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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.

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