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After the WWDC IV: Get Ready for the Silliness

In the wake of what seemed to be significant announcements from Apple, it’s clear Wall Street wasn’t super impressed, but does anyone take the financial community seriously anymore after the recent economic debacle? And don’t get me started on some members of the tech media.

Take an article I read the other day that suggested that, by relabeling all unibody note-books as MacBook Pros, Apple had suddenly left a gaping hole in its product line. I suppose that’s because there’s a lone white MacBook available for $200 less. The author failed to consider the full impact of the price reductions, which clearly make Apple’s portables far more competitive with the Windows variety and make claims about an Apple Tax sillier than ever.

Of course, it may take a few days for Microsoft to comprehend the changed state of affairs. As of Tuesday evening, their notorious laptop ads were still running, and it was curious to see someone again dismissing a $1,999 MacBook Pro as too expensive, then buying, for less than $1,000, something more comparable to the $999 MacBook. Stupid is as stupid does.

There are also some who feel slighted because Steve Jobs didn’t make a cameo appearance, even though the rest of the executives who participated in the WWDC keynote did their usual credible job. They don’t have Steve’s charisma, and perhaps are not able to generate that alleged “reality distortion field,” but the facts they brought forth were more than sufficient to fill most expectations of the event.

As to Snow Leopard, some are fretting because there is no Marble interface or other eye candy to gaze over. This despite the fact that Apple has never presented 10.6 as anything more than a super cleanup of Leopard designed strictly for users of Intel Macs. The rest of the speculation in large part originated on rumor sites.

That Apple is cutting $100 off the upgrade price ought to be evidence that they don’t have unrealistic expectations, although an operating system capable of a huge performance boost may be more than sufficient to satisfy your needs. At least you have few new features to learn. Also, if your hard drive is a little starved for space, saving up to 6GB with Snow Leopard may also be reasonably compelling, at least for your purposes.

It may take a while, though, before you see some of those speed improvements. Application developers will have to take advantage of Apple’s new tools to provide support for Grand Central Dispatch. That’s the feature that supposedly makes it easier for apps to take advantage of those multicore processors in a meaningful way. Meantime, system-related functions ought to show a noticeable improvement, at least that’s the theory.

When it comes to the iPhone, it does appear the price of the 3G S line is perfectly sensible, since it’s the same as the 3G. Keeping the 8GB iPhone 3G around at $99 is going to create headaches for Palm, which can barely keep up with a demand that represents a fraction if iPhone sales.

The real problem impacts current owners of the 3G who might consider an upgrade. If you signed up for the standard two year pact most wireless carriers impose to support those discount subsidies, you will probably not be able to avoid a substantial penalty if you replace your phone with a 3G S. AT&T is asking for $200 extra, plus an $18 service fee. There are lots of understandable complaints, and some petitions as well. But this policy policy is no different than what’s in force for their other products, and most carriers I know about in the U.S. will enforce similar penalties.

I did check my upgrade options, by the way. I bought my iPhone 3G last July, and the $199 3G S with 16GB memory will cost me $399, plus that $18 of course. However, AT&T will usually relent and let a customer upgrade to a new phone with a new contract and no extra fees after 18 months.

If you have the original iPhone, there’s nothing to fear. You already paid full retail, without any subsidies, so you can upgrade at any time.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m not so desperate to dump my iPhone 3G. Yes, it would be nice to have a better camera, video recording capability, voice commands and a higher speed potential (especially when AT&T improves its download speeds here). But the promise of the iPhone 3.0 software is actually quite suitable for my immediate needs. If AT&T relents and gives existing customers more breathing space before they have to pay extra, I might reconsider.

But not now.

As far as I’m concerned, the WWDC delivered pretty much what I expected. I’m glad to see cheaper note-books, and a faster iPhone, but I’m more fascinated by the prospects of Snow Leopard. While I suspect most Mac users won’t see all that much of a difference, anyone with a Mac Pro will cherish the promise of superior processing capability. Why spend extra money only to have all those additional processor cores hanging out and doing nothing?

Also, what some of the pundits fail to consider is the fact that Apple has plenty of time to deliver more products during the remainder of 2009. Maybe Steve Jobs will even be back to host the next event.