WWDC 2009 – OS X 10.6, iPhone 3GS, iPhone OS 3.0, MacBooks

I had the Apple WWDC keynote going in the background as I always do so I can follow the madness as it happens. Overall not terribly shocking. The biggest surprise just came a few weeks earlier than I thought.

MacBook/MacBook Pro/MacBook Air

So the big news in the MacBook world is that they are getting rid of the removable battery in the 15″ model in favor of the 17″ style non-removable battery. A little faster, SD card slot (I guess some people really care about this), and finally going to officially support 8GB RAM across the board. In my opinion supporting 8GB RAM is the biggest improvement. RAM limitations seem to be more problematic than CPU limitations. With Snow Leopard (see below) heavily taking advantage of multiple cores and 64 bit computing, extra RAM won’t just be a luxury, it will be a requirement. There is a reason 4GB is the minimum RAM across the board now. I said months ago they needed to do this.

The MacBooks are also “green”, energy star compliant, etc. etc.

The one downside I see is that the MacBook and MacBook pro line is being blurred quite a bit. The real difference at this point is the graphics chipset. For average users the MacBook will be more than enough. If you’re a power user, the MacBook Pro will be your laptop. With Snow Leopard taking advantage of the GPU for computational purposes, having a good GPU is just another performance boost.

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard

Mac OS X 10.6 as John Grubber aid might be a tough sell to consumers. It’s not very feature packed, at least as far as users are concerned. Most of the changes are under the hood geared towards taking advantage of modern hardware, removing cruft from years of API and design iterations. That’s not going to easily convince consumers to spend $129. As a result for Leopard users it’s $29 (family pack for $49) . That’s a good decision as explaining the advantages of rewriting the Finder in Cocca to an average user won’t be easy. I think the biggest actual feature it has going for it so far is Exchange support, which I don’t think will do too well outside the business world, which was never Apple’s strong point.

On the technology side, I welcome our 64 bit overlords. GrandCentral and OpenCL should really help make software faster, and take advantage of the hardware. This will hopefully spur some innovation. The downside of course it that working the GPU for basic application performance will compromise battery life. Right now it’s easy to conserve battery life by avoiding games which tax the GPU to save battery life. I don’t really know if having lots of apps tax the GPU is really going to help or hurt in that regard, or if there will be a level of user control (turbo mode). My only concern is if the GPU is doing extra work, and isn’t well optimized for power savings, this could get troublesome.

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard is also Intel only. The PowerPC is officially dead now. Kinda stinks for PowerMac G5 users whose computers are still pretty speedy and were expensive, but it’s essential to keeping development sane and forward moving.

Apple’s pricing of Snow Leopard is also going to speed adoption and let developers focus on developing software for 1 OS on one architecture as opposed to multiple OS versions on 2 hardware architectures.

iPhone OS 3.0

Lots of new features, developers have lots of ideas in the works, ships June 17th. Free for iPhone users, $9.99 for iPod touch users. No surprises.

The only interesting software notes are that TomTom will be releasing a turn-by-turn directions app. I expect this to be rather popular as long as it’s not too expensive. There’s also a “Find My Phone” feature for MobileMe customers that is pretty much the “locator” button on your cordless phone and emits sound regardless of your iPhones settings. Kinda handy, useful if you frequently misplace your phone.

Also interesting is AT&T won’t be supporting MMS next week when iPhone OS 3.0 launches. They will start supporting it later this summer. Tethering is also still in the works. This is sure to upset many people. According to Boy Genius Report the MMS delays are due to administrative issues, while the tethering issues are due to the plan still being in development, though I’m guessing they also have concerns about network capacity in NY and SF.

iPhone 3GS

The iPhone 3GS is the new hardware. New insides, same classic exterior. Faster (though no exact specs on hardware) OpenGL|ES 2.0, 7.2Mbps HSPDA, 3 MP auto-focus camera. The camera supports 30 FPS VGA video with audio. There’s also a digital compass, voice control, improved battery life, and data encryption. $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB. $99 for original 8GB model.

This is pretty much what was expected. I think the biggest feature is the camera. The digital compass will be handy for a few people, but for most it will be a pretty meaningless thing.

Until a significant market share is using the 3GS, I question how much developers can take advantage of the extra performance without making their apps useless to the 3G and original iPhone users. This might be a limiting factor.

The bigger news is Apple is keeping the 8GB iPhone 3G as a lower cost option. Apple had to keep the original 3G iPhone on the market to keep growing users during the current economic recession. This is good for growing users… but bad for those who want to keep the user base on the bleeding edge. Those new 3G users will be locked into contracts for 2 years. That means at least 2 more years before the iPhone 3G starts to fade out, not 1 more like most were expecting. I think for many people, the 8GB iPhone 3G is actually the better buy.

Scorecard

  • √ iPhone OS 3.0 Announced (100%) – I was right. Announced, release is next week, GM seed released today.
  • √ iPhone v3 Announced (100%) – I was pretty close here too. Faster, 32GB capacity, better graphics, video support, no radio as many suggested. I said 50% chance of dual cores. Looks like still single core.
  • √ Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Announcement (85%) – Right again. September release.
  • √ Lots of demos (99%) – Right, wish I wasn’t. These just get in the way.
  • X Steve Jobs Appearance (65%) or mention (90%) – I’m surprised of no mention at the end. Not really surprised he didn’t appear.
  • X iLife / some other software upgrade 60% – Didn’t happen.
  • √ MacBook Update – I thought this was more likely for July/August in time for the “back to school” season. I didn’t think they would use WWDC for this announcement. It makes sense for Apple to start now given Snow Leopard being released in a few months. More people on faster laptops with more RAM the better.

Overall not bad. More accurate than previous years.

WWDC 2009 Predictions

As tradition goes, here are my predictions:

  • iPhone OS 3.0 Announced (100%) – Notice I said “announced” not released. Apple last released iPhone OS 3.0 beta 5 on May 25th. I’m suspicious that they won’t just go from beta to final on developers over the course of 2 weeks. I’d expect some sort of release candidate to sit in between. I think we’ll get a solid date. I’d put the odds of a 3.0 official release being available at about 50%. “Public Beta”? It just seems odd for Apple to go from beta to release like that. Apple did release an iTunes upgrade featuring 3.0 compatibility. Mixed messages? Yea. But a GM release seems a little unlikely.
  • iPhone v3 Announced (100%) – Apple will announce the iPhone 3rd Generation. Faster CPU, 50% chance of dual core or larger architectural change, better graphic capabilities, video support, more memory, more storage, same form factor. I think we can realistically see up to 32 GB capacity. Better (3MP+) camera. Battery life improvements will be minimal at best. The iPhone 3G sold well enough with its battery life making the pressing factor CPU performance. I’m also skeptical about radio as audio can be delivered somewhat low-bandwidth over EDGE or 3rd party FM adapter. Also radio/CD combos never really sold that well, and rarely were offered on mp3 players (notably never the iPhone).
  • Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Announcement (85%) – Apple will announce the expected release date down to 1-2 month target for Snow Leopard, solid feature set, preview the latest version and provide new builds.
  • Lots of demos (99%) – Apple seems to love to parade developers on stage to show off their apps. Expect to see tons of iPhone 3.0 apps, perhaps even some “look how much faster/better my app is on Snow Leopard” presentations.
  • Steve Jobs Appearance (65%) or mention (90%) – Legend has it Steve is expected to return to Apple at the end of the month in full capacity. I fully expect him to appear in person before the media to prove he’s looking healthy. There is a decent shot he’ll make some sort of cameo appearance at WWDC 2009. It’s also possible he’ll demo something at a soon to be announced event for a hardware refresh in July/August. I think he’ll at least get a mention and official confirmation he’s coming back at the end of the month.
  • iLife / some other software upgrade 60% – Apple likes to bundle upgrades to any of it’s less notable software products into larger announcements so that they get some media attention “also announced was…”, even if it’s a footnote. Because of that, I think there’s a notable chance they will announce some upgrade.

It’s mainly a software event, so I don’t expect any more hardware than iPhone 3.0. I think overall it won’t be as explosive as last year when App Store launched. Then again… Apple may have a trick or two up its sleeves. We’ll know Monday.

WWDC 2008 Analysis

iPhone 3G

The Presentation

As usual I keep tabs on all the major Apple events using pretty much all the top tech sites that run “live blogs” and the like. This year none failed completely though I think they all were overcome with traffic at one point resulting in a failed load attempt. Not bad. This year I threw twitter into the mix. That was pretty interesting itself. Kevin Rose pointed out a decent audio feed. I did this in the background while I worked.

One thing I did note is that the parade of iPhone Apps got pretty painful after a while. Just wanted to yell out “we get it… cool apps built quickly… move on!”. For those who were following along at home, my predictions were mostly right (yay me!).

iPhone 3G

To me, this was really what the announcement was all about, and I’ll explain why a little later. The obvious big gain is the performance of 3G. This will win over a lot of people who just couldn’t imagine paying that much and surfing the web with EDGE. Another awesome addition is GPS support. It’s notable since geolocation is the “next big thing” [I should note update GeoLocateFox… I was ahead of my time]. I suspect there may be a few other goodies under the hood of this new iPhone that have yet to be revealed due to the suspected chipset. If Apple doesn’t unleash the full power, hackers will. Rest assured.

The real big thing here is that the phone is now much cheaper with a much more reasonable amount of storage on board. $299 for the 16GB model and $199 for the 8GB model. This is substantial for a few reasons. Besides obviously saving some cash, it makes the phone suddenly a possibility for people who would have never shelled out the original sticker price.

AT&T’s pricing looks to be $30 for unlimited data. The cheapest Voice/Data combo you could do would be $69/mo. That’s $10 more than it was for the first generation. Presumably that will help curb the cost of the massive 3G upgrades they are doing and subsidizing the iPhone’s hardware costs.

iPhone Apps

Pretty impressive demos from the screenshots I’ve seen. I’m really interested in more basic stuff should I get an iPhone. SSH, FTP, Email that doesn’t suck. I’d prefer to read/write office docs, but I guess I can always use something like Google Docs, which I’m sure will support the iPhone at some point if it doesn’t already.

Rather disgusted that I haven’t seen anything really change in terms of Application distribution or licensing. Apple is still very prohibitive of what it will allow. Don’t hold your breath on Firefox or Java anytime soon.

Apple will let you distribute Apps for free (how kind of them), but you still need to pay $99 to provide a free Application:

Standard Program $99
The Standard Program is for developers who are creating free and commercial applications for iPhone and iPod touch.

How about no charge for Applications with an OSI approved license Apple? Seems fair. No charge, and you get more software to make your ecosystem look more attractive.

Strikes me as pretty lame that a developer needs to pay $99 so Apple will let others use software for free.

  1. Disable download/install functionality.
  2. Charge $99 to distribute applications, even if they are free.
  3. Profit!

MobileMe

I was wrong regarding the use of MobileMe. Sadly it still doesn’t seem to fit the bill for something worth $99. Google provides most of the functionality pretty nicely. I suspect Google Calendar will get some iPhone sync love in the near future. In my opinion would have been better to just partner with Google and offer something really awesome and let Google monetize it. I suspect they didn’t do this because of the whole Android thing.

Jailbreak

Jailbreak is far from dead. The SDK isn’t open enough to kill off Jailbreak. Expect it to live on an coincide with Apple’s efforts for some time to come.

Mac OS X 10.6

Damn you NDA… would someone start leaking the goods 😉 . There’s some basic info out there, but nothing really juicy yet.

Photo Courtesy of Apple

Me.com DNS Queries

I decided to take another look at me.com, the eve before we all expect a launch at WWDC2008. It’s still using marksmonitor.com for DNS.

TTL

The TTL is still set to 28800 (8 hours). I think this will drop before 2:00 AM PST (5:00 AM EST) if they are planning to offer email service to users so that it can propegate. Also note last update was June 4 2008.

me.com.                 85673   IN      SOA     ns1.markmonitor.com. eddingsk.apple.com. 2008060411 28800 7200 604800 86400

Akamaized

The www CNAME record is already pointing to Akamai (which Apple uses quite a bit). There is currently no A record for me.com (The me.com A record can’t point to Akamai since their service is delivered via a CNAME).

www.me.com.             591     IN      CNAME   www.me.com.edgesuite.net.
www.me.com.edgesuite.net. 18591 IN      CNAME   a1917.g.akamai.net.
a1917.g.akamai.net.     20      IN      A       8.15.32.42
a1917.g.akamai.net.     20      IN      A       8.15.32.9

No mx records yet

There’s still no mx records yet. This is interesting since it’s already pointing at Akamai’s EdgeSuite, yet it doesn’t have mx records. Why only halfway setup DNS?

mobileme.com

There is no DNS info to be found for mobileme.com. This makes me think that Apple may not intend to launch this product tomorrow. Perhaps they just don’t want it to land in the hands of squatters? Backup domain (in case they couldn’t have me.com)?

mac.com

The TTL for mac.com is set to 1880 (30 minutes). That was originally very surprising until I noticed the serial was May 16 2008. I suspect Apple always keeps it low so that they can make changes on the fly (given their past email problems, makes sense).

mac.com.                4106    IN      SOA     nserver.apple.com. hostmaster.apple.com. 2008051601 1800 600 1209600 7200

Conclusions

There’s nothing very damning here. If anything I’d conclude mobileme.com is possibly/likely not a product, just trying to keep the squatters at bay. I think more may be revealed early tomorrow morning as Apple starts to prep for launch. Unless the security team at Apple decides to wait until post-announcement to start up the site. I guess we’ll see soon enough.

WWDC 2008 Predictions

And the a tradition continues. Here’s my predictions for WWDC 2008. Steve Jobs will announce the following:

iPhone 3G

Well duh. At this point if it’s not at least announced, Apple’s stock is going to tank. There’s a ton of stuff to back this up including AT&T telling employees not to take vacation in the near future. And mystery shipments of presumed iPhones. I’ve got a good idea what the technical specs will likely be.

AT&T Subsidy

AT&T will likely subsidy the new iPhone when purchased with a 2 year contract to help lower the price and encourage more people to buy it. This is looking even more likely as the economy declines and potential buyers may now be more hesitant.

.mac to become me.com and mobileme.com

.mac will finally die and be replaced with me.com and mobileme.com. I suspect mobileme.com will be free for iPhone users. me.com may be paid if Apple does it in-house, or free if they contract the functionality out to someone like Google (which is likely).

Mac OS X 10.6 Insights

I don’t think we’ll see it until at least late 2009, more likely early 2010, and I doubt Steve will suggest any faster of a timeline. Remember after 10.3 the plan was slower OS releases. I suspect it will stay that way. I don’t think Apple likes the idea of two Mac OS X branches, the mobile and desktop one. I suspect 10.6 will be an effort to “unify” the platform at least from a marketing perspective. Starting from WWDC 2008 onwards I suspect a “Mac OS X powered phone” will be more common branding. Again Apple’s goal is to sell computers. Using the iPhone as a method to sell the desktop experience is pretty obvious. But what does that mean for the OS? Likely a lot of focus on things like Sync, the future of tech (64bit, multi-core, intel) and blurring the distinction between phone and computer. I don’t think we’ll see much more than a little eye candy and some buzz words considering we’re not far from Leopards release. Just enough to get the press talking about it.

New Desktops / Laptops

I don’t think Apple plans any desktop/laptop announcements just yet, I suspect they will hold off until August as tradition. At that point pretty much all of Apple’s computer lines are due for a major overhaul. I suspect the MacBook Pro may be the first to experience a major design change. Apple desperately needs a mid-range tower to build more market share as the Mac mini is under powered and the Mac Pro is very expensive. If anything is announced I suspect it will be just that.

Special Guests

No idea who the special guests will be. If the new iPhone is based on Atom, I suspect an Intel Exec. Other than that, really don’t know. Likely an iPhone developer or two will make an appearance during the iPhone Apps part. No clue on musical guest.

So there you have it. We’ll see Monday what I got right.

.mac To Become Me.com And MobileMe.com

A few days ago, various websites noted a change in the recently released Mac OS X 10.5.3 that Apple replaced hard coded references of .mac with a variable, as if they plan to change the name at some point in the near future (WWDC 2008 is just around the corner).

Now it appears Apple owns me.com and mobileme.com. The SOA records confirm me.com, though not mobileme.com is owned by Apple. The timing and name strongly suggest the same owner. MarkMonitor.com manages domains for most of the large tech companies including Apple, so that’s to be expected. Remember Apple owned iPhone.org for ages before actually launching the iPhone, so it’s not impossible that this is just a strategic purchase and has nothing to do with a WWDC 2008 announcement.

;; QUESTION SECTION:
;me.com.                                IN      SOA

;; ANSWER SECTION:
me.com.                 77583   IN      SOA     ns1.markmonitor.com. eddingsk.apple.com. 2008052918 28800 7200 604800 86400

;; Query time: 16 msec
;; SERVER: 68.87.64.146#53(68.87.64.146)
;; WHEN: Sun Jun  1 22:17:29 2008
;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 91

Considering the tight relationship between Google and Apple thanks at least in part to a certain someone, one must wonder if .mac will be replaced by a Google powered service. Google already offers pretty much the entire product line. It might make sense for Apple to just outsource the .mac operation to Google. Apple initially planned for .mac to be partially free (and it was initially), but costs forced it to be a paid only service. Letting Google power it, would undoubtedly be cheaper since Google has an ability to scale is unrivaled.

I’ve got to put together a better list of predictions before WWDC 2008 (as tradition requires). But this is likely one of them.

WWDC 2007

Here’s my take on WWDC happenings for this year. These must be fun to be at. Especially in recent years with all the buzz about Apple. Yes this is a long post, but this is one of the big events of the year for developers and Mac users. Being a web developer with some software orientation, and a Mac user, it’s highly relevant. So here we go…

General

  • Webcast – Once upon a time Apple used to webcast the big events, why has this gone away? In the age of video, why has Apple exited? They used to claim records for it. Thankfully many websites post live updates of what’s going on (even with images) to keep those not fortunate enough to attend informed.
  • Apple Redesign – To accompany the announcements they redesigned the site a bit, redoing the tabs on the top that have been there forever with a more modern look, it’s also only top level sections now. Looks like the site is powered by prototype.

Mac OS X Leopard

Leopard

  • Stacks – Awesome. This has a slight resemblance to the old “Launcher” Control Panel, but much better.
  • Finder Cover FlowThe new finder looks sweet, likely useful for images, but little else. For some reason I don’t think sorting through spreadsheets and word documents (or source code) is going to be that great. I could be wrong. PDF support is a nice touch though. I wonder if it will read iTunes data for mp3’s and use the right cover art, or just show an generic mp3 graphic.
  • Search other Mac’s over Spotlight – Cool, but having cross platform support would be even better. And much more attractive for “switchers” and those who use dual platforms on a daily basis.
  • Leopard 64bit – Hopefully this won’t result in compatibility problems (they claim it won’t). Other than that… sweet. Oh wait, I have a G4 Mac Mini at home. Blasted!
  • Quick Look – Another sweet enhancement. Hopefully the delay in slower computers won’t be to the point where the word “Quick” is like a cruel joke.
  • Core AnimationCore Animation is awesome. I do wonder what this does to battery life on laptops. I wonder if this will be like Aero is to Windows Vista, and known as a battery sucking waste. I hope it’s at least able to be disabled, or ideally automatically scaled back when on battery.
  • New Bootcamp – Nothing really groundbreaking here. Just hope it can be done so Parallels or VMWare can share the same install as Bootcamp.
  • Spaces – I’ve loved this on Linux for a long time. I’m glad to see Apple adopting it. I think Mac users who haven’t used it before will really appreciate it.
  • Dashboard Widgets – I’m a moderate widget user. I’ll be spending more time with them in the near future as both a developer and a user. I think we can have some fun together.
  • iChat – Do people still use that? I guess some do for the video part, though I wonder how many know others with such a setup, and the bandwidth/willingness to use it. I would have thought Adium would have destroyed it’s market share a long time ago. That said I WANT the R2D2 Leia projection.
  • Time Machine – This is a great utility. Really nice. I wonder if Apple will start making dual hard drive computers standard and push for using 1 dedicated for backup. Considering the price of disks, I wouldn’t be too surprised. Notable exception being laptops.
  • Pricing – $129 for 1 license, $199 for family pack (5 licenses). That’s a great deal. A 5 pack for less than Vista. Actually a little less, since I can get a corporate discount as many can through their employer, or if your in school through them. So when are pre-orders taken?

Safari

Safari 3.0

  • “Most innovative browser” – Really? Yea, your tabs are really innovative. Never seen that before. Ooh extensions? No that’s a Firefox thing. Tabs aren’t innovative for several years now, they are in every application/website on the net. They were innovative in 2000. Safari has a minimal UI. Sell simplicity not innovation.
  • On Windows – My testing showed it to be fairly stable on windows, and pretty fast. Looks like it uses NPAPI so it uses any plugin Firefox or Opera uses. Overall very easy for most web developers to support. Only bad thing will be developers who assumed Safari was Mac OS X only when sniffing the User Agent. I don’t think there are too many cases like this, but those could cause problems.
  • Widget Theming – This is what I was most curious about. Safari does use Mac widgets for buttons and other form inputs. I presume this was done to keep things as consistent as possible across browsers. Looks a little strange on Windows, but not bad. Then again, I’m a Mac guy.
  • Security – I have a feeling this will make it much more of a target to hackers. So far Safari has faired pretty well. I guess we’ll see.
  • Anti-Aliasing – Very well done!

iPhone

  • App Development – Didn’t get a clear picture if apps all run online or are run offline. If they are offline, that makes for 3 current offline support specs. IMHO that’s a disaster in the making. I’d like to learn more about this though. This could be a lot of fun. Perhaps by 2nd Gen or 3rd Gen I’ll get an iPhone and play.
  • Google Development – Mention of Google developing apps this way. I guess it is possible/likely to see YouTube featured on the iPhone. I’m pretty certain GMail and Google Reader will be supported.