WWDC 2006: Judging from the Back Row

There's a Wired author that came down pretty hard on the Leopard presentation at the keynote. I think it's completely unwarranted. I've seen this pattern at least three times in a row. Somebody complains that the OS doesn't look interesting, more stuff is shown at the sessions, and eventually it's clear there's much more than meets the eye.

It was said about Panther, Tiger, and now again about Leopard. I think this is why Apple chose to not play their full hand on Leopard yet. There's one quote in particular that stands out:

"OS X is so mature and polished, major system upgrades are more about tweaks than big new functions"


I realize the bigness of a feature is subjective, but I just don't agree with this quote. Neither Time Machine nor Core Animation could be called a tweak. Here's another quote:

"More than 4,000 of them paid a pretty penny to be here this week, and Jobs' talk is the highlight of the show...I don't think they got their money's worth."


I wouldn't pay $1300 for a 90 minute keynote. I paid for access to the details about what we saw Monday morning, as well as direct access to Apple engineers. I think most share that view. The keynote is proportionally a much bigger deal at Macworld. Don't get me wrong, it's a central part of WWDC too, but it's not the only reason people are here.

In any case, the point is not the keynote itself, but the products it introduces. One ninety minute session will fade into memory, but Leopard and the Mac Pro will be around for a while. Everyone here at WWDC knows that there's much more to it than what was discussed at the keynote, and that's just the stuff we know about.

Rush to Judgement

Speaking of subjectivity, Jacqui Cheng has a piece at Ars Technica that tries to draw deep conclusions from what, to me, seems like the very common phenomenom of first-generation growing pains.

"Apple chose to stick with the general appearance and design of their popular PowerBook line and make some tweaks to the iBook form factor. It seemed as though they had shoehorned the new architecture into the line without a hitch"


This is misleading. Just because a computer looks the same on the outside doesn't mean it's any easier to make the inside parts all work together.

"As far as the Macbook and Macbook Pro are concerned, it certainly feels as though they were rushed."


The problem, as all software developers know, is that the term "rushed" is mostly subjective. Where do you draw the line? Just because problems become apparent when something is distributed on a broad scale, does it mean there wasn't an attempt to find issues in the lab?

Reporting on bugs is fine. The basic issue I have (as mentioned before), is that articles like this leave out the fact that most people appear to be satisified with their MacBook Pros and MacBooks. Just looking around WWDC, there are thousands of people happily using these machines.

There's no scientific way to determine the difference between "quality control issues" and "it's a new architecture, we'll just have to fix things if they come up." Even my view of this is, of course, subjective, but it's hard to ignore the fact that I'm in a sea of people happily using MacBooks.
Design Element
WWDC 2006: Judging from the Back Row
Posted Aug 10, 2006 — 19 comments below




 

ssp — Aug 10, 06 1570

I think the problem about the keynote we saw was that it triggered two kinds of reactions:

One is people saying that of course nobody should expect any new iPods or other toys there because it's WWDC. So things are aimed at developers.

The other is people saying that the WWDC keynote is just a keynote and we shouldn't expect to learn anything other than PR dribble from it.

I'd side with the first kind of people, but this year the keynote looked pretty much like the second kind of people were right. While I don't doubt that Apple used the time to do something, it just wasn't visible in the presentation. 8 of the 10 points they presented didn't look like big changes. (If Apple had been better prepared it might have been just 6, but still) Not even worthwhile tweaks, but more like eye-candy only stuff. Of course that can't be it.

But in the past Apple managed to communicate what they were working at - giving at least a direction even for things that weren't finished yet. And I didn't see that happen this time around.

Preston — Aug 10, 06 1571

The things Apple displayed in the keynote were things that introduced APIs and other development-related factors. This isn't a consumer or media event.

It's in Apple's best interests for people, competitors especially, to be "disappointed" at what was shown. All the more impact come MacWorld.

Aaron Tait — Aug 10, 06 1572

I agree that Leopard will be a great improvement for developers, but I am concerned that end users will not feel the same. Well, at least not yet. Hopefully there will be a new Finder or something else cool showed off at MacWorld. This also begs the question if there isn't a large enough install base for Leopard, then I can't really use the new leopard features without abandoning a larger
market.

Julian Bennett Holmes — Aug 10, 06 1574

Scott, I totally agree.

I think that people, especially those who just watch the QuickTime Video and aren't there in person, forget what the purpose of the WWDC keynote is.

They expect it to be pretty much just like the Macworld keynote, and forget that it's aimed at developers.

Core Animation is a huge deal to a lot of developers, but to the end user, most people will either totally ignore this feature, or pass it off as minor.


To combat this issue (and it should be combated many people were dissapointed in the WWDC keynote; exemplifying this, Apple's stock dropped a great deal that day), I think that Apple should either stop offering the keynote via QuickTime, or offer it only to registered ADC members.

If Apple plays down the WWDC keynote to consumers, maybe people won't be so dissapointed next time.

Scott Stevenson — Aug 11, 06 1576 Scotty the Leopard

Leopard will be a great improvement for developers, but I am concerned that end users will not feel the same

I heard the same thing said here about Tiger and it turns out it was wildly successful. I think they're doing pretty good with the feature set so far, particularly with Time Machine, but there are at least three levels of features:

1. Features which are public knowledge
2. Features which some developers know about (and there are some good ones)
3. Features which Apple knows about

In any case, I wouldn't be surprised if Leopard-only apps end up having a hand in selling Leopard. Unlike Core Data, users can actually see tangible differences in applications which use Core Animation. There are other frameworks which aren't public knowledge but could have a similar impact.

Jarl Robert Kristiansen — Aug 11, 06 1577

Time machine is NOT a great improvement??
What?
You don't think that automatic backup of your entire system is a noteworthy improvement?
You want a new 'look' for finder - thats your big improvement??

Sometimes you just got to love the media, they just seem to pinpoint all the right things theese days..

Dale — Aug 11, 06 1578

Somebody complains that the OS doesn't look interesting, more stuff is shown at the sessions, and eventually it's clear there's much more than meets the eye.

It was said about Panther, Tiger, and now again about Leopard. I think this is why Apple chose to not play their full hand on Leopard yet.


Your comparison of the Leopard feature set with Panther's and Tiger's features when they were shown at a keynote doesn't fill me with confidence. In both cases, Panther and Tiger were feature complete, and we got what we saw. While Apple talked up all the extra 150 features in Tiger that we didn't see, they really weren't worth seeing eg the 4 separate features to describe Safari's minimal support for RSS.

I'm hoping there really are significant consumer level features that are yet to be unveiled. If not, Apple will get a lambasting from the media when they release Leopard for making false "Top Secret" claims.

I also find it very hard to swallow the "we're keeping the features secret 'cause Microsoft might copy them". How can you say that Microsoft have been years creating Vista, but that you're worried they'll copy and implement Leopard's features in a matter of months? It's contradictory. Not only that but some of the features must be more evolutionary than revolutionary, and there's no strategic reason to conceal them. For example, improvements in Address Book or Automator.

It seems to me that the 'scared of copying' reason avoided saying the other features just weren't ready. But then you have to wonder what Apple've been doing the last 18 mths. Hundreds of engineers can't have been plugging away making Leopard compatible with Intel's chips (Tiger mostly did this quite a while ago), or making the whole stack 64-bit. While these are significant tasks, could it really have taken 18 months to do that and come up with the 10 features we saw? Maybe there is more to the "Top Secret" claim, much more than the previous years claims about Panther's and Tiger's undisclosed features. We'll just have to wait and see.

George — Aug 11, 06 1579

From what I remember, Steve never explicitly stated for Panther or Tiger that there were "Top Secret" features they weren't showing. I remember for Tiger being slightly disappointed that there turned out to be nothing much new that wasn't shown in the preview, that clearly isn't the case with Leopard.

It's probably true that part of the "Top Secret" has to do with it not being fully done, but I also think there is some reason to think MS could copy something from the new Finder, especially if we are just talking look and feel.

Steve-o — Aug 11, 06 1580

"I also find it very hard to swallow the "we're keeping the features secret 'cause Microsoft might copy them"."

Did they actually say that? I don't think they actually said that things are being kept secret so MS wouldn't take them and implement them in Vista. My gut reaction was that they didn't want to show features which would hint at other, unannounced things.

I suspect that the features are either (1) not ready to be shown yet; or (2) would tip off people about unannounced/unreleased hardware. Say, for example, that the new version of FrontRow worked like a TiVo. Or had some connection to new, upcoming iPods. Etc.

Bill Coleman — Aug 11, 06 1581

Scott, you are dead one.

I also thought that the journalist from Wired was completely off-base with his criticism of the keynote. Although I'm just a wannabe this year, watching the keynote over the internet, it seemed a like a good, solid and interesting presentation, with lots of interesting stuff.

From any other company, products like the Mac Pro or Xserve would have been sufficient to have journalists writing praising pieces. But not from Apple. Nope, I'm afraid we've gotten too jaundiced and expect every SteveNote to completely rock our universe.

As it was, the hardware, although completely expected, was a welcome announcement and would have made the Keynote worthy.

The Leopard demo was also interesting. Some of the items were a curiousity to me, such as the text to speech -- ok, that's cool. But at least two items gave me the "damn, I could really use that!" reaction -- Space and Time Machine.

And the Keynote didn't even really cover the news about XCode 3 and Objective-C 2.0, although they were briefly mentioned. I think Obj-C 2.0 is really huge news (at least, what I've been able to gather from the public information) and they should have had that as the "one more thing" in the WWDC keynote.

Bottom line, Good Keynote, Bad Journalist.

Bill Coleman — Aug 11, 06 1582

Dang, I meant "dead ON". Sheesh....

Dan Price — Aug 11, 06 1586

This poor-quality journalism does not surprise me, having just read a PC-mag that lists the many reasons why Apple will now ditch OSX in favor of XP, simply because Macs are now back on the consumer's radar. Apple is smart enough to ignore these publications. Alas, too many people tend to regard Internet-based opinion as being on par with the printed media. It's on a website, so it must be true.

Anon E. Mouse — Aug 11, 06 1587

Dale, you said making the whole stack 64 bits couldn't have taken 18 months. I think it took Sun 5 years. On a CPU they designed.

Blain — Aug 11, 06 1593

I think this is also a case of the Dvorak Effect (Unsurprisingly, I'm not the first to use that phrase) of trolling to get page hits. That said, I think Jobs was fully aware of what the result was going to be, and the controversy will be good for Apple in the long run. (What? No floppy disk drive?)

You know as well as I do that the Leopard/Vista clash will be fought on PR battlegrounds in an 'Stars are all in alignment' fashion. MS is going to do a big push, probably more than XP had. XP came out around 10.1, and much has changed. By January, there will be a few intel systems aged enough for second generation systems to come out. No surprises here.

I'd even wager that there will be a strategic iPod release in the fall to keep MS distracted on Zune. I'd also wager that much disinformation will be done to keep PowerPage et al. guessing. Okay, it's less a wager and more a comedic hope.

"Coming to Leopard! We're going back to 10.0 Cheetah's pinstripes! You heard it here!"

Blain — Aug 11, 06 1594

D'oh. I meant this for Dvorak effect.

Dale Gillard — Aug 12, 06 1598

Anon. E Mouse wote:
Dale, you said making the whole stack 64 bits couldn't have taken 18 months. I think it took Sun 5 years. On a CPU they designed.


Sun clearly aren't as smart as Apple ;-)

Actually, I wouldn't have a clue whether it could take 18 mths to make Cocoa and Carbon 64 bit frameworks. But 'the UNIX layer' had already been converted (according to the keynote speakers), and I'm guessing this would've been the hard part. Now, if they also made these frameworks thread safe at the same time, I could understand it might have taken that long.

Dale — Aug 12, 06 1599

Steve-o wrote:

Dale wrote: "I also find it very hard to swallow the "we're keeping the features secret 'cause Microsoft might copy them"."


Did they actually say that? I don't think they actually said that things are being kept secret so MS wouldn't take them and implement them in Vista.


Steve did say that. Check out the keynote at 29:40 where he explains the Top Secret features and says he's concerned that 'the folks will start their photocopiers'.

Dale — Aug 12, 06 1600

Steve-o wrote:

Dale wrote: "I also find it very hard to swallow the "we're keeping the features secret 'cause Microsoft might copy them"."


Did they actually say that? I don't think they actually said that things are being kept secret so MS wouldn't take them and implement them in Vista.


Steve did say that. Check out the keynote at 29:40 where he explains the Top Secret features and says he's concerned that 'the folks will start their photocopiers'.

NotAWoman — Sep 03, 06 1721

Stop reading Ars Technica and Wired... they are devoid of content relevant to intelligent people. how much time should be wasted on teh opinions of uninformed fanboys?

WWDC was great. Leopard looks strong. Bashing apple is the national passtime for peopel who think they are geeks but really aren't.




 

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