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The WWDC Rant: The Short Keynote Update

There’s something to be said for a live radio broadcast of an event. You just need a mic, some way to transfer your signal to the station or an intermediate feeding mechanism, such as satellite, and you’re good to go. But when it comes to online publishing, you have to depend on a some way to transfer your data to the host servers, and in a live event, that usually means some sort of mobile Internet hookup, or Wi-Fi.

Here at San Francisco’s Moscone West, we have a live hookup for the latter, but it was disabled, as expected, during the keynote.

The keynote was a mixed bag, other than the fact that I tripped during my run to the front rows of the press area. No sympathy from anyone, but no injuries either.

Some of the expectations from the rumor sites, such as updated note-books, to take advantage of new Intel chips, weren’t announced. There was also nothing about the iPod either, because the WWDC was sharply focused on just two things: The completion of Apple’s transition to Intel chips, and the first look at Mac OS X Leopard.

The Power Mac’s successor, the Mac Pro is shipping today, and it comes in the same basic case as the Power Mac. But Apple is taking advantage of the cooler-running Intel Xeon processors and adding lots of extra room inside for up to four hard drives and two optical drives. The standard configuration, at $2,499, includes a pair of 2.66GHz Xeons, but you can get up to 3GHz and lots of options if you opt for a custom configuration. A Xeon-equipped Xserve will ship in October.

Coming in the spring of 2007 is Mac OS X Leopard. Alas some features are still labeled by Steve Jobs as “Top Secret,” which means we won’t know about them for a while. For now, there’s no indication of any changes to the Finder or the rest of the interface, but there are some nifty enhancements for iChat, Mail, Dashboard, Spotlight, and the rest of the pack.

One of my favorite new features is the system-wide backup/restore utility, Time Machine. Apple says that just 26% of Mac users do backups, and only 4% use dedicated backup software. With Time Machine and an external drive or server, it’s all done automatically. Even better, if you accidentally misplace or delete a file, you can search back through time (or at least the timeframe tracked by Time Machine) to find the file and restore it.

Jobs also said that all of the needed applications would be bundled with Leopard, including a revised Front Row and Photo Booth. He didn’t say anything about iLife, but since it’s critical to getting the most power out of Leopard, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were included.

That also means, of course, that the price may be higher. I’m betting on $179 to $199, but that, and a broader picture of the scope of Tiger, is still to come.

While the keynote was somewhat dull, it also fueled the conspiracy theories. Jobs gave lots of stage time to his underlings, including Phil Schiller, and some (not this writer) might want to speculate that the way is being paved for the eventual transition to a new CEO, who’d have help to deliver the keynotes.

Or maybe Jobs was just feeling generous and wanted to give his hard-working staff more lines to deliver during a keynote.

I’ll have more to say in the next few days, but I welcome your comments in the meantime.