Apple WWDC 2013

WARNING! MASSIVE POST AHEAD!

Apple makes OSX (Mavericks) announcements, revisions to Macbook Air, Mac Pro, iOS7 and iTunes Radio.WWDC-2013_620x350

Overall, this has been a pretty decent move forward in most areas, bringing Apple products in line with the current standards in latest technology.

OSX Mavericks

iBooks : This has been a long time coming. Previously you had the Amazon app for OSX which pretty much did the same thing including syncing of books between devices that have the Amazon app. Added features such as annotations and creating flipcards from those notes add a bit of polish to an otherwise run of the mill feature.

Maps : Still suffering at the hands of the last failed version of the last foray into mapping, Apple Maps still for me needs to really bring something fantastic to the table (like very accurate and up to date maps) which I will be evaluating when I get the chance. Syncing directions to your device is a nice feature but Google Maps does the same thing and with a better track record for getting directions right.

Calendar : No more digital leather and paper! The faux desk calendar feel has been a long time irritant for most people. We know what an electronic calendar should look like and we do need leather and paper design cues to remind us what we are looking at. Thankfully, Apple has listened and we can now focus on the actual function of managing our appointments. A nice clean interface and some intuitive design cues that look like they have been taken from competitors makes a welcome change to the calendar.

Safari : The biggest thing for me is the smart idling of web page animations that would otherwise keep the processor busy if the browser is covered up by another application. OSX Mavericks now manages Safari in a clever way by halting processing of animations and other processor intensive functions that are not visible thus lowering demand on the processor which translates to more efficient use of the battery.

A few new organisation ideas for the Top Sites and the Sidebar (Bookmarks, reading links and shared links) helps Safari into the lead as far as functionality goes. As far as security goes we will have to wait and see what the security researchers come up with once this is release.

iCloud Keychain : I love my Lastpass and it seems Apple liked it so much they decided to copy many of the really cool features. Better password management is the cornerstone to everyones digital security and Apple takes some hints from other industry leaders. Storing encrypted passwords and credit card details to be shared between authorised devices is now built into OSX Mavericks. Good job Apple, this is useful but also makes the service a very juicy target for the bad guys. I sincerely hope your security is up to scratch.

Multiple Displays : With the exception of including Airplay devices this is a bit of a yawnfest. Multi displays are no big deal really. Been done before with the exception of eye-candy like having your dock and other control elements pop up where you need it. Nice touch but not really earth shattering.

Notifications : Sure this is a significant feature but also has been done before with the exception of access from the lock screen and the ability to manage some notifications from the popup. It can certainly help or hinder with productivity but this often comes down to individual scenarios.

Finder Tabs : Now this is a good idea. Just like in our web browsers we can manage our tabs, we can do the same now in finder to manage different finder functions. Flip between different tabs to manage your files and folders, searches, airdrop targets etc all from the one window. A good tool to help de-clutter your desktop.

Tags : This is another good idea that allows you to categorise files according to a classification such as important, home, school and even custom tags. I can see this working well with people that love to keep things organised as it allows more than one tag to be applied to a file. This feature also extends to Apps as well as iCloud as the tags are implemented as a part of the file system. This does not seem to be a Windows feature (yet) so we might see Microsoft borrow this idea.

Under the hood : There is also some impressive stuff going on behind the scenes with better memory management and CPU utilization meaning we could see dramatic improvements with battery life. Once again, security is still to be reviewed by the people that live and breathe hacking but I expect that with every new feature there is a new potential security flaw. My eye is on iCloud Keychain as I think it gives the bad guys lots of motivation to find ways into OSX.

 

Macbook Air

This thin and light ultrabook-class laptop retains its looks and gets a boost with the latest generation Intel processors, wifi and storage. It is faster and better connected and with the advances in the processor technology teamed up with the upcoming OSX Mavericks claims a battery life of up to 9 hours for the 11 inch model and 12 hours for the 13 inch Macbook Air.

At first glance it is just more of the same but with the improvements under the hood, this Macbook gets a minor upgrade to performance.

 

Mac Pro

I was genuinely left scratching my head over this one. The Mac Pro is the powerhouse in the Apple lineup of desktop products. This computer has traditionally been a large aluminium workstation very similar to the old PC form that sits beside a display or under a desk. It used to be expandable. You used to be able to tinker with it. You used to be able to get your hands dirty with this beast.

It seems that has all changed. The new Mac Pro packs a wallop. Make no mistake about that. Dual GPU, fast RAM, a beefy line of Intel Xeon processors, Thunderbolt 2 interfaces and able to support up to 3 4K displays all add up to a very imposing workstation capable of handling just about anything you care to throw at it.

It’s just the design that has me completely thrown. The system comes to you not as a large aluminum box but a smooth, black cylinder around 9 inches or 23cm tall. Looking inside the system has been built around the cooling component called a thermal core topped with a single fan. The hardware is then bolted to the aluminium core and the outer cover slides over the entire unit. You can replace the RAM, the storage might be replaceable but I would not expect it to be dead easy (use external storage or NAS). As for the rest, I don’t expect there to be any user-serviceable parts which keeps in line with the rest of the Apple family of products.

The Mac Pro is a strange, puzzling and oddly beautiful beast and a very powerful one at that. I look forward to setting one of these up for a customer very soon.

 

iOS 7

The latest revision of iOS takes a few cues from Android in look and feel and flirts with a color scheme that would not look out of place on a Fischer Price toy. The overall impression still works and has a couple of very nice flourishes like a parallax like view of the home screen where the screen is layered and as the phone is moved, the layers shift over each other giving a sense of depth making the background image feel like it is sitting a centimeter or so behind the icons. The control Centre and keyboard both slide up over the top of the icons with a translucent look completing the effect. True to Apple’s form, something new and highly polished on its flagship OS.

The Control Center slide up from the bottom of the screen and provides quick access to handy utilities like Airplane mode, Wifi Settings, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, Brightness, iTunes, Airdrop, Airplay,Camera, Calculator, Clock and even a Flashlight. Some solid thought has gone into the utility of the control center.

The Notification Center covers all the usual deal with your calendar, missed notifications and the weather for the day.

Multitasking while still strictly speaking not the true multitasking we run on computers is still pretty good and navigating through running apps looks even nicer.

Photos are easier to manage and the iphone comes late to the game with built in filters (remember instagram before it became uncool?)

Airdrop is a way to share photos etc with people within range and the process seems pretty slick and easy for both the sender and receiver.

Safari looks great! The tabbed browsing does not limit you to 8 tabs and moving through the tabs reminds me of flipping through a rotary rolodex.

Siri has had some nice improvements and users now have a little more choice in the voice Siri uses.

Game center has had a total revamp and looks nothing like the current game center (thank the maker!)

At the end of the day, iOS looks really different but still seems familiar. It may be just enough to drag this potentially Android-leaning from leaving the iOS world. If we get an announcement of a new phone on the way out in September or October then that may well be enough for me to eek out a few more months on this old iPhone 4 while I wait out the remainder of my contract.

I try really hard to remain balanced but right now I am feeling the lure of Apple pulling just a little bit harder after this announcement.

iTunes Radio

Looks like Apple is once again playing catchup to the leaders in this sector and making the experience very nice indeed. Free access to the itunes library streamed to your iOS device in a radio style based on your likes and dislikes learned as you use the service. Don’t like ads? No problem. Just subscribe to iTunes match from AUD$34.99/yr. Compared to the other services that can cost up to 4 times as much, this is a pretty compelling offer.