This is not going to be a full rundown of everything that was announced at Apple’s 2009 World Wide Developers Conference, not even nearly. It’s just my opinions on the things that caught my attention. If you don’t know what Apple announced you can watch the Keynote on Apple’s site.

Lets start by having a look at how I did on my predictions. I did pretty well over-all, as is to be expected when you don’t predict anything too exciting or special, but I did get one very major prediction wrong. I was adamant that there would be no new hardware at this evening, and what did Phil kick off with? New MacBook Pros! That was a total surprise, and not just to me.

It probably comes as no surprise that the tablet I’ve been wishing for for literally years failed to materialise again. I’m convinced we’ll see it this year though. Apple have to do SOMETHING with those 10″ displays they have apparently ordered, and I doubt they’ll come out with a traditional netbook. If I keep predicting a tabled I’m bound to be right eventually …. right?

I was very much correct though that the main thrust of the event would be the next version of OS X (10.6 Snow Leopard), and the iPhone, particularly the new iPhone 3.0 OS, and of course new hardware. This was a developers conference, and the keynote was very much aimed at developers, as it should be, and as I’d expected.

Finally, I’d predicted that Snow Leopard would hold one of two surprises. Either the rumour mill had missed some very significant features and Apple would spring those on us and then sell Snow Leopard at Apple’s normal price, $129, or the would sell it very cheap. I think $29 counts as cheap!

The New MacBook Pros

That’s enough about my predictions, lets have a look at the main planks of the presentation one-by-one, starting with the unexpected new laptops.

The first thing that struck me is that Apple have clearly been listening to their users. The re-introduction of FireWire is proof of that. I also see the replacement of the ExpressCard slot with an SD Card reader as further evidence of Apple listening. PC users expect SD Card readers in their laptops, and almost no one uses the ExpressCard slots in the older models, so the swap seems very logical to me.

In sharp contrast, the built-in super battery is prime example of Apple being sure it knows best. No one is asking for this feature, and it’s very unpopular with a vocal minority, but Apple are convinced it’s for our own good. I happen to think they’re right, but these new batteries are definitely getting some people’s panties in a twist!

The price drops are also a big deal, significantly improved machines for $300 less, that really adds value to the range. Also, in these tough times, it makes sense to give people a little more for their money.

The biggest thing for me though is the effect these changes have on the line as a whole. Apple converted the 13″ MacBook to a MacBook Pro, this leaves only one model of MacBook, and that’s the old plastic one. It’s quite cheap, but it’s old technology, Apple are not going to keep it around for long IMO. Since the only modern MacBook design has now become a MacBook Pro, a large opening has opened up, and I’m sure Apple are going to fill it by the end of the year. Perhaps they’ll release a new design cheap MacBook that comes in at about $800, or perhaps they’ll venture into the netbook space. Somehow I don’t see Apple ever doing a traditional netbook, so again, I’m expecting a tablet. Another somewhat more unexpected move would be to replace the white MacBooks with a new version of the MacBook Air. It too has been coming down in price, and now that the MacBook Pros all have such high specs it’s really looking under specked up there at the high end of Apple’s range. It might make sense to bring it down to around the $999 mark and retire the plastic MacBook.

OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard

Moving on to Snow Leopard, I have to say I’m very impressed with the foundation Apple is laying down here for future OS versions. This is a very forward looking release, which makes it clear to me that Apple are committed to OS X for a long time to come. This update is pretty much all under-the-hood stuff, but there is some nice polish on the hood too.

Apple had promised us that this release would be all about low-level technologies and APIs when they announced it last year, and they’ve kept their word. Being a developers conference, those new technologies and APIs got a lot of stage time, but there were demos of user-facing refinements too. Apple have definitely done enough to make this OS release more than worth $29 to users.

For large corporations the native MC Exchange support will be a very big deal. Apple didn’t do a half-assed job of their implementation either, it looks really solid.

Quicktime X also looks like a solid improvement, and significantly, the features that used to be in the paid-for pro version seem to have been incorporated into the free version. Since QuickTime pro used to retail for about $29, this one component alone would be worth the price of Snow Leopard! The idea of having easy built-in sharing to the web, and indeed to big Web2.0 sites like YouTube, is very significant, it really shows that Apple get just how important social networking is to users.

As cool as QuickTime X looks, it’s not what I’ll be looking forward to most in Snow Leopard, that honour goes to the subtle but important changes to the Finder and the core OS services. THE biggest thing for me will be the improved volume ejection system. Apparently we’ll get less failed ejects, and when the eject does fail the Finder will tell us exactly which app is preventing the drive from ejecting, making it easy to fix the problem and eject the drive. The improvements to the Dock with the refinement of Stacks and the addition of Exposée right into the Dock will also be very handy. What didn’t get air time on the keynote, but is also very significant, is the long long over-due overhaul of the Services menu. Even in Leopard the services menu is very powerful, but it’s just too cluttered and awkward to live up to it’s potential. Apple seem to have solved those problems in Snow Leopard.

iPhone 3.0 Software

Most of the iPhone 3.0 discussion was a real case of deja-vu, probably because most of it had already been revealed the last Apple event a few months back. There were some extra treats though. For me, the biggest news by far is the Find My iPhone feature. It literally lets you see where your phone is on a map, and lets you trigger it to make noise, even if it’s on silent, perfect for all those times I can’t find my phone in the morning. The fact that you need Mobile Me to get this service doesn’t bother me, and if anything, I think it’s a good thing. Mobile Me is not cheap, so it’s nice to get a little more for my money!

The other potentially significant feature is tethering. I use the word ‘potentially’, because we are all the mercy of our carriers here, and I fully expect O2 Ireland to totally ruin this feature with extortionate charges. Please please please prove me wrong O2!

I found the software demos very tedious, but they were revealing none-the-less. Of all the things in the iPhone 3.0 software, I think the most significant by far is the opening up of the dock connector and bluetooth stack to 3rd party developers. This will turn out to be every bit as game-changing as the introduction of the App store was last year IMO.

The iPhone 3G S

Finally, The new iPhone 3G S looks good, but it didn’t shock me. It was pretty much exactly what the rumour-mill had ordered. I’m not going to be upgrading because my contract is not up yet, and that really doesn’t bother me. We need to get used to the fact that if we want cheap subsidised iPhones we’re going to be tied to contracts, and we’re going to have to go 18 months to two years with each model. That means in effect that we’ll have to skip alternate models. I figured this out the day I got my iPhone 3G, and bought it in the full understanding that Apple would probably release a new phone this summer, and that I wouldn’t be able to get it. When you sign a contract for 18 months that means you are tied in for 18 months, it’s all there in back and white! However, it would appear that much of the Twitterverse hasn’t grasped that basic fact yet, and of course there has been a big explosion of childish whining all over the net. The sense of entitlement and the total lack of understanding of how subsidised phones work is staggering. I could rant on about this for hours, but I’ll spare you the pain.

There are two features in the 3G S that strike me as very appealing all-the-same. The new camera looks like a major improvement, the click to focus idea is fantastic, and low-light and video support are both nice aditions. The voice control features are also very impressive. Voice dialling is not new, it has existed for years, if not a decade, but as usual with Apple, they’ve taken it to a whole new level. You can do much more than just dialling number, and the phone talks back to answer your questions and to ask you for more information if it needs it. You can start having simple conversations with your iPhone. “call Allison”, “Home or Work?”, “Home”. The idea of being able to ask my phone what song is now playing on the iPod, and and having it answer you back really blew me away. Support for more complex instructions like “play songs by Queen”, or “play more like this” is genuinely impressive. It’s all very very Star Trek! I just hope this feature lives up to our expectations, if anything has the potential to really let people down, this is it.


All-in-all, with the exception of the new MacBook Pros, the general tone and content was as expected. There were some nice details in there though, and some unexpected details. All-in-all, I’m really looking forward to both iPhone 3.0 and OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Apple are really keeping their lead in both desktop and mobile operating systems.