UI addition that allows you to have folders in your dock that expand to reveal their contents when you hover over them. So, for example, you will have a downloads folder in your dock. You can see what's in the directory either stacked on top of the folder or shown in a grid layout.

This isn't a major innovation, but it should help me keep my desktop ordered. I've recently been using the system that Ethan Schoonover describes, and will probably put these main folders in my dock and use stacks to quickly find pending items.

In addition, there is a consistent window look that is supposed to make it easier for you to quickly find the active window. You can get a hint at the new Leopard feel by looking at the Apple website. They have re-themed the site to fit the new OS. You'll notice that the top navigation bar has a cleaner look, and yet there are fewer things on it. (Quick quiz: what's missing?)

The second big interface change is the new Finder. Had it been presented as an improved Finder and not a new Finder, the reaction may have been warmer. There is now an additional cover view that allows you to look through files in a directory the same way you can look through tunes and movies in iTunes, by flipping through images of the cover art. For certain types of files and certain types of people, this is a great help. I almost never use this view in iTunes and don't see myself using it in the Finder, but it may just feel right once I'm using it.

One of the nicest features of this cover view is that once you've found a PDF, you can cycle through its pages without double-clicking and opening it. You can look through a Keynote presentation and play a movie right from the Finder as well.

You could do some previewing of files in Tiger, but this really does take it to the next level. You can preview movies on the full-screen, and it's often useful to be able to page through documents. This is the result of Quick Look, which allows you to see what's in a file without opening an application. It currently works for text, images, movies, PDFs, Word documents, and Excel documents. There's support for a plugin so that other file formats can be supported.

As we were told last year, you will now be able to search for content on other computers on your local network. This is a feature that I will use a lot. In addition to searching content on other computers, you can also preview them in the same way that you can preview those files on your local machine.

In addition, there is a new feature that is being called "Back to my Mac." You can set up your home machine and your laptops to communicate their current IP address to your .mac account. This allows you to connect to your home Mac while you're on the road, and will allow you to let others find your laptop while you are traveling from coffee shop to coffee shop. Although Jobs did not give any details, I would assume that this is an application of Wide Area Bonjour.

Pricing

After Jobs ran through seven other features that will be part of Leopard, he talked about pricing. I know it is silly, but this was my favorite part of the keynote. It was a fun slap at Windows, delivered as only Jobs could.

He said that Apple intends to ship Leopard in October and that the price for the Basic version will be $129.

The crowd got agitated. Did he say Basic version? What's this all about? What are they thinking about doing to...

...and then Jobs smiled and said the Premium version would cost $129. The developers started to laugh and applaud, drowning him out as he displayed the price of the Business version for $129 and the Enterprise version for $129. He paused as the audience responded to this slam of the Vista delivery options and concluded that the Ultimate version would also be available for $129.

Not leaving anything to chance, he clarified that there will only be one version of Leopard--and it will cost $129.

Safari on Windows

When the rumors started to surface that Apple was going to release a version of Safari for Windows, I just shook my head. It didn't make any sense. I understand iTunes. Apple sells music and iPods. iTunes is the secret sauce that makes all of that work. But Safari? Where's the payoff?

Safari may be the dominant browser on the Mac, but even with Steve Jobs' estimate of Safari's 5% market share, it is a marginal browser. He reported that Internet Explorer has 78% and Firefox has 15%. If Safari and Firefox can eat into Internet Explorer's share, then we are likely to see more websites that work well on a Mac in various Web Kit views and on the iPhone.

The only way to expand Safari's share as a Mac-only application is to sell more Macs and iPhones. Even if sales exceed projections, Safari's share can only grow marginally. Apple's advantage has been that it makes both the hardware and the software. It is thinking well outside of its own box when it targets software that will run on Windows. Will we see iLife or iWork ever working on a Windows box?

So Safari on Windows is a great way to increase market share and increase the likelihood that sites will be tested for your browser. John Gruber writes that Apple makes money from the integrated Google search bar in Safari and that adding new Safari users will increase revenues.

So good user experience, increased revenues, and, oh, one more thing...

iPhone SDK

Jobs finished by announcing that Safari is essentially the iPhone SDK. He basically says to the audience, you want to develop for the iPhone? Go ahead and develop. Write your best web-based applications, and if they run on your desktop in Safari, they will run on the iPhone, because it's the same Safari in both places.

The audience was pissed.

They wanted tools. They wanted APIs. They wanted access to the core functionality of the phone. Heck, they wanted the phone itself.

The audience reaction was entirely Steve Jobs' fault. He worked them up into a frenzy. He kept saying that the iPhone would be available in 18 days. He said it so many times that we expected him to say "but we'll sell you an advance copy today."

Nope. No phone.

OK, no phone but throw me a bone. Tell me you've built an emulator into Xcode and opened up the insides for me to play with.

Nope. No APIs.

I think that Jobs was clear at his MacWorld keynote that this was, at least initially, going to be the only way for third parties to get apps on the phone. He could have sold it better here. He could have pointed to folks at Google who believe that this is the way to deliver apps.

We saw a demo that showed that even using a browser-based application, you can make calls on the phone and send email. You do have access to what makes the phone a phone. But what you can do is also sandboxed to protect the user experience. The first few months of iPhone sales will set the tone for the product. Apple can't afford to have rogue apps on the device that color the user experience.

So even though I completely understand why the browser is the answer for third-party apps on the phone, there are much better ways to deliver that message. The half-full kind of audience was transformed immediately into a half-empty kind. The room was very quiet during that portion of the keynote.

Switchers Welcome

OK, Mac sales are up and the iPhone is about to be released. Vista is out and Leopard is on the way--a lot of developers who need to retool for Vista are considering switching to, or at least dipping their toes in, the Apple waters. There are many sessions on the agenda at WWDC specifically targeting this audience.

The keynote has to satisfy the longtime Mac developer and attract those thinking of switching. Those of us who have been on the Mac platform for a long time forget how good we have it. We look at all these features coming in Leopard and we want more. Step back and look at things in the context of other operating systems--we have more.

Think back to the PC guy at the beginning of the keynote proudly holding up his brown Zune for all to see. I'm happier hanging with the guys delivering the iPod, the iPhone, and Leopard.

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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