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6/14/2007
08:33 AM
John C. Welch
John C. Welch
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At Apple's WWDC: Thoughts On Finder And Other Matters

Continuing my thoughts on Steve Jobs' keynote at the 2007 Apple Worldwide Developer's Conference: One of the items that many Mac users have wanted is for Apple to "Fix the Finder." Unfortunately, like any wish list from a large group of people, you end up with a list that is essentially infinite in length, and impossible to implement within the millennium. That's not to say that Apple has been completely

Continuing my thoughts on Steve Jobs' keynote at the 2007 Apple Worldwide Developer's Conference: One of the items that many Mac users have wanted is for Apple to "Fix the Finder." Unfortunately, like any wish list from a large group of people, you end up with a list that is essentially infinite in length, and impossible to implement within the millennium. That's not to say that Apple has been completely deaf to these wishes. So, yes, there have been Finder changes in Leopard, although I doubt that the "Death to the Finder" crowd will find this to be the Finder they dream of.The sidebar now has collapsible tabs, so that you can better organize things you add to it. Smart searches are in the Sidebar, so you can find files you've used in the last day, last week, etc. You also can use it to access files on Macs and other servers with sharing services enabled.

There's also been an interesting improvement to .Mac called "Back to my Mac." In a nutshell, Back to my Mac allows any Macs you've registered with .Mac to keep .Mac appraised of their current TCP/IP address. So if you need to get to a Mac at your home from on the road, it will be much easier to access that system, even if it's using DHCP via a cable modem or DSL.

Now, there was no information about how it deals with ports, firewalls, and all the other issues that make remote access so much fun. But this does answer one of the most basic needs for remote access in a fairly automatic fashion. If you tie this in with something like Apple Remote Desktop or VNC, then remote support will potentially be a lot easier. The big question here is: Will this be Leopard only? The chicken livers say "Probably," but for now, we don't know.

Finder also supports the Coverflow view first introduced in iTunes for viewing album art. This is one of those really cool features that may take a while to see if it's also useful, but there's some support for things like drag and drop, quick file previews, paging through multi-page files, etc. So it's a bit more useful than the iTunes version.

I do have to say that I'm really not impressed with the new folder icons. They're not useless, but they lack a certain elegance, and I do hope they'll be refined as the OS is finished.

Along with the new Finder and Coverflow is QuickLook, which allows you to see a file's contents without needing to launch the application that would normally be used for that file. So, you can quickly see the contents of an Excel file, a PDF, etc., without having to launch an application.

Overall, I see that the new look in Leopard as taking some of the more useful UI concepts from Apple's Pro applications and things like Growl. How they will play out over time, I don't know, but it is nice to see that Apple's not letting the UI stagnate, nor solely changing things just to say they're different.

The "Oooh, 64-Bit Everywhere!" was covered at last year's WWDC, along with Core Animation, Boot Camp, Spaces, Dashboard/Dashcode, iChat and Time Machine. So all I have to say is that I'm happy there's only one version of the OS to buy and install, not separate 64-bit and 32-bit versions.

As far as Safari on Windows goes, it makes perfect sense, and not just to grow browser market share. If you look at it from the point of view of "Getting more sites to work well with WebKit so that the iPhone can display them better," then that decision is obvious. The speed comparisons are silly, no matter who wins, and anyone taking them seriously needs to really think those things through much better.

And finally, some random thoughts...

On the iPhone SDK being Web Applications: If I have ever seen more of a tempest in a teapot, I can't recall when. First, if you really look at what most applications on a phone do, there are very few that cannot live as Web applications. I think the only one I've ever run was a Palm OS emulator for Windows Mobile, and I last used that two years ago.

In addition, this is software. I had a third-party Windows Mobile application eat my phone to the point I had to reboot it. Let's just say I'm not the one to be all "Yay, all applications must be on my phone!" about it.

On the lack of Flash: First, QuickTime does have built-in Flash support. It's currently on the old side, and it's a bit limited, but if the iPhone has a full QuickTime implementation, it has at least the basics of Flash.

In addition, I did a survey of every "smart" device I saw. None of them had Flash. None. In fact, a quick check of Adobe's Flash download site showed that the only Flash plugin available for mobile devices from Adobe is for Windows Mobile, and it's Flash 7. Yes, Steve promised all of Safari on the iPhone. However, Flash is a third party plugin, not part of Safari. Same thing for Silverlight, which is not only a third-party plugin, but it's not even out of beta yet.

As far as Java goes, well, we won't know until we see if the Mac OS X Java frameworks are in the iPhone. But seriously, right now, I have yet to find a smartphone of any kind shipping with Flash support, so I don't see how the fact that it may not be in the iPhone in any way makes it more of a problem for that device than it does for any other device.

So, in conclusion, it was a rather underwhelming keynote, but I'm fine with that, as the rest of the week should be far more interesting. As far as the iPhone brouhaha goes? C'mon folks, it's just a phone.

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