After WWDC 2013

Apple Keynote WWDC 2013: Majestic

It began with poetry, set to music and sometimes sound effects that coordinated with an animation made of simple graphical elements. The world needs this because not everybody understands: Apple is not an ordinary company.

Tim Cook took the stage. Some things are traditions, or are becoming traditions in these keynotes. After some updated statistics, there’s a video of a new Apple Store opening. This one a spectacular transformation of an historic site, a one-hundred-year-old theater, into a modern Apple Store.

Next, there was a demonstration of different thinking in making use of the capabilities of iOS devices. In this case it was a game with physical items, race cars, using an iPhone as the brain and remotely sensing the environment and operating the cars. This is made by a company called Anki. While I am not personally interested in race car games, I could instantly see the opportunities for development and potential uses this technology shows us.

Earlier this year there was another implementation of using an iPhone for a brain (at TED). In that case the iPhone became the “head” of a small robot. It was operated by a second iOS device and the other sensing built into the iPhone (camera, touch, wifi). This robot was called Romo and made by a company called Romotive. The demonstration was simple, but the potential vast.

Next up was a preview of the upcoming Mac OS, Mavericks. New Mac OS’s will be named after places in California that have inspired Apple. Mac OS X Mavericks seems more coordinated with the hardware than ever before. Advanced technologies that will make our computers run faster, more efficiently, and conserve energy.

Advancements in Safari were next. Browsers cannot stand still. Creative use of evolving web standards and technology available make continuous development of browsers a necessity.

Among the updates and advancements noted on the Safari slide were the words “grammar and spell checking”. One thing that came up later, and possibly related, was iWork in iCloud which will work through a browser. During the demo of Pages in iCloud it was shown that Pages will open Word documents. And what was funny – you know there are no accidents – the example Word document had the title Classical Architecture of the Ancient Greek Empire.

Maps is coming to the Mac OS with the ability to send a map with travel directions to your iOS device. Another item was iBooks for the Mac. This is a very welcome addition (previously iBooks was only for iOS devices). This is all in the new Mavericks OS.

There were new Macbook Airs. Twice as fast as the last ones. And with 12 hours of battery use for the 13” and 9 hours for the 11” Macbook Air. They wake up in one second, standby up to 30 days.

New Airport Extreme base stations with new antenna and room for Time Capsule with a 2 or 3 TB drive built in.

The big news in the hardware department was a new Mac Pro. It won’t be available until “later in the year” so I’ll leave out most the specs. Most people who want this much power in a computer will be delighted with this computer. At the moment I would be happy with a new Macbook Air, but would I eventually get one of these new Mac Pro’s? Absolutely I would. Having started using Final Cut Pro with OS 9 on a G3 Powerbook, I have many hours of DV that is unprocessed. I’ll be happy to get to back to it with a new Mac Pro.

Speaking of editing video, there is a moment in the keynote video that I want to recommend. At 55:21 stop and check out Steve Wozniak’s expression. This is right after the Mac Pro is shown. His face says so much there. I’m sure a still of that frame will be all over the internet soon enough. Excellent editing decision there.

I was delighted to see the implementation of an idea that occurred to me back when I had a dome style iMac - a way to reach the port panel without upsetting everything or reaching blindly around the back. I thought there should be some kind of swivel for “the I/O” and there is in this new Mac Pro. With cameras, portable drives, and mobile devices, this will be much appreciated. I suppose I should wait to see how it works out in practice, but I think the power port should be separate from the other ports.

The next big news was iOS 7. Tim Cook introduced it. We were shown a video with Jony Ives preparing us with the new design. There is some texture, there is something like frosted glass appearing in layers, there is a parallax effect. It’s a beautiful redesign. There was a standing ovation for iOS 7.

Tim Cook returned to stage. Someone yelled out, “We love you!”

Tim paused gracefully and said, “Thank you” in the direction of the voice.

All this even before the demo.

Craig Federighi returned to stage. He began by thanking the Apple engineers. The demo started and one of the first items he talked about was the calendar stitching. Here are some of the statements he made about the stitching:

“Absolutely no virtual cows were harmed in the making of this user interface.”

“We’re gonna be adding that one to our environmental checklist.”

“And you know what’s really amazing? That even without the stitching, the window still sticks! Right there on the screen. It doesn’t fall off without the stitching.”

I was glad to hear and see the humor expressed here. I mentioned the calendar stitching in an article I posted on tumblr in November 2012. (republished here at Before WWDC 2013). I ended the article saying I’d like to hear Phil Schiller say, “We’ve taken away the stitching.” The words didn’t come from Phil, that’s not his usual area, though he’s talked about technologies in the OS in the past. Craig’s effusive chatter about it was delightful.

Skeuomorphics in general do not go away. What is an icon if it isn’t recognized as a representation of what it belongs to? Why is a phone still represented by an old fashioned handset? Why is email still represented by a paper envelope? They can’t be eliminated yet because of their recognizability, but they might be replaced as we evolve.

One of new features of iOS 7 was audio only calls on any iOS device with FaceTime. I think this is significant. I remember watching Steve Jobs make the first iPhone announcement. And I remember thinking, “I want one of those, but without the phone [telephone co service] part.” This seems about to become possible.

There is iOS in the car, something way beyond playing music through a car’s stereo. Siri has new voices. iTunes will now auto update apps. And there is a new music discovery service called iTunes Radio.

I liked the new weather interface. I hope the fake weather stations come preinstalled with iOS 7 - North Pole, Big Thunder, Gilligan’s Island. Real weather isn’t as much fun and it is often wrong (Apple isn’t responsible for weather data). Look at the demo to see what I mean: “currently, it’s 63 degrees, the high will be 59 degrees.” Or maybe it was deliberate, showing more of the humor embedded within Apple.

Yes, it’s times like these when the word that came to mind, after watching this keynote, was majestic. Thank you, Apple.