Under The Microscope

Things Left Unsaid

If you didn’t know (and how is life under that rock, anyhow?), Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference began today. It kicked off with a keynote by Steve Jobs, who introduced new Mac towers (the Mac Pros) and new Xserves before showing off some major new features that will be found in OS X 10.5 Leopard.

Looking around the web, you can find good coverage of the keynote, but Apple’s Sneak Peek site has a lot more information on Leopard. Some nuggets we’ve discovered:

• Time Machine has some serious slickness to it. In fact, Leopard really seems to ratchet up the level of slickness all around. Have a look at the Time Machine interface to see what I mean.

• Mail follows this same pattern, with its Stationery. This features looks pretty useless to me, but it also looks pretty, period. The way you can drag in, and zoom in, on photos in those templates is very slick. Now if Mail could actually import my mail, I might be able to start using it.

• iChat offers a new, unmentioned feature called Screen Sharing, which appears to work like VNC, or Remote Desktop (or Timbuktu or Copilot or…). iChat + remote control of a desktop seems to be a very, very good solution for simple technical support for friends and family.

• iChat is no longer metal. It’s sporting what appears to be the unified title bar look introduced in Tiger. I think it looks a lot nicer, and hopefully signifies a full shift away from the old-style metal.

• Alas, iCal remains metal (as does the Finder – hopefully a new Finder is one of the hidden features they can’t show us until release). iCal does pick up a couple new features though. It now has the ability to reserve rooms for meetings, as well as an “event dropbox” where files can be shared between anyone who’s part of an event. Perhaps iCal is becoming a viable solution for corporate calendaring.

• It seems that Apple may be allowing access to some of their slick features (such as those mentioned above). From the Xcode page comes this text:

Interface Builder 3.0 lets you drag and drop even more luscious behaviors into your application. Want to imitate the iChat sliding list view? It‚Äôs a matter of minutes, not days. Or add Keynote-like transitions to make your applications drag and stun…Make beautiful applications, elegantly and easily with Interface Builder 3.0.

We’ll have to see just how much this eye-candy is used in third-party applications and if much of it winds up being useful. I fear that we’ll see a lot of wasted CPU soon, with little benefit.

• As always, updates to the operating system may mean the end of some third-party products or companies. The obvious victims today are companies making backup software and virtual desktops.

While a good backup solution is arguably something that an OS should have built-in by now, I don’t know that the same can be said for virtual desktops. Further, Spaces appears to be tied in to the OS fairly well (for example, click an app’s Dock icon to jump to that particular Space), which means trouble for third parties hoping to compete.

More to come…
No doubt more will be found when we get a chance to play with the Preview received at WWDC, and even more so when Leopard is actually released (“Spring 2007”). For now though, it seems that Apple has added some nice new features as well as a lot of eye-candy.

My hope is that work is being done on the backend to fix things like the performance of Finder and Spotlight, instead of just assuming there’s nothing to be fixed. That’s not sexy or something you show off, but it’s something that needs to be done. Slickness moves units, but reliability and quality performance is how you keep users. Apple is smart enough to realize this, right?

There’s also all sorts of stuff at the Leopard Server site, including servers for iCal, Spotlight, and wikis, as well as a Podcast Producer application, apparently only for Server. Few people use Server though, so we won’t delve into that.

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