Well, it’s that time again: Apple’s yearly developer conference, when they announce things new and wonderful. As Apple has now officially bowed out of their winter MacWorld Expo convention, this is the only formally scheduled event of the year in which Apple makes announcements. The WWDC (that’s Worldwide Developer Conference) is a bit of a pilgramage for Mac and iPhone developers from far and wide. The popularity of the iPhone caused WWDC to sell out last year; this year, it sold out six weeks in advance!
The announcements made are typically geared more towards someone developing software or hardware to be used with an Apple product, but with an eye towards the general public as well. What did Apple have to say?
This is kind of exciting. Every MacBook product — basic, Pro and Air — has gotten better and cheaper. The 13″ aluminum model has sensibly attained Pro status and thankfully has restored the FireWire port, much-missed in its previous incarnation. It also, along with the 15″, gets a flash memory (SD) card slot, and like the 17″ model, it has a long-life battery which can’t be removed.
Summary of new Mac laptops:
- Basic white MacBook gets a bit faster and adds a bigger drive. It’s still a solid performer; we use one (ok, the old black one) daily. $999.
- New 13″ MacBook Pro replaces 13″ aluminum MacBook, adds FireWire 800 port, SD card slot, long-life battery, and speed: $1,199/$1,499, with options to customize.
- New 15″ MacBook Pro trades ExpressCard34 slot for SD card slot, and adds long life battery, deep-color screen, and speed: $1,699/$1,999/$2,299, with options to customize.
- New 17″ MacBook Pro is faster than the previous model and comes with larger drive: $2,499, with options to customize.
- New MacBook Air adds speed: $1,499/$1,799.
New Mac OS X
Though many of its details have been known for a while, Apple formally announced that the next version of Mac OS X, version 10.6, aka “Snow Leopard,” will be available on September 29. Basically, this is a “tuning and tightening” release; the overall experience won’t be dramatically changed, but everything should be crisper, faster, better: fewer spinning pizzas. It’s only $29 if you already have 10.5 (“Leopard”), or $10 if you buy a Mac between now and December. It’s the usual $129 for everyone else. One interesting new capability is the ability for Apple Mail, Address Book, and iCal to synchronize with Microsoft Exchange server, providing those users (including many of our clients) with an alternative to Microsoft Entourage. As has been suspected since Snow Leopard was first announced, Apple is once again saying goodbye to its not-too-distant past: it will not run on Macs based on PowerPC processors, such as G4’s, G5’s, and PowerBooks.
Ah, the news everyone wants to know. Apple announced the iPhone 3GS, which ships June 19. The S, we are are told, is for “speed.” Not unlike Snow Leopard, it looks very much the same as its predecessor, but it’s more capable and speedy all around. Faster applications, faster internet (though this depends on AT&T in the U.S., so don’t hold your breath), better camera, better battery, video capture (finally!) with editing, a compass, voice dialing. As before, it’s $199 or $299, but with greater capacity (16 GB or 32 GB). If you already have an iPhone or are otherwise an AT&T customer, these prices might not be available to you. Ain’t cell phone contracts great?
The good old iPhone 3G, 8GB model, is now a measly $99. If you’ve been sitting on the fence, now’s the time. Furthermore, it’s now a lot better than it was, because of…
New iPhone OS 3.0
Like a Mac, the iPhone is a computer, and so it has its own operating system called iPhone OS, which under the hood is based on Mac OS X. There’s a major new upgrade coming on June 17. It finally adds a bunch of features people have been clamoring for since day one: horizontal keyboard for email, “text” messages which can contain pictures (again, you’ll be waiting on AT&T for this), cut/copy/paste (can I hear a hallelujah), systemwide search (one more), voice memos, better calendar, faster browsing, remote locating and/or wiping of your iPhone (requires MobileMe), and lots of other stuff. There’s also under-the-hood goodies which will allow developers to write better apps. The OS upgrade is free for iPhone, or $10 for iPod Touch.
(Note to those of you who might be using their iPhone with an, ahem, carrier for which it was not originally intended: you might not want to install the upgrade.)
- No, we don’t know what’s up with Steve Jobs. There are some things even us experts can’t figure out. We didn’t see him at the show today, but his fingerprints were still clearly visible.
- Several new iPhone capabilities depend on the carrier: MMS, internet tethering, higher speeds. AT&T is dragging its heels on all of these, and Apple illustrated that point by putting up the names of quite a few international carriers who will be supporting the new abilities. We would imagine Apple are chomping at the bit to exit their exclusive contract with AT&T next year.
- Some of you have asked us about the Palm Pre as an iPhone alternative. We say: could be. Let’s wait and see. Whatever thunder the Pre is able to generate, I don’t think today’s new iPhone will drown out, though it’s probably enough to keep the iPhone’s momentum charging ahead. With that said, if you’ve got to have a keyboard, as some of us do, The Pre looks like a pretty nice product.