Not much comes close to setting the interwebs ablaze than an Apple keynote. Fanboys everywhere were glued to their computer screens yesterday to learn what new things would come out of Cupertino this summer. While the WWDC is a developer’s conference, there were many intriguing announcements that are of interest to the general Mac-using public.
Here are some of the big points from the keynote yesterday:
iPhone 3G S
The iPhone 3G — and, it could be argued, the iPod Touch — have been fairly revolutionary for mobile computing. Apple tries to continue that with the iPhone 3G S, which they are touting as the most powerful iPhone yet. According to the keynote, nearly all the standard operations done on the phone are faster and more responsive. Things like launching messages, webpages and basic applications all seem to be quicker. Hardware wise, a new 3 megapixel, autofocusing camera makes an appearance, which even includes video recording. Hardware encryption and voice recording were also added.
Prices vary by carrier, naturally, but Apple’s price is $199USD for 16GB storage, and 32GB goes for $299USD. Is it worth it? While I don’t use an iPhone myself, I think the benefits over the iPhone 3G are subtle, but if you jumped in with the original iPhone, or have even held off purchasing the phone since the beginning, now is certainly a great time to join the party.
iPhone OS 3.0
The big deal of the keynote was more detail about the iPhone 3.0 software. Since the entire convention is for developers, most of the announcements were for the SDK included in the new software. The biggest news is that the new software includes support for copy and paste right on the phone. Additionally, landscape mode has been added to multiple applications, Find My iPhone and an undo function have been added. The latter is available just by shaking the phone — sort of like an Etch-A-Sketch function, and Find My iPhone is a feature of MobileMe that enables users to track their phone should they lose it, and optionally wipe the data remotely should it be stolen.
Phil Schiller and Scott Forstall (those taking Steve Jobs’ place presenting the keynote) had a few digs at AT&T about functions added to iPhone 3.0, that may not be available from AT&T until later. Tethering is a feature many people have asked for, now that most phones are connected to the internet with a speed almost equal to a home DSL line. It is a way of connecting the phone to a computer through USB or Bluetooth so that the phone can be used as a modem to get the computer online. The other jab at the American provider was that multimedia messaging service won’t be able to share your photos, videos and sounds with other people until later in the summer. This feature, which is available on nearly every other handset in the world, will finally bring the iPhone on part with what can be considered an essential service.
New MacBook Pros
In what I thought was a somewhat unusual move, Apple announced that the 13″ aluminum MacBook would now be a MacBook Pro, making the white polycarbonate model the only remaining MacBook. Besides the natural speed increases, the hardware changes made to the whole line were SD card slots instead of ExpressCard and a new, longer-lasting internal battery that cannot be removed. The battery situation is one I think may see some strong opposition. For a computer that is a “pro machine”, where the user is in the field for a long time, the inability to swap out a battery and get another 4 hours could be frustrating. The fact that all the previous MacBooks could have batteries swapped while the computer is sleeping means that with enough batteries, users can work continuously. Fortunately, though, I think that the power and design of the computers mean that the batteries may be an afterthought.
My personal favourite announcement of the keynote was the announcements about the newest Cupertino cat, Snow Leopard. As previously shown, Snow Leopard foregoes hundreds of new features in favour of making OS X faster, smaller, more efficient and more stable. The big news was the addition of technology to take advantage of multi-core processors and advanced GPUs. Grand Central Dispatch makes it very easy for developers to use every ounce of power from advanced Intel CPUs. This is because early versions of OS X were not optimized for multithreading, preventing software from using all available horsepower. To take advantage of GPUs, Apple has spearheaded an initiative to create a new language that threads operations in a way that GPUs can handle. Best of all, nearly all the major manufacturers have jumped on board.
Breaking from tradition, Apple has decided that this new upgrade should be available for $29USD for Leopard users, making it the cheapest 10.x upgrade yet. A family pack for 5 users will be available for $49USD, which is a full $150 off the Leopard price. If a value pack is available with a Snow Leopard license, iLife 09 and iWork 09 for ~$100, I know where I’ll be when it’s available in September.
As we’ve come to expect from Apple’s keynotes, a wide array of new products and services will be available from Apple this summer, making it yet another exciting time to be a fan of the fruit company.