Five things we learned from WWDC 2012
Apple's big show gave us a must-have laptop and visions of things to come
Blogs | 18 Jun 2012 :
Last week's Apple Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco brought together 5,000 coders from 60 countries (each paying €1,500 a ticket) for a series of briefings and 'labs' on the latest developments in Apple OS X and iOS - both of which will be upgraded this summer/autumn. The rest of the world, however, was interested in it for entirely different reasons. Forget nuts and bolts stuff, where's the next iPhone, MacBook and Apple TV going to come from? Given the audience, only one of those three was ever going to be addressed, but CEO Tim Cook gave a few hints at what to expect from the next wave of Apple hardware. Here's the short version.
Mac OS X and iOS get more in common
The next version of OS X, Mountain Lion, looks set to become the new benchmark for the operating system, a change similar in scale to when OS X Tiger arrived in the mid-2000s with its fancy dashboard and widgets. Lion introduced some funky elements like Launchpad and Mission Control and now Mountain Lion will be taking some tricks from iOS by introducing iMessage and Message Centre. That the former was pulled out of the latest beta release would indicate that it's already the finished article. Proper text messaging on your laptop? It's about time.
Siri is not a fad
The slow roll-out of Apple's voice controlled personal assistant continues but it looks like Ireland is going to get a little bit more out of it than calendar notices and witty repartee. Assuming it can deal with your accent Siri will be able to demonstrate some local knowledge. Apple's senior vice president of iPhone software Scott Forstall demonstrated Siri's new functions you can search for local businesses, make restaraunt reservations, find movie reviews and get the scores without having to use Safari. Saying Siri is still in beta gives Apple plenty of leeway to get its message across before the market makes up its mind about it. So long as Siri feels like a work in progress it will be afforded the benefit of the doubt. Well played.
Retina displays are the new LCD/LED/Plasma etc...
The biggest hit of WWDC was beyond doubt the 15" Macbook Pro with Retina display. The most expensive Macbook by quite a stretch at €2,349 (the top model starts at €2,979) supplies were snapped up as soon as they went on sale and there is a 3-4 weeks waiting list on the Apple website. The attraction of a screen with a 2880x1800 resolution significantly better than the 1920x1080 pixels currently considered 'full HD') proved too much for the supply chain to keep up with. Having met the Retina display in the iPhone 4 and demanded it in the iPad, to have it just appear in a Macbook and make it a selling point has been a marketing masterstroke. Will Apple's mystery TV set have one? How could it not?
USB 3.0 side by side with Thunderbolt
On the hardware front Apple announced it would be using Intel core quad-core i7 processors in its 13" and 15" Macbook Pros (the former also comes with a more modest i3) with solid state drives, up to 16Gb of RAM and 1Gb of dedicated graphics memory puts and emphasis on speed, but there is something surprising on the less sexy world of hardware connectivity. Despite Steve Jobs' protestations to the contrary, Apple has thrown in with USB 3.0 as a high speed connectivity option in tandem with the Thunderbolt technology it introduced last year.
Using both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt makes perfect sense. USB 3.0 (aka USB SuperSpeed) is the future of the standard and delivers transfer speeds up to 10 times faster than USB 2.0 and is backwards compatible. Thunderbolt delivers throughput speeds of up to 10Gb/s, making it twice as fast as USB 3.0, 20 times faster than USB 2.0 and 12 times faster than Apple's pet Firewire 800 (which is still present in the new Macbooks). Also in Thunderbolt's favour is the ability to connect monitors and other peripherals.
Lenovo, Asus and Acer have committed to releasing PCs with Thunderbolt support, so it's a standard that could be with us for a while. For data transfer Thunderbolt is where it's at, but for as long as manufacturers are pumping out USB-connected devices, not supporting the latest standard is madness. Sometimes it is just a damn popularity contest.
Google shouldn't get too cosy in iOS
TomTom's app for iOS does not come cheap. Its current offering retails at €59.99 from the App Store and a spped camera tracking app works on a subscription service, costing up to €29.99 a year. The rationale seems to be that TomTom would be devaluing its product by offering their software at a knockdown price - and there is something to be said for that strategy. Integrating TomTom's 3D maps and turn-by-turn navigation gives Apple an edge over Google Maps in presentation and doubtless gives TomTom and modest license fee on each handset sold but don't expect any price cut on its other offerings.
This leaves search and YouTube as the native Google products in iOS which are unlikely to be dislodged as there are no viable alternatives (Vimeo or Vevo? I think not). Still, if Microsoft was to do what it did with Yahoo and come along with a wad of cash looking to become the default Safari search engine...