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6/13/2007
08:51 AM
John C. Welch
John C. Welch
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At Apple's WWDC: Keynote Speakers Are Being Careful

For anyone expecting truly radical, groundbreaking features out of the 2007 Apple Worldwide Developer's Conference Keynote, it would be correct to say they were...disappointed. It was a somewhat muted keynote compared with some other ones, with most of the features Steve Jobs talked about being things he'd talked about last year. However, I think it would be a bit of an exaggeration to say it was a complete failure, or the worst keynote ever.

For anyone expecting truly radical, groundbreaking features out of the 2007 Apple Worldwide Developer's Conference Keynote, it would be correct to say they were...disappointed. It was a somewhat muted keynote compared with some other ones, with most of the features Steve Jobs talked about being things he'd talked about last year. However, I think it would be a bit of an exaggeration to say it was a complete failure, or the worst keynote ever.There was the somewhat expected bit with the PC/Mac guys at the beginning of the keynote, and the standard "Look, lots of users!" bits. Paul Otellini had a nice quote about how "Working with Apple has been one of the best things to happen in my career...one of the best things to happen to Intel." While not a particularly interesting point from a technical point of view, it does show that, at least in public, the relationship between Apple and Intel is still strong and on good terms, unlike the former relationship between Apple and IBM over the G5.

The next announcement was in an area that has not received a lot of good news on the Mac, and that is games. Electronic Arts announced that they are bringing four major titles to the Mac in July, and two more, including Madden '08 to the Mac in August. Bing Gordon, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer for EA, talked about how, both at home and within EA, he'd been seen an increase in Mac use, so in response, EA is moving back onto the Mac. More important, these releases would be simultaneous with the PC and Console versions.

According to other sources, most notably Macworld, the games themselves will not be natively written for the Mac, but will use Transgaming's Cider, which allows games built for Windows using Direct X to run on other platforms such as the Mac. From what I could see, there doesn't appear to be a noticeable performance hit from this; however, it does mean that these games will be Intel-only.

The second announcement, from Id Software's John Carmack, was that their next-generation gaming engine would run natively on Mac OS X. This was not as big an announcement, as Id has always (quite sensibly) been one of the leaders in cross-platform game development.

Moving from the game announcements, Steve started talking about Leopard, and 10 of its features. Now the truth is, there's a lot more new things in Leopard, but a lot of them are going to be things that Steve Jobs will never talk about in a keynote. I was honestly shocked the year he mentioned NTLMv2 support in Mac OS X 10.4. He looked rather surprised to be talking about it as well. However, I will agree that the rehash of last year's keynote was a bit underwhelming.

The new Desktop is interesting. The translucent Menu Bar is one of those "Will it be readable, or will it be one of those better not done" kind of things. I do like the flat black Apple Menu, I find it easier to see -- it's just better contrast. How it will look with a black background, that's another story. The changes to the Dock's appearance look like "Well, we had to do something new, let's do this." I don't think it will make the Dock haters not hate the Dock, nor will it make the people who like the Dock start to hate it. But it doesn't look as though it will impinge on usability.

One thing I do like are Stacks, (which now means all we need is Knowledge Navigator, and all the features of Copland will finally be released). They're a nice way to have collections in the Dock, and the implementation seems to be well thought out. I'm less sanguine about Leopard helping me with a downloads folder, but that's a personal thing. I like having things download to my Desktop, but I can't see that as being unchangeable. However, as someone with 13 folders in his Dock, improved access to folders and collections in the Dock is always welcome.

The overall window interface is finally consistent, something that even the most hard-core Apple fan has to admit was needed. Personally, I'm more happy that Apple has made changes in the UI so that the current active window is more active than it has been in previous iterations of the OS. This is something that has bit me on occasion, so increased clarity is always good.

In my next blog, I'll talk a bit about changes in Finder and a tempest in a teapot.

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