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The Three Faces of Steve: WWDC 2006
Pages: 1, 2

The Seventh Release of Mac OS X

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.

 Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard will be released in the Spring of 2007
Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard will be released in the Spring of 2007

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.

Time Machine brings true backup capability to the Mac.
Time Machine brings true backup capability to the Mac.

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.

Dashboard widgets have taken off in the last year. The long-rumored Dashcode tool is being released for Leopard to ease the design and development of these widgets. There are canned templates to start with and adjust with a JavaScript source editor and debugger. Dashcode also includes a parts library and a graphical tool for generating the HTML and CSS the widgets need.

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.

So....

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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