Posts Tagged ‘WWDC’

This would be a more permanent home.

June 18, 2009

Alas, I think my server isn’t going to be revived any time soon. And I really feel like kicking myself for not keeping backups of my files on the server – now my entire archives (2 years worth of posts) are likely to be gone forever (I have asked my server admin to try to get me a backup of the files, but chances aren’t high). Hopefully, I would have another account on a new server, but meanwhile, this is going to be my new blog. Give me a few weeks to tidy up the stuff around here and start filling in the appropriate content – this is the middle of my exam preparation period after all.

Meanwhile, you can read my review of the WWDC Keynote [vid link] a while back. (Note: This was first posted as a note on Facebook, so the relative time is different.)

The much awaited WWDC 2009 keynote was presented by Phil Schiller (Senior VP of Worldwide Product Marketing) about a day ago. It’s available as a Quicktime stream for now and should soon be available in the Apple Events Podcast Series. But for those that do not wish to spend 2 hours watching the presentation, here’s a rundown on what’s new at Apple.

Laptop Refreshes
The 13″ aluminum unibody MacBook has been promoted to MacBook Pro. Which kind of makes sense, since it looked really out of place under the MacBook line which are plastic-bodied. And now, the entire MacBook Pro line features an integrated battery just like the 17″ unibody MacBook Pro, which allows the battery to power the 15″ and 13″ laptops for 7 hours straight, up from the previous 5 hours. However, how the battery performs under real usage remains to be seen. And personally, I am no big fan of integrated batteries. Even though Apple claims that the integrated battery allows up to 1000 recharge cycles before it begins losing its charge, the inability to remove it means that it may begin losing its ability to hold charge before the 2 years (as claimed by Apple) if you constantly plug it to a power source when using it (such as when using it at home) as constantly charging a full battery would render it useless pretty soon (as I found out with my previous battery, and that’s the reason why I remove my battery when using my MBP at home). Another thing that bugs me with the MBP line refresh is that the base 15″ MBP no longer comes with a dedicated graphics card, which is quite ridiculous. Many users opt for the base 15″ MacBook Pro over a MacBook as it offers a dedicated graphics card, and removing it is not a good move. Of course, the dedicated card is still available in higher end configurations of the 15″ MBP, but really, it would be good to see it in the base configuration or even the newly promoted 13″ MBP. Other new hardware features include an SD card slot, replacing the ExpressCard slot in the previous 15″ MBPs, for both the 15″ and 13″ models. Smart move, considering that majority of the users don’t make use of the ExpressCard Slot, The 17″ model still comes with the ExpressCard slot so that Pro users can use it for high end audio extensions (as stated by Phil), but it sounds as though Apple was either too lazy or had no time to put the SD card slot in. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a product refresh with a SD card slot on the 17″ MBP soon as well (I am guessing it would accompany the ExpressCard, rather than replace it). And what lines refreshes are complete without a processor bump and a price drop? But the cool thing is that Apple decided to spread the joy to the MacBook Air as well, with price drops (rather drastic) and spec bumps. After the announcements today, I am thinking that it would be more practical to get a iMac/Mac Pro for work at home and a MacBook Air for mobile use, rather than just using a MacBook Pro.

Snow Leopard
This is one of the most anticipated part of the presentation – at least for me. The announcement of the next operating system in the Mac OS X series was done by Bertrand Serlet, the VP of Mac OS X team. I digress, but I find him very amusing, thanks to his heavy French accent and repeated jabs at the Windows Operating System. But anyway, the most significant updates in Snow Leopard are probably Grand Central Dispatch, Quicktime X, Safari 4, changes to the dock and Handwriting recognition for multi-touch trackpads.

Grand Central Dispatch
Such a grand sounding name (sorry for the pun) for something that is supposed to let the end user make full use of the multiple cores present in the processors. Nothing really interesting for the end user, though it means faster computing power if it is well implemented. But what’s more interesting to me is actually OpenCL, which is a programming framework that allows ordinary applications to tap into the raw processing power of graphics card. While probably not many applications would use OpenCL when Snow Leopard first launches, it could be a huge increase in processor efficiency once widely adopted (at least in concept).

Quicktime X
Quicktime X is the next version of Quicktime. The first thing end users would probably notice is actually the interface overhaul, from the metallic brush interface to a HUD like interface, with fade in/out controls and even title bars so that users could “focus on the content rather than the interface”. However, I am a little skeptical as to how the desktop would look like with a movie playing without a title bar. But beyond the interface revamp, they have apparently decided to let consumers access features that were previously only in the Pro version, such as trimming of clips etc. Some new features include integration with MobileMe and Youtube (making it a viable alternative to iMovie for quick and basic movie editing) and even HTTP streaming.

Safari 4
Safari 4 brings with it even better support for HTML 5 due to the updated Webkit version. But besides the change in the underpinning engines, it also features a few welcome changes for the end user. First of all, Top Sites. Top Sites allows you to easy access frequently visited sites from a beautiful panel – somewhat like Speed Dial in Opera, just a hell lot more gorgeous. As an added bonus, a blue star denotes that the site has been updated since the last visit. Next up, Full History Search and Cover Flow. With Safari 4, Cover Flow (Apple is really obsessed with this, and yet I don’t see it where it is needed most – iPhoto) is brought to Safari to make it easier to manage browsing history and favorites. However, I think that this is pretty much just eye candy, except the part where it integrates with Full History Search to provide a live preview of previously visited sites. Full History Search also allows you to search text within previously visited webpages, though I wonder if that would cause an excessively huge search cache. And of course, speed bumps thanks to the new JavaScript Nitro Engine. It is currently available, though it features an extra feature in Snow Leopard – plugin isolation to make it “crash-resistant”.

Changes to the Dock
2 major changes to the dock are in store. First of which is Expose integrated into the dock, which activates when the user presses and hold an application’s icon on the dock. I suppose this is Apple’s answer to Aero Peek in Windows 7. Definitely a welcome feature, and from the demo, it really smooth out daily workflows such as sending an attachment. The second change to the dock that is really nice is the ability for delve into subfolders in Stacks itself and scrolling support for folders with lots of files inside. Good thinking, Apple.

Hand Writing Recognition
Forget about using tablets to write Chinese characters. This can now be done with the mutli-touch trackpads included with the newer laptop models (one more reason for me to upgrade my laptop). And this is done with a nice HUD interface, very similar to the handwriting recognition interface on the iPhone.

All in all, Snow Leopard was actually kind of disappointing, compared to the amount of innovation and love that went into Leopard. It seems more like an extension to Leopard rather than a stand alone new operating system, and even Apple seems to be marketing it that way, with the low price for existing Leopard users to upgrade to the new OS. Contrast that with the upcoming Windows 7, which features lots of new innovative features from Redmond, Washington.

iPhone OS 3.0
This was actually announced way back in March, and a release date has been finally set – June 17th. In fact, a Golden Master build has already been released to developers (For the uninitiated, the commercial releases are often just clones of the GM Build). Nothing new really, pretty much just repeating what was said back in March. However, one feature wasn’t mentioned back in March (as far as I remember) is actually tethering, which allows your computer to share the iPhone’s 3G/GPRS/EDGE connection via either Bluetooth or the USB Cable, meaning that one can access the Internet pretty much anywhere with a cellular signal (with a hefty data usage bill unless you subscribe to a data plan). And Singtel is actually one of the carriers that would support the new feature upon 3.0’s release. Now is a really good time for me to get a proper data plan.

iPhone 3G S
I shall skim and save this section for another day. It’s getting late.

Anyway, I would be reviewing the Snow Leopard Beta Build and iPhone 3.0 (I would update when the jailbreak is available) soon, so watch out for that.

Till next time,