Apple's big week: the good, the bad, the ugly
WWDC Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference saw its fair share of big-ticket news items during the last five days.
However, there were plenty of other details you might have missed, capabilities you may not have pondered, and gripes and disappointments you have yet to stew.
Here then, in descending order of interest and value, are The Reg's picks for WWDC 2009: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
5. You-goo-proof iPhone display This nicety wasn't mentioned during the keynote, but it did show up on the iPhone 3G S Tech Specs page on Apple's website: the new iPhone will have a "Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating."
Those of you with even the most meager knowledge of Latin roots understand what that means: oil from your fingers won't muck up your iPhone's display as it now does, and cleaning the display will be a simple swipe'n'wipe action without the need for water or Windex. Yeah, it's a little thing - but for those of us with oily paws, a godsend.
4. Back-to-the-future drive connection Apple has never had the best FireWire implementation, as has been proven to anyone who's ever had to reset their Mac's FireWire PHYs by unplugging everything, shutting down, and waiting ten minutes.
Still, though, FireWire 800 beats the snot out of USB 2.0 - and will until USB 3.0 becomes the next standard. Welcome back, finicky-but-fast, power-hearty FireWire. When you left the low end of the Mac laptop line, we thought we wouldn't miss you. But we did. And thanks for bringing your li'l SD friend with you.
3. Business-conscious iPhone support The iPhone 3G S will include hardware encryption of data, a big plus for IT folks terrified that some executive bozo will lose his or her phone when it's packed with tons of sensitive data, emails, and the like. Coupled with the wipe-it-clean capabilities of the new Find My Phone capabilities, IT folks will sleep better at night.
Also, sessions and labs at WWDC included such business-friendly topics as iPhone Security Best Practices and Integrating iPhone into the Enterprise, both regarding the iPhone not as a fanboy's toy, but as a legitimate, profit-enhancing business tool.
2. Serious iPhone-graphics powers There's been a bit of a buzz about the iPhone 3G S's upgraded 600MHz ARM processor. Of more interest to lovers of a good graphics experience is its assumed PowerVR SGX graphics processor from Imagination Technologies, a company in which Apple has a decent-sized financial stake.
The PowerVR SGX supports the Open GL|ES 2.0 mobile graphics standard, which brings fully programmable 3D-graphics support to iPhone Software 3.0. Let's review: a faster CPU, a noticeably more powerful graphics processor, and support for advanced 3D APIs. We've come a long way since iWhack, eh?
1. Future-proofed APIs Of all that was announced at this week's festivities, the most far-reaching in importance may be two Snow Leopard technologies, Grand Central Dispatch (GCD) and OpenCL. Both are designed to help developers take advantage of the rapidly proliferating cores and threads in today's microprocessors, with GCD focused on general computing tasks and OpenCL aimed at compute-intensive parallizeable tasks such as graphics and media processing.
Apple has full control over GCD, so our assumption is that their engineers can tune GCD to work seamlessly and easily with the company's Xcode development environment and associated GCC compiler. Athough OpenCL was born at Apple, its open-sourciness is now managend by the Khronos Group. Word on the street is that it's harder to implement than GCD - but we'll wait to see what comes down the pike from these two leaps forward.
We would have asked developers what they learned about GCD and OpenCL at WDCC, but Apple made all attendees promise to keep their lips zipped about what went on during conference sessions. Which leads us to...
Next page: The Bad
To all the non-programmers
Having Snow Leopard support PowerPC does not hold back an Intel release. A modern operating system consists of mostly architecture independent code - this is true even of Windows, which has been ported to at least Alpha, PowerPC and (allegedly) UltraSPARC. As most of Apples changes between releases are provided by higher level systems than the kernel, the impact of supporting more than one architecture is even less. There are also benefits of keeping the code portable. This means endianness and 64bit issues don't go unnoticed, and switches of primary architecture (as happened with the switch from PPC to x86) are realistically possible. The switch to x86 was only possible because OpenStep (which OSX is a re-branding of) was ported to a number of architectures.
As has been stated, it's clear that the whole point of Snow Leopard is to optimise the OS for Intel Macs.
I don't see the problem with sticking to 10.5 on PPC Macs. It's not like your computer is going to stop working the day 10.6 is released...
Apple actually knows better than the average punter or journo
No Adobe Flash on iPhone for me thanks - ever. Cripples performance, flattens batteries, eats bandwidth, makes web pages annoying, and guarantees an uninformative, unsearchable, unresponsive corporate or product web site. Locks Apple into Adobe dependency. Long live HTML5.
No camera flash on iPhone either, thanks - built in flash almost ensures a bad picture - I leave it disabled on all my cameras. Engage brain instead when taking photos.
No 8 megapixel camera either thanks - does not produce superior pictures and inserts extra delays into every picture operation. For camera phones, think Lomo.
Snow Leopard is AFAIK the first time Apple haven't supported all Macs bought new in the past five years with an OS update. But it's not a feature release, it's still called Leopard, and the price is $29. Better than holding back the Intel Macs for 2 more years.