WWDC08 Keynote – iPhone 3G

> “The best part of WWDC is the post game analysis. And booze.”Michael Lopp

(I’m breaking up my thoughts about the WWDC keynote into multiple posts this year.)

In the post keynote fracas, I was asked by multiple friends if I was upgrading. My answer shocked each and every one – a fairly blasé “no”. One friend shouted over IM that I would soon cave. (I’m taking the reaction as a sad commentary on how I am perceived.)
This isn’t to say the iPhone 3G isn’t a good model; it corrects most of the gripes leveled at the original iPhone. Data speeds are faster, batteries last longer, and it has a true GPS module. The headphone jack is flush, eliminating a market of headphone extenders. The cost of the handset is far cheaper. Hell, it even comes in an additional color. Certainly, if you’re in the market for an iPhone, it’s a great model to start with – just not to upgrade to.

A $200 mobile upgrade is not the most expensive thing in the world – we are talking about a handset that started at $499 – but it’s not a drop in the bucket. That $200 gets you a double data rate, but along with that you’re stuck with an additional $10 a month on your bill. This adds up quickly over the life of your new two year contract extension. The true GPS is nice, but I’ve found the fake GPS to be working fairly well. The extended battery life is not a feature point I can wave away, but collectively, that’s the end of the feature list. All the benefits of the 2.0 software – the app store, app installation, push email support – will be on the first generation handsets as well.

Is all of that worth $200? For once, I can’t say yes. Never mind the newly discovered activation hassles. Never mind what will undoubtedly be new hurdles towards jailbreaking and unlocking (for those into those sorts of things).

The simple conclusion: if you don’t have an iPhone, it’s a fantastic phone to start with. It’s going to be the perfect time to jump in. But if you do have an iPhone, you may want to ponder whether the total cost is worth the fairly small bullet list of features.

WWDC08 Keynote – MobileMe

> “Not wanting to sound like an asshole, Phil, but I use Gmail IMAP and when I read a message on my iPod, it’s read on Gmail too.”Yanik Magnan
(I’m breaking up my thoughts about the WWDC keynote into multiple posts this year.)

Apple has been running .mac as a service since 2000 (when it was known as iTools), and for the first six years, the service was happily functional. But the service has languished over the past two years, with service outages and a lack of compelling reasons to chalk up the $100 a year.

MobileMe is the .mac mulligan. It’s been revamped, with a focus now on pushing data to devices rather than enriching your digital life.

From my own experience, .mac became less valuable not because of the downtime but because of strong alternatives – largely from Google. Gmail trounced .mac mail. Google Calendar edged out iCal. Google Talk has grown more useful that .Mac’s piggybacking on AIM. Flickr creamed the iPhoto integration. You get the picture – free and/or cheap services continued to pop up and outclass .mac on nearly every level.

MobileMe certainly appears to have a compelling interface, but the proof is in the service. Apple has to justify the expense of MobileMe over robust free products, and that’s no small feat, even for Apple. And nothing I read about the demo made it sound $100-compelling.

Apple has already posted a few resources for curious .mac users:

* How to prepare for MobileMe
* What will happen to my email address?
* .Mac to MobileMe transition FAQ

The FAQ reveals the features that are getting cut: Web access to bookmarks (not the end of the world), iCards (one of the very original iTools features, which I strangely loved), .Mac slides (meh), and support for Mac OS X 10.3 Panther sync (which should’ve been dropped a year ago).

It also strikes me as terribly weird to announce this, a very consumer-oriented service, at the Developer’s Conference. Perhaps there will be some sessions about hooking into it via an API – *joy of joys*. But there’s a larger elephant in the room.

While I’m sure there’s some consumers who have bought in that they absolutely *must* have push email so they can get funny forwards from Aunt Millie instantly, where an “Exchange for the rest of us” is really needed is in the (very unsexy) enterprise. Exchange is costly and cumbersome, and Microsoft is raking money in hand-over-fist in CAL fees.

Were Apple playing it smart, they’d be baking the same core technologies – push email, calendar, and address book – behind MobileMe into 10.6 Server. Unfortunately, I’m not entirely convinced Apple is playing it smart here.

For more, Merlin Mann (like clockwork) has some good thoughts on MobileMe.

WWDC08 Keynote – Backgrounding

(I’m breaking up my thoughts about the WWDC keynote into multiple posts this year.)

Apple did, in their usual pretzel of logic way, address the big issue regarding application development: apps that need to function in the background.

In many ways, the proposal (a single connection to Apple’s server handles push notification from servers) does have many benefits, and I can practically recite them off of Scott Forstall’s slides. It will lead to better system performance, help save on battery life, and certainly streamline the networking.

But rewind back to the SDK announcement on March 6th. Remember this slide?

Not three months ago, Apple was touting how superior their Exchange support was to the Blackberry because you didn’t have to go through a server owned by a vendor to gain functionality.

The other shoe certainly seems to have dropped here. Apple is offering to be the intermediary for every app that needs backgrounding, much like RIM is for everyone who wants Blackberry email. With the number of issues RIM has had with their service over the last year, Apple is going to be under high scrutiny if they have similar outages.

Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t nearly as crippling as RIM’s reliance on their cloud servers. I’d rather lose my backgrounding for, say, an IM client than my email. But there are implications for developers, and I don’t even want to think about what this means for enterprises writing apps. I can only hope Apple makes their retention policy very clear.

WWDC08 Keynote – iPhone App Demos

> “Loopt is a location-based social network for douchebags who wear two ill-fitting polo shirts at the same time.”John Gruber

(I’m breaking up my thoughts about the WWDC keynote into multiple posts this year.)

More than any other segment of the keynote, the demonstrations of the applications excited me the most.

* Sega, Super Monkey Ball – One of the sources I was following during the event said the graphics were “as good as the DS”. To me, it looks a lot better than many of the games on the DS. The price point is lower than most of the Super Monkey Ball games, but this one isn’t really grabbing me, probably because I’ve played SMB so many times over the years. (Also: if you’re giggling about the name, you probably still think “Wii” is hilarious.)
* eBay, Auctions – Auctions isn’t much more than a native front end into eBay’s API, but the experience is so well done, I can only hope that other companies can follow eBay’s lead in developing
* Loopt – I fully expect there to be lots of location-aware social networks forming around the iPhone, but I expect Loopt to get a big boost for being featured in the keynote. Hey Dodgeball? You’re on notice.
* Six Apart, Typepad – the TypePad client looks like a simple, clean blogging client. But I’m not a TypePad user; I use MovableType (and Tumblr). I asked Anil Dash if there was any reason the app won’t work with their other products, and I was greeted with a no comment.
* Associated Press, Mobile News Network – it’s truly a thing of beauty to watch the Associated Press innovate within the news space. The citizen journalism things are a thing of beauty. NowPublic? You’re on notice.
* Pangea – I have no great love for Brian Greenstone, although I admire his tenacity for sticking in the Mac software industry for so long. Enigmo looks promising, but Cro-Mag Rally was generally regarded as a poor cart game when it was originally released. Still, to hear that porting apps from OS X was largely painless is good news.
* Cow Music, Band – very interesting music making app, and I look forward to seeing where the iPhone drives music creation tools.
* MLB.com, At Bat – I’m not much for baseball, but kudos to MLB for so quickly integrating nearly real-time video into their box scores. This is a killer app for many of the guys in my office.
* Modality – when Scott said the medical community has been flocking to the iPhone, they aren’t kidding. Modality is not an obscure app – I’ve been told we use it in our curriculum at the medical college. The iPhone is going to be a great platform for building rich educational apps for all curriculums.
* MIMvista – again, seeing these apps make me smile because I know there’s lots of latent interest in the medical community for clinical applications.
* Digital Legends Entertainment, Kroll – the animation style reminds me a bit of *Dragon’s Lair*, although it looks to have slightly more gameplay. I guess we’ll see how it ends up in September.

WWDC08 Keynote – Snow Leopard

> “Man, I should have kept my ‘Mac OS X 10.6 ignored’ square.”John Siracusa

(I’m breaking up my thoughts about the WWDC keynote into multiple posts this year.)

The 10.6 is seen in its natural climate.

For the sake of not wanting to vomit every time I type it, I’m going to refer to Snow Leopard merely as “10.6”.

A mere blip at the start of the Keynote (when Steve says “This morning I’m going to talk about the iPhone”, he *means it*), OS X 10.6 would be talked about only at the OS X State Of The Union. To the chagrin of those who care less about the iPhone, the OSXSOTU is always the first session covered by the NDA that surrounds WWDC.

Luckily, some relief came in the form of a since-deleted press release from Apple. Also, in the time it’s taken me to write this, the official Snow Leopard homepage appeared.

To dissect what we know:

* A technology code-named “Grand Central” will enable developers to more easily leverage multi-core processors. It’s hard to consider this a bad thing, although I haven’t seen a lot of multithreading issues in modern applications (from my very casual viewpoint).
* A technology called “Open Computing Language” (OpenCL) allows developers to tap into the GPU for general processing. It has been “proposed as an open standard”, which is interesting as I can find no information to this effect (and OpenCL was a name formerly used by a Linux cryptography package).
* The theoretical limit on system RAM will be 16TB. So when those 2TB RAM chips come along, OS X will be *so* ready.
* Quicktime X will come bounding along, seemingly destroying hopes for Quicktime 8 or 9 in the meantime. Hopefully “support for modern audio and video formats” indicates that Apple will embrace some of codecs that have been killing Quicktime for what feels like ages.
* Safari will get the recently announced SquirrelFish – but it’s not like you can’t run that and get performance upgrades right this second.
* Exchange support will finally be rolled into Mail, Address Book, and iCal, which is great if you’re in the sort of environment using Exchange. Everyone else may not care so much – but we’ll come back to this.
* “Snow Leopard dramatically reduces the footprint of Mac OS X, making it even more efficient for users, and giving them back valuable hard drive space for their music and photos.” Consider this confirmation that 10.6 will not run on PowerPC. Nothing else is likely to shed that much weight from the OS. I don’t expect Rosetta to die any time soon, much like Classic (technically) will live until 2009.

Lastly, and most smugly satisfying for me, 10.6 is scheduled to ship “in about a year”, which sounds remarkably closer to my August 2009 prediction than TUAW’s “shipping by January 2009”.