Apple at WWDC: meh

Another year, another high-profile Steve Jobs keynote… is it just me or was it pretty dull? Yes, the Mac Pro is a beast of a machine, but it was hardly unexpected; meanwhile the Leopard demo was interesting but never made me go “woo!” Virtual desktops? Nice enough. Email stationery? Erm… Animated backdrops for video chat? System restore? The changes to Mail and Spotlight look interesting, but the Leopard demo left me with the same feeling I have about Vista: looks nice, and that’s about it. I’m wondering about the “top secret” stuff Jobs said he couldn’t talk about just yet, and hoping those mysterious things have the wow factor I’m missing here. Or at least, I hope there’s an improved Finder.

It’s also a bit cheeky to take pops at Microsoft when one of your key features, Time Machine, replicates the Windows program GoBack (originally centerprise, then Roxio, now Symantec), which has been kicking around since at least 2000… and is Apple going to get nailed by the fanboys for the Vista-style shipping delay? Leopard was due for a 2006 release, and now it’s going to be 2007.

Maybe things will get more interesting next month, when – if the rumours are correct – we’ll see some changes in iPod/iTunesland.

21 thoughts on “Apple at WWDC: meh

  1. Stephen says:

    Yeah, I was hoping for a full-screen video iPod (ie one where the screen fills the whole face, and has touch controls) but I would settle for the Mac Pro if I could scrape together the cash…

    I’m a bit leery of OS X updates since Tiger was a bit of a disappointment; I’m pretty happy with OS X as it is, to be honest, a good Finder would be enough for me to be completely happy.

  2. Gary says:

    Ach, you expect a bit of MS-bashing at an Apple developer event. Still, it does come off as rather smug.

    I’m swithering about the Mac Pro. My PowerBook really needs an update, and obviously a MacBook Pro is ideal for that – but a Mac Pro’s cheaper for more power. I suspect the final decision won’t be so much financial as practical, because my office is a converted broom cupboard and there’s already a tower under the desk (and a powerbook plus two TFTs, two keyboards, two mice and two phones on top of the desk). There’s barely room for my coffee, let alone a big Mac.

  3. Stephen says:

    I don’t know if it’s smug: if the rest of the world make fun of MS for the Vista delay, it would be odd if Apple didn’t mention it. They’re not just calling MS on the delay, anyway, but also on the copying issue. And I did find the “PC guy”s introduction to the keynote pretty funny…

    The desktop-laptop issue is always a difficult one. My PowerBook sits on a stand with an external keyboard for 99.9% of its life, which makes it seem like I should get a desktop, but it is nice to have the portability for that 0.1% of the time (especially when going away). But I suppose that having the laptop now means I could use it as backup for a desktop setup; it’s by no means unusable, just falling a bit behind the curve.

    Not defending the level of discourse, but the Leander Kahney article didn’t describe the keynote I saw. None of the audience reactions seemed forced, unlike the negative tone of the article. To me it seemed of a piece with his campaign to talk down Steve Jobs (remember the “Jobs doesn’t give to charity” article?)

  4. Squander Two says:

    > To me it seemed of a piece with his campaign to talk down Steve Jobs

    OK, so I’ve never followed any of the history of this, but what he said was that Jobs has always had amazingly hypnotic presence and charisma, apart from just this one time. If someone ever describes me that way, I shan’t be complaining that they’re talking me down.

  5. Gary says:

    I wouldn’t put Kahney in the mac-bashing camp; if anything, I’ve found the occasional piece by him a little too pro-Apple. And in this case I think he’s got a point: it wasn’t a typically mesmeric Jobs performance.

    > They’re not just calling MS on the delay, anyway, but also on the copying issue.

    True, but file versioning’s in vista and system restore was in Windows Me, the changes to Spotlight are similar to launchbar, Quicksilver etc; Virtual desktops have been around for ages (as shareware, on linux and as a Windows XP powertoy); Ichat’s presentations are clearly inspired by… etc etc etc. It’s a bit cheeky to talk about copying when you’re doing summat similar yourself. It’s causing a bit of grumbling in the development community.

  6. Stephen says:

    Firstly, saying Time Machine is like System Restore is like saying Expose is the same as Show Desktop. Secondly, even where the basic idea (virtual desktops) isn’t new, that’s not the point. The point with Apple is never that it’s new stuff: iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player, it was the first one done right. Same with Time Machine. The current state of backup is clumsy and difficult to use to restore specific files, and is on the whole modeled on server backup, which isn’t tailored to how people use their personal machines. Time Machine is just an intuitive, obvious-with-hindsight way to deal with the backup problem. System Restore is a way to make the registry and DLL hell a bit less painful. Nothing more.

    Again with virtual desktops: not a new idea, but the Apple implementation is superb. Seeing all four desktops in overlay, and then dragging between them: genius. The Powertoy was nothing more than an automated way to hide and show windows. And MS should ask themselves why all the halfway cool Windows stuff is in the Powertoys anyway.

    The point about copying in the presentation went mainly to look and feel, and names, and it’s clear that MS has been “inspired” on these fronts.

  7. Gary says:

    Firstly, saying Time Machine is like System Restore is like saying Expose is the same as Show Desktop.

    True, but I’d already mentioned GoBack in the main post. Saying Time Machine is like GoBack is like saying Dashboard is like Konfabulator or that Sherlock is like Watson ;-)

    > iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player, it was the first one done right.

    I’d disagree with that. I reviewed the first-gen iPod against some others, and the creative DAP jukebox was better. Bulkier, sure, but more useful, better sounding and better value for money. And unlike the iPod, it worked on PCs.

    What Apple brought to the party, IMO, was great design and really inspired marketing.

    > The point with Apple is never that it’s new stuff

    Tell that to the fanboys. Seriously. Some of them rather scarily believe that apple has invented everything in the world, when any sensible Apple-watcher knows that the firm’s particular genius is in refining things, making them “just work” and making them cool. So I maintain that the redmond photocopying thing is rather cheeky.

  8. Stephen says:

    I’m not familiar with GoBack but according to Wikipedia it “can record up to 8Gb of disk changes. When the filesystem is idle for a few seconds, it marks these as “safe points”. The product allows the disk drive to be reverted to any safe point. It does this by effectively undoing all changes made to the disk since the safe point.” So saying Time Machine is like GoBack is to do Time Machine a disservice: GoBack just “undo” for the hard drive. Time Machine lets you go back to a previous state, grab a particular file, and then revert to current. Plus GoBack doesn’t provide any actual backup, so if your hard drive dies, that’s it.

    The Creative DAP may have been “more useful and better value for money” but that’s not what I meant by “done right”: I meant the first player to be part of a complete package, so that it was as easy to get music onto it as to play it, and with simple but intuitive controls.

    You can’t hold me to what “the fanboys” say: I’m not one, I’ve never said that Apple invented everything, and I’ve always said that what Apple do best is making technology easy, simple and fun to use. From the first time I opened the Apple ][ tutorial manual, and found that it was written by a human being for another human to read and enjoy, that’s what Apple has always been for me. And it’s that bit that MS copies. They can’t ever get that bit right, so they produce “slightly variant” copies of look and feel, names, logos etc. (The “winlogo in Aqua” is classic.) And that’s the only bit of the keynote that dealt with Redmond photocopying: pointing out the similarities in the look and feel of Vista to past versions of OS X.

  9. Gary says:

    > So saying Time Machine is like GoBack is to do Time Machine a disservice: GoBack just “undo” for the hard drive.

    Wikipedia isn’t describing the full product, then. GoBack enables per-file resurrection, as does/did PowerQuest’s Second Chance. The point? This stuff isn’t new, no matter how shiny the Apple approach.

    > I meant the first player to be part of a complete package, so that it was as easy to get music onto it as to play it, and with simple but intuitive controls.

    It *was* easy to get music onto a DAP. Just not legally :) The only kit that was hard to get music onto was the Sony network walkman, which could have sucked the moon out of orbit.

    > You can’t hold me to what “the fanboys” say: I’m not one, I’ve never said that Apple invented everything

    …and I’m not accusing you of any of those things.

    > And that’s the only bit of the keynote that dealt with Redmond photocopying

    I didn’t say Keynote, I said WWDC – so I’m including the posters.

  10. Stephen says:

    OK, this increasingly nit-picking point-by-point argument is getting, er, pointless, so I’m going to leave it here. I think it’s time to do my own WWDC keynote post… ;-)

  11. Stephen says:

    OK, you want more??

    >The point? This stuff isn’t new, no matter how shiny the Apple approach.

    I didn’t say it’s new. Apple didn’t say it’s new. The copying point applies only to Apple’s “shiny”, integrated approach. Does GoBack look like Time Machine? Does it work seamlessly with every application, or does it work like a standalone app? If not, Apple isn’t copying in the same way they accuse Redmond of copying.

    >I didn’t say Keynote, I said WWDC – so I’m including the posters.

    I don’t think the posters advance your argument here.

  12. Stephen says:

    Well, I did think I was starting to take it too seriously; bit of a bad day yesterday on the DNS front, got a bit too stressed. But I’m not really a fanboy, honest… ;-)

  13. Gary says:

    Yeah, it’s a fair point. I think to an extent Macwatchers have been spoilt with previous WWDCs, so for example last year’s intel stuff was major headline news. To an extent I think we’re so used to Apple announcing Really Big Things whenever they do anything public there’s a palpable air of disappointment if they don’t.

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