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WWDC: Apple Reveals Its Path

by Daniel H. Steinberg
07/03/2003

At the end of his WWDC keynote, Apple CEO Steve Jobs summed up what Apple has released since January. In hardware, there are the new iPod, the twelve- and seventeen-inch PowerBooks, and Airport Extreme. There was also the WWDC announcement for the new G5 machines to be shipped in August. Software releases include Keynote, the Safari browser, the iLife package, and iTunes 4 (including the Apple Music Store). At WWDC, Jobs also showed off a preview of the Panther release of the operating system. Apple has also opened more Apple stores, with new stores coming to Chicago, San Francisco, and Tokyo.

Maybe it's the RDF working overtime, but it makes we wonder what other companies are doing. Sure, we're still waiting for the fifteen-inch PowerBooks to rev., and Keynote still lacks some features I've come to depend on in a presentation tool. The WWDC allows and encourages developers to give the Apple engineers and management feedback on what is needed. I can't cover any of that here because of the NDA, but Apple's view of the road ahead was clearly revealed in Jobs' keynote address, and that's what I can share with you in this article.

Panther

The WWDC keynote is an opportunity for Jobs to encourage developers to follow the path that Apple is blazing. Now he can add the support of the Apple store, saying "We love to sell your software and hardware accessories." This year's message was simple and direct; Jobs announced "Jaguar's Over." Remember, he's talking to developers; he's not talking about end users, where clearly Jaguar will live on for a while. He's telling developers to start delivering applications that take advantage of the Panther release. Panther will retail for $129 and will be available by the end of the year.

Finding and Navigation

The under-the-cover tools have been updated and further integrated. X11 is now bundled in, and Kerberos is widely used for authentication. Further support for ibV6 is included, and the FreeBSD version will be 5.0. Windows integration has been improved with new SMB Printing browser, SMB Servers in the finder, SMB Home Directories, and IPSec-based VPN.

The Finder has been redesigned and its performance has been improved. Apple seems to be adding to the confusion of the metal look and feel vs. the Aqua look and feel. The final version of Safari is metal, as is the new Finder. The best feature on the new Finder is that searching begins immediately as you start typing in the Search input box. Now consistent with Jef Raskin's "Humane Interface." As you type in "Tex" on your way to typing in "TextEdit," Panther starts returning those names with "Tex" included in them. There is an action button in the Finder. The idea is to clue more users in to what can be done with any given file or directory in the Finder. It provides little information that you can not currently get with a right click -- it just exposes the capability to more users.

Other enhancements include a revised iDisk and the introduction of FileVault. The iDisk improvements are designed so that stuff on your iDisk automatically syncs (in the background) with stuff that's in your local folder. With more than one computer, it makes it easier for you to sync through .mac. FileVault secures your Home Folder. The idea is that if you lose your notebook, you don't want others to have access to your data. A single checkbox turns on the automatic on-the-fly encryption and decryption of files you store in your home folder. Another feature that is helpful if you have kids is fast user switching. Jobs acknowledged that Windows XP had this feature first, but showed off a simple menu in the corner that allows you to change logins easily. Individual logins may still require a password, but the switching was fast and seamless.

The coolest navigation feature is Expose. This is a great tool for when you have a bunch of windows open, and some are overlapping, some are hidden. You don't want to shrink several down to the dock to find the one you want and then bring them back. With Expose, a single key press or mouse event shrinks all of the windows down to a size where you can still identify them, but they don't overlap. As you mouse over the reduced size windows, a labeled button appears with the title of the document. Select the one you want to work on, and all of the windows return to their previous size and location with the one you selected in front. A different key press allows you to view and organize just the documents tied to the application in which you are currently working. A third press hides all of the active documents and shows the desktop. This is clearly Jobs' favorite new feature and he showed it in slow motion, the same way he used to show off the Genie effect.

Communication

Various communication applications have been created or improved for Panther. Everything in Mail is faster, and Apple has taken advantage of the Safari web kit to render HTML. It is easier to identify and manage discussion threads. Addresses are now presented as objects identified by the person's name and not address. They appear as little capsules that you can move around or select to choose an alternate address for.

Other improvements include a built-in fax. Just as you can save to PDF from the print menu, you can also send a fax from the file you are working on, by using Command-P. You'll find the new fax button next to the PDF button in every print panel. IPSec-based VPN is now built right into Panther and Panther Server for increased security. Apple is introducing a new codec for QuickTime called a Pixlet. (Pixar wanted to be able to compress film-grade images so they could send them around and edit them without having to see film artifacts.)

The biggest communications announcement was the introduction of the new version of iChat. The Apple custom AIM client now adds audio and video to the existing text chat. You can now see, in your buddy list, which of your buddies is available and set up for audio or video chat by displayed icons. You can attach a Firewire camera and use the built-in mic or a USB mic. The audio only requires a 56K modem connection or better, while the video requires broadband. For those that didn't understand the implications of this technology, Jobs points out that this provides free long distance over the net. You can download the beta from Apple's site; it times out at the end of the year. The final version will be part of Panther and will also be separately available for Jaguar owners for $29.

The Hardware

The first hardware announcement is the companion to iChat AV. Jobs introduced a new Firewire camera and microphone called iSight. Each of the WWDC attendees was given a free iSight, which features video up to 30 fps, auto-focus with 4/2.8 aperture, auto-exposure built in, and a dual-element microphone. The box includes three different stands for mounting iSight to the different Mac monitor styles.

The big hardware announcement had been much anticipated. Generally, WWDC does not feature hardware announcements. Rumor sites had published screen shots from Apple's site of the specifications of a new tower that would be announced at WWDC. The specs for the new machine were impressive, and there were debates on whether it was a mistake or whether Apple was baiting the rumor sites. Jobs referred to the Thursday appearance of the G5 machines on Apple's site as "premature specification." He smiled at the audience and says, "It was a mistake, and it's true, and it doesn't begin to describe it."

The Chip is an IBM 64-bit processor that will run existing 32-bit apps natively. The initial models will run at up to 2GHz and are planned to hit 3GHz within a year. There is a 1Ghz front-side bus and the chip has a twelve-unit core that can support 215 in-flight instructions at a time. The velocity engine has been optimized, and there is support for full SMP (symmetric multiprocessing). The system built around it is designed to move bits quickly. You can install up to 8GB of memory to reduce the time spent writing to or reading from disk. The I/O shipped with the machine includes Firewire 800/400, USB 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet, Airport Extreme, Bluetooth, and Optical Digital Audio. The least expensive configuration includes a 1.6GHz G5 for $1999. The 1.8GHz G5 will be $2399 and the dual 2.0GHz G5 will be $2999. The machines are scheduled to ship in August.

Summary

All in all, the developers are excited by the announcements at this year's WWDC: a new version of the operating system, coupled with a new line of machines that feature a new chip. Jobs also debuted XCode, Apple's replacement to their multilanguage IDE ProjectBuilder. XCode features a new set of developer tools, but focuses on speed. Distributed builds take advantage of Rendezvous to use spare cycles of nearby machines. Fix-and-continue allows developers to make changes to running applications and to compile and insert the revised versions in place. Apple developers walked away from this year's WWDC with plenty of new toys to play with and a clear indication that there is more to come.

Thanks to James Duncan Davidson and Chuck Toporok for sharing their notes on the keynote.

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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