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The WWDC Report: On the World of Diminished Expectations

Consider that the event is known as the Worldwide Developers Conference, not Macworld Expo. Despite that, far too many people expected the sun, the moon and the stars when it comes to new product announcements during the Steve Jobs keynote address.

Certainly it’s not as if Apple isn’t partly guilty for raising those expectations. The Power Mac G5 was first unleashed at a WWDC. Ditto for the Mac Pro, and the first news of the Intel transition came at one of those events, too, but developers needed to know how to advance their software to Universal status. It made plenty of sense, and certainly introducing hardware that caters to advanced users, including those same developers, is appropriate for that venue.

So I suppose it was a little strange to read claims that there would be brushed metal or aluminum-clad iMacs too. Well, it is true that some developers might be attracted to the iMac, particularly if they don’t have the big bucks for higher-end hardware. But the iMac is still the quintessential consumer computer, right?

Indeed, devoting most of the keynote to Leopard made perfect sense. That’s what developers came there for, to receive a feature-complete beta, and attend numerous workshops about how best to program for the new operating system.

Some of you are disappointed that Jobs confined his presentation to just ten out of a promised 300 features, but each of those items contains more than a single feature. There may be dozens, particularly in iChat and Mail. Each will get a separate bullet point when the entire list is posted.

All right, some of the stuff announced last year was repeated, but the intervening months have made such enhancements as Time Machine and Spaces no less significant. The same may be said for the rest of the pack, but the newly unified interface is especially significant.

You might regard Leopard as a sort of coming out party for Mac OS X. More than six years after the initial release of version 10.0, the scattered components of the original Aqua interface have finally taken on a high level of consistency. Critical Finder and desktop navigation issues have been addressed, and the new Core Animation feature makes everything look just great.

The question is, of course, whether your Mac is suited to Leopard, or even whether it’ll be supported. Now I don’t claim to have any final information about system requirements, but I would be willing to suggest that those with a G3 need not apply. Those models simply don’t have the graphics or CPU horsepower to cope with Leopard’s advanced eye candy.

Of course, it’s fair to say that most of the G3s are quite long in the tooth, although late model iBooks are only four years old right now. Unless you have a really right budget, maybe it’s time to find something in Apple’s product line worth upgrading towards. And if you do have a tight budget, don’t worry about Leopard. Your time will come.

In any case, when you look at the entire picture, can you honestly say the keynote was a yawner? I mean, Jobs did deliver what Apple promised as far as Leopard is concerned. While developers are prevented from nondisclosure agreements from giving us the inside details of all those special workshops on building great Leopard-savvy applications, they are clearly getting what they paid for.

Despite that, I gather that someone is selling a T-shirt expressing graphically the awful nature of the keynote, that it somehow was an abysmal failure. Apple’s stock price is still pulling back somewhat, although I can’t imagine what makes some of those Wall Street analysts tick.

We know, for example, that the iPhone will apparently be released on schedule. The public beta of Safari 3 for Windows is out there in all its glory, more or less. Oh yes, a number of Windows users are complaining about bugs, and there are reports of security issues; there’s already a 3.0.1 update available to address the latter.

Unfortunately, they are forgetting that it is a public beta. It is basically a preview of a product that won’t be finalized for a while. It is supposed to have defects, and one hopes that Apple will simply issue ongoing updates until a final version is available to prevent them from going off the deep end.

At the same time, I would hope that there will also be a final version of Safari 3 for Tiger. It would be nice to want everyone to upgrade to Leopard, but that’s the sort of migration that will take a while to complete. Tiger is, after all, a mighty stable and complete product as it is.

In short, I am not disappointed in the WWDC happenings at all. They delivered the goods on Leopard, just as they said they’d do. What more can you ask?