Sunday, June 17, 2007

Time for Your Comprehensive WWDC Coverage!

I waited until the end of this week and of my vacation to begin writing, as I thought it was best to ensure that no further news would come out.  WWDC, as I explained in two posts back, is a conference for developers who work with Apple products.  Steve Jobs always gives an interesting keynote to unveil the season's Apple updates.  I won't cover every single detail for brevity's sake, but feel free to watch the keynote yourself (high def version), it is always a fun show.  As a nifty side note, Steve and his wife drive cars with no license plates at all (according to Cali's "Geek Brief" podcast at GeekBrief.TV) because they kept getting stolen.  Instead they have a much harder to remove bar code sticker.

There were three main components to the keynote: Leopard, Safari, and iPhone (in that order).  Before Steve began his main spiel, he invited a number of big wigs from the gaming and graphics people over to talk about the newfound support for games on the Mac.  Personally, I found this to be a rather feeble attempt to break the stereotype that Mac users can't be gamers.  Coming out and announcing that someone will in fact be making games of quality for the Mac seems to reinforce such a stereotype instead of nullifying it.  Even so, it is a promising move and the new graphics stuff looked sweet.

Steve finally started the keynote in his usual calculated and charismatic way that makes Mac fanboys drool.  He began with a few of the changes to the desktop of Leopard, outlining, among other things, a new look for the dock that allows for better integration with windows sharing the same space on the screen.  The dock will be further updated with something called stacks, which basically creates graphically browsable folders that live on the surface of the dock.  Finally, windows will be more uniform across all Apple applications (in response to an old complaint of some Mac users).

The next area rose up one level from the desktop and related to the new interface for Finder.  This includes all regular file windows.  If you are truly interested, I would suggest viewing the keynote itself as the changes are very detailed but the interface can be summed up in one word...iTunes.  Basically the cool sidebar and coverflow of iTunes have been cast over the [I thought] confusing sidebar of the original OS X.  Also, the search feature has been expanded to include other Macs in a network and .Mac content. 

There is also new functionality called Quick Look that allows almost any native document to be previewed without actually opening the host program for that document.  This is handy when looking for old documents and needing to look for specific pieces of those documents. 

An exciting little system upgrade note...Leopard is entirely 64 bit and seems to be backward compatible with 32 bit apps.  This is great because it really pushes developers to develop for 64 bit and does not separate the operating system into a 32 bit version and a 64 bit version.  To demonstrate, Steve did a demo showing 32 bit and 64 bit versions of the same program running the same task, side by side.  Aside from the fact that that is a neat trick, the 64 bit version ran much faster.

Running along with the system performance train, Steve introduced the new "core animation" for Leopard, which integrates specific animation packages into Leopard's interface so that application designers need only invoke those packages to produce some really neat effects.  Again, this is a developer conference, so this kind of announcement is really only important to those hoping to design in the Mac format.  That being said, Steve showed off a cool modification of the Apple TV video where he could interactively sort a lot of movies graphically.  It was pretty neat and I think future Leopard users can likely expect more cool stuff of this type in their daily usage.

One of the coolest, though probably predictable, announcements was the integration of Boot Camp into Leopard.  For those who don't know, Boot Camp allows users to dual boot, or switch operating systems on restart, between Mac and Windows.  The beta of this software has been out for some time, but now it will become a fully supported part of the Mac OS.  This step breaks down another obstacle between user conversions from Windows to Mac.  Steve also noted that the virtualization and emulation softwares, VMware and Parallels, will continue to be developed for users who don't quite need to dual boot.

Another cool feature will be Spaces.  This was already announced to some degree, but basically Spaces allows the user to divide their applications into up to four panes that they can switch between.  This way games, music, and other applications can all be in their own dedicated desktop without having to share the space and clutter it.  This is already a feature in many Linux distrobutions (such as Ubuntu, which I'm experimenting with) and AOL's browser has something similar, but seeing it hit a mainstream interface is pretty nifty.

Widgets got a new update.  Safari has had new functionality added to it in order to clip boxes and frames off of the web and turn them into widgets.  Those widgets then stay updated just as though one were visiting the website itself.  Not a huge deal but a nice functionality add-on.

The audio and interface of iChat are both going to be upgraded and now will include tabs.  Also, some of the flashy funtionality from Photo Booth will be added to the video capabilities.  This includes a new backdrop feature that allows for sweet looking "green screen" effects (sans green screen).  Finally, iChat, via Quick Look, will now have the capability to play different types of media that everyone videochatting will be able to see.  That last feature is called iChat Theator.  I've always thought iChat was a cool program because the video aspect is not just a neat option but truely a solid feature with the advent of built in cameras. 

Time Machine might just be the most important change to OS X.  I say this because backing up files is rapidly becoming necessary, yet often complex, process.  Time Machine simply backs-up all files automatically (though the interface for that was not shown) and has an easy graphical interface for finding old files.  The interface uses a combination of Spotlight and Quick Look to enable quick browsing through thousands of historical files.  Best of all, it's all streaming out of a crazy, glowing nebula so as to easy the stress of finding lost stuff. ;)

Well that's it for Leopard, no need to dwell any longer on here's the last two bits:

Safari is on has tabs...they can's being bundled with

Finally, iPhone will allow 3rd party developers to create apps for the iPhone through Safari.  Basically iPhone apps will be compliant AJAX mixed with any other standard Web 2.0 technologies that come along.  They look very similar to the normal applications of the phone, but of course, the require an internet connection, so there could be some limitations down the road.  Here are some of the early apps for live preview.

It should come as no surprise that this was a rather uneventful keynote (like no new hardware announcements or unexpected major updates).  WWDC is all about the developers and often consumer electronics take a backseat and must wait for their own announcements (like what the iPhone will invariably have) or until MacWorld, a truly consumer-oriented event.  Have faith that the iPhone release (on June 29th) will be much more ostentatious than the rather underwhelming WWDC keynote.

Whew!  What a long article.  Well those darn keynotes keep getting longer and longer.  Please leave feedback and any questions you have about these updates.  Also, I'm going to simply list my as of yet unmentioned sources instead of trying to sneak them in parenthetically:
These sites have been very helpful in getting all of the info together.

PS: This is the second version of this article, as the first draft was destroyed by a system crash...hope it turned out as well as the first, though I suppose you'll never know!

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The content of this page is completely the creation and opinion of James Rogers. He is affiliated with Connect Mason and formerly Broadside Online but the relationship only governs republication, not content.

Further, in the interest of full disclosure, this author holds minor financial investments in Apple, Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices.