Apple WWDC 2013 First Thoughts

iOS 7

I sat down last night to watch the live keynote (much preferable to reading live blog feeds and then watching it later) and it was great fun. Good to see Apple still able to poke fun at the competition, but WTF was that [Anki]( demo at the beginning? If it had gone smoothly it would have been one thing, although to be honest I didn’t quite get the appeal of watching my iPhone/iPad play with toy cars. 30 seconds of cringeworthy messing to get the thing working is sooo not how Apple run their demos. Fortunately the tech was a bit of fun, and they managed to finish on a humorous note which largely got past the awkwardness.

So what did we get?

## OS X ‘Mavericks’

Hmm. Not sure I like the name, I wasn’t exactly expecting another ‘Lion’ themed name, but I’m not sure they’ve selected a naming system that reflects the international nature of their products. Even Craig Federighi seemed to trying to be ironic about it. If you want to start picking Californian places as a naming convention, why on earth not start with ‘Cupertino’?

As for features, that was mostly to be expected. Tabbed finder (interesting in that the file system has been hidden in other new technologies like iCloud), and spaces working with multiple display setup and full screen apps. About time. Under the hood improvements for better battery life, of course we all appreciate that. Not much in the way of new OS features, this looks a bit more like a maintenance release than the start of something new which the name change suggests. Reports of OS X devs being shifted to iOS suggest that maybe Apple had to go where the money is.

## Macbook Air

A welcome refresh to the Macbook Air. This is definitely a machine worthy of consideration by most. It’s just gone up my agenda by more than a notch. Not at all surprised that they given priority to battery life and performance over retina displays. Getting 12 hours out of laptop is outrageously nice to have. I can see one of these coming in very handy in the motorhome very soon!

## Mac Pro

This certainly had a lot of the Apple of old about it. It’s a very nice looking piece of kit, in much the same way the old Mac Pro was when it was introduced, but the blow away moment was the size when shown in context to the old Pro. But that will piss off many people because its going to be total non-expandable, non-upgradable. It better be cheap, but going by the specs, I wouldn’t mind seeing a £2000+ price tag for a base model. Consider that you will probably have to spend another £500+ to get an acceptable amount of storage using older SATA Hard Drives, and this is definitely going to be a device for people with deep pockets, but then that is who its aimed at, and the Mac Pro has never been particularly budget conscious.

## iOS 7

More than I was expecting, much more. Whilst I’m a fan of the flatter aesthetic, I wasn’t really putting much money on this at this stage, and actually I’m quite disappointed that Appel haven’t gone for something a little more distinctive. Theres a lack of personality in the font choices, and its not just me, the app icons just look a bit sick. Much of what is there does seem a little samey, but then perhaps that’s because iOS was overdue a UI refresh, and I think its telling that it took an ousting of Scott Forstall before this came about. It sounds like there was something of a battle internally for something new which was held off whilst Steve Jobs was still in charge, and once he was gone, Forstall didn’t have the chops to defend the status quo. I don’t think there is any doubt however that the look of iOS 7 has been in the pipeline for more than the 8 months that Jony Ive has taken responsibility. No doubt he would have pushed for certain refinements and strategic directions, but given how thorough the new look appears to be, I think they’ve been playing with UI changes for some time. No doubt the Appearance API’s in iOS 6 were the foundation of that work.

## iWork in the Cloud

This isn’t the sort of thing that most people would have asked for as a priority for new cloud services. This seems more to do with trying to combat the pervasiveness of Google’s services, and I’m sure the developer audience groaned on seeing this and not some very overdue fixes to Core Data syncing in iCloud, and the ability to share regular files between apps and devices.

## iTunes Radio

Apple’s own take on Pandora, Last FM and Spotify, and probably way too late and much too conservative. Not that is Apple’s fault entirely, but the stupid, prehistoric attitude of the music industry.

## The Takeaway

It was a more entertaining keynote than usual, there are some real new products here, but I think we are starting to see the emergence of the post-Jobs era for Apple. The detailed plans that Jobs had anything to do with are now out of the bag, and what is now emerging are things that were generalised concepts in his last days, and have probably had significant changes in the implementation. I strongly suspect that the Mac Pro had a significant amount of input from Jobs, its just too reminiscent of the past, but that may be as much to do with the engineering team who were always well aligned with his thoughts. I’m quite disappointed that this wasn’t a modular system that scaled from Mac Mini to Mac Pro. Was that really that hard to do?

iOS 7 will grow in time, but I do think that the redesign has too much of a ‘me too’ about it, and not enough that is distinct. Whilst the desire for a refresh would have come from combatting the growth of Android, I’m not sure that anything there is sufficiently different from Android. The power of iOS comes from the fantastic ecosystem, and it will be interesting to see how much backward compatibility there is in the new UI for existing apps without requiring developers to make significant changes to adopt the new UI.

The most useful thing for me was the changes to the Macbook Air – I’m still window shopping for a new machine to consolidate my existing machines. I’m serious impressed that my Mac Pro and Macbook are 6 years old and still going strong, but I do need something that is more power efficient and portable as I move from a desk to a motorhome for my working and living environment.

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