Apple WWWWWDC 2006 Keynote

The WWDC (not entirely sure how my W’s should go in there) 2006 started this Monday, the Apple Developer Conference. It is kicked off, like every year, by a keynote speech by Steve Jobs (link goes to the video). Apple fans look forward to these keynotes because of two reasons:

  • To see what cool products they’re launching. This is probably the most important reason for many people. Apple is always very secretive about its upcoming products so generally we’re always in for a surprise or two, or three, or four. Possibly five.
  • To hear Steve Jobs speak. He’s generally acknowledged to be the best CEO speaker of any technology company (maybe any company). As wired puts it: “he effortlessly sucks the audience into his famous “reality distortion field,” a state of suspended disbelief that makes even mundane products seem like miracles of technology.”

First things first, the announcements. I watched the keynote on tuesday so I might not remember every little thing, but what stuck was the Mac Pro, Xserve and Mac OS X Leopard (10.5). The Mac Pro is to replace the PowerMac. It comes with two dual core super mega turbo intel processors. Essentially that means that the machine has 4 64-bit processors in it (up to 3Ghz each). What that means that you will never spend more than 0.000000000000115 second wondering how much 23 * 5 is. The answer, ironically, is 115 — at least according to my, by comparison, slow single core old-school 1Ghz 32-bit G4 iBook.

So if you need a stylish ultra fast machine and have $2500 to spare, the Mac Pro is a very nice (and cost effective) choice. According to Phil Schiller it’s even a thousand dollars cheaper than a Dell machine with the same configuration, and the Dell one comes in an ugly (probably black) case. Not the cool metalic one with a huge apple logo stamped on it.

Then there was the Xserve, the Apple rack server. I’ll summarise it for you: it’s faster, better and cheaper. There you go.

“And that completes the transition of the full Mac line-up to the Intel processor” Phil proudly announced. I feared they forgot about the poor little Mac mini, but I just checked on their website and the mini got his new shiny intel processor a while ago already. I apparently missed that. Or forgot. Or both.

Then the big news: Mac OS X Leopard. It’s a bit underwhelming. Steve didn’t announce all new features yet (they didn’t want Microsoft to copy everything yet), but they did discuss 10 new features. The ones that stuck were:

  • Time machine. Essentially backup software with a very cool interface. That’s it.
  • Spaces. Or as the rest of the world has been calling it: virtual desktops. This had been possible on Macs for a while now with free third-party software. Still Apple’s version of it is a bit nicer, but nothing world shocking.
  • Spotlight improvements. Now it can also search servers and other Macs on the network. It has some other improvements, like a fast application launcher. Or something. I dunno.
  • Mail improvements. They added some pointless features to a mail client I never use. You now can easily make very cool looking HTML e-mails. If you ever send me one of those it will be hard for me to take you seriously. It’s e-mail people, you don’t need stationary.
  • Dashboard improvements. They now have many ways to make it easier to create your own widgets. I was really surprised about how much effort they put into this. Why? They’re just widgets, why create a full WYSIWYG editor and Javascript debugger for this? I don’t care.
  • Better speech synthesis. This is quite nice, I must admit. If you’re blind anyway, otherwise you probably won’t use it. The Mac, for a while has been able to read the contents of windows aloud to you. The voice you’d always sounded kind of geeky, it was understandable but sounded a bit like a robot. Leopard will bring much better speech synthesis. Quite nice.
  • iChat improvements. Another application I don’t use much. It will have support for more webcams (which is good!) and on top of that some very funny ways of manipulating the picture (like changing the background). Funny. Very funny. But pointless. It’s funny though. If only more teenagers would iChat. MSN users would love this kind of pointless thing.

I hope Steve has been keeping the best features a secret, otherwise I’m a bit underwhelmed. It’s a decent upgrade. For any other company it would be a good upgrade. For Apple it’s only decent.

And then the other reason to watch: the presentation. Mr. Jobs speaking. Yeah well, also a bit disappointing. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but I think Steve has realised he’s mortal and he won’t be able to carry the company forever. I think he’s slowly trying to “outsource” more and more of the keynote to other people. This time he brought three side-kicks. First off, Phil Schiller, as usual. He’s a nice fella, he’s not Steve, but still a nice fella. And he’s always happy to pretend to be home and call in on iChat. Hahah. Phil. Funny guy.

Second there was a French guy with a French name and French accent. Possibly because he was French. He did the bit where they made fun of Windows Vista. Sometimes a bit too easy, but sometimes funny. Or “funny” as he probably would have said. Yeah, it’s sort of hard to make you understand how he’d pronounce that. I guess you’d just have to imagine how a French person would sound saying that. The French always have the strongest accents when speaking English, why is that anyway?

The third guy’s name I forgot, but I was actually quite impressed. He’s a young guy. He demonstrated and talked about a lot of the Leopard features. Wired didn’t like him that much, but I did. I liked him better than Phil. And Phil is funny. But this guy is too. And when iPhoto froze up he handled it nicely, without breaking that much of a sweat. And he made a nice joke about it too (“if I only had a time machine and not make that mistake”, very funny).

If I would have to pick any of the three to replace Steve I’d pick the last one. But I fear Steve is irreplacable. Apple is Steve. And without Steve I wonder if there’s still Apple. I hope we won’t have to find out for many more years.

If you have an hour and a half to spare, you can watch the full keynote here (quicktime required, of course, but who doesn’t have quicktime).