Apple’s WWDC (World-Wide Developers’ Conference) isn’t generally known for blockbuster product announcements, and this year’s gathering was no exception. All the same, there were a few items that to me, at least, seemed worth passing on to you folks, given that most of you were probably not glued to your Apple TVs watching the live feed of the keynote a few weeks back. You can still check it out if you’re interested.
Most of the hoopla centered around iOS 7, a new version of the operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod. It sports a whole new look that really distances it from previous versions, and my guess is you’ll either love it or hate it. If I had to use one word to describe it, that word would be “minimalist,” but Apple insists that it’s a lot more than that; that iOS 7 is a “pure representation of simplicity,” that “conspicuous ornamentation has been stripped away” from an interface that is now “purposely unobtrusive.” I’ll have to file that under “snappy comebacks” for the next time someone asks me why I still drive a 10-year old minivan.
Apple has also pledged to simplify access to some of the settings (screen brightness, Bluetooth, WiFi, AirPlay and more) courtesy of the new Control Center. So you’ll no longer be faced with drilling down through multiple icons, buttons and menus to reach them–assuming you even knew where to find them in the first place.
There will be some minor improvements to Siri and many of the other built-in apps, including a revamped Weather app that will show tastefully animated weather conditions (snow actually falling across the screen if it happens to be snowing), and you’ll be able to download and run this new system even on an iPhone 4 or an iPad mini. Kudos to Apple for releasing a new OS that will actually run on a device that is now–wait for it–over three years old.
OS X 10.9 “Mavericks”
The operating system for the Mac got some love too, as Apple announced the late 2013 release of OS X 10.9, aka “Mavericks” (after a prime California surfing location, not a panel discussion featuring James Garner, John McCain and Dirk Nowitzki). In case you were wondering, the Apple marketing folks finally ran out of big cat monikers, and actually conceded as much during the keynote.
Alas, they needed only one more member of the felidae family before they’d be off the hook with OS X 11.0, but I did a little research and could not for the life of me think of a viable but still-unused feline of which they could have availed themselves. Unless, of course, we’d be willing to accept OS X 10.9 “Sunda Clouded Leopard” or perhaps “Chinese Mountain Cat,” as in, “Hey, hand me that Chinese Mountain Cat installer disk, would you?” Oh, wait, installer “disks” are anathema now, sorry. Sorry, sorry.
Since “Mavericks” won’t be available until sometime in the fall, there may be a few surprises yet to come as far as new features, but they have made a major upgrade to the Finder already by finally introducing tabbed windows, just like the tabs you’re (hopefully) using in Safari, FireFox or Chrome right now. You can start off by creating new windows as tabs, or you can combine multiple windows into tabs by dragging and dropping.
Another feature that might be just as valuable to some of you is the ability to tag documents, which is sort of like labeling them but way more useful in that you can have an infinite number of tags, you can assign more than one tag to a file, and pre-defined tag searches are already included in the sidebar of every Finder window, so it’s easy to conjure up a list of every document with a particular tag. You can even tag files in the Save/Save As dialogs as well as in the Finder itself.
There are also some much-needed improvements to multiple display support, like finally being able to use AirPlay/Apple TV to extend your desktop instead of simply mirroring it, and a separate menu bar for each display so you don’t have to choose one or the other. And of course, Mavericks looks even more like iOS than Mountain Lion does, and even way way more like iOS than Lion does. Then again, you can’t actually buy Lion any longer, so you’ll have to take my word for it… Well, OK, you can allegedly still order it by phone but I haven’t tested this personally.
Speaking of buying things, Mavericks (via iCloud) will also sync your Keychain across all your devices, which will enable Safari to automatically supply your login credentials and credit card info on all the Web sites you frequent. Not sure if that’s a revolution in password security or simply a way to make it even easier to buy more stuff more efficiently. At least I won’t have to pony up for 1Password now, fine program though it is.
New Mac Pro
Lastly, we come to the long-overdue announcement of a new Mac Pro desktop, which finally departs from the massive aluminum cheese grater tower motif and moves to the tiny air purifier/R2D2 noir/paper shredder motif. You’re welcome to draw your own comparisons, and for those who have not seen any images of it there are plenty to stir the imagination here.
I think the real question is not so much what it most resembles as what it’s going to cost. The announced specs are bordering on outrageous (six Thunderbolt 2 ports, two AMD FirePro workstation-class GPUs with 4K video support, and PCI Express-based flash storage). To paraphrase that adorable kid from the 1-877-KARS FOR KIDS radio commercial, “I don’t know what that means, but it’s sure going to cost a massive amount of cash!” Go ahead, listen to him twice if you dare, and don’t forget to VOTE REMIX.
Remember, folks, Kars4kids is a registered 501(c)(3) charity organization.
Well, that brings us to the end of another Apple WWDC, and I would probably be remiss if I did not take note of one other announcement that seemed to get lost in the shuffle, and that was iWork for iCloud. Up until now you’ve been able to access your Pages, Keynote and Numbers documents via iCloud assuming you ponied up for the iWork apps on your iDevice and/or your Mac.
Now Apple has announced versions of these three apps that actually run in your Web browser, so the iWork/iCloud experience has now become somewhat reminiscent of Google Docs. The Web-enabled apps even work on a Windows PC (in Safari, IE 9 or Google Chrome) and they can open and save Microsoft Office files, just like their paid counterparts. Take that, Ballmer, you wildly-gesticulating hyperactive monkeyboy, you!
I am left to wonder, though, why I spent $79 for the iWork suite on my MacBook Pro and $9.99 x 3 for the companion apps for my iPhone, when if I had just waited another few months I could have used them online for free? But who am I to rain on Apple’s parade of progress? Out with the old, in with the new–even if it seems like the “old” was just released a week ago this past Tuesday…
Coming up next:
I’ve looked at Clouds from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s Clouds’ illusions that befall
I really don’t like Clouds