MACMAN June 14, 2012
The new MacBook Pro's display is sharper than high-definition TV. Photo: Reuters
Expect sleeker MacBooks, desktop and mobile integration and maps to rival Google's.
SOME thought Apple's World Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco this week would feature a new iPhone 5. Not so. Software and a new notebook line, including a super MacBook Pro, with configurations priced at $2500 to $3100, ruled the day.
And in software it was all about the domination of mobility in computing and the rapid integration of the mobile devices' iOS platform with the ninth Macintosh cat, Mountain Lion, Mac OS X 10.8.
Mountain Lion - a $US20 download from the Mac App Store - will arrive next month but iOS 6, foreshadowed at the conference, won't arrive until at least September, which is when an iPhone 5 might go on sale.
Apple's software chiefs explained to the developers who have thronged to Apple's iOS and Mac OS X how the two platforms are coming closer together.
WWDC is not really aimed at us end users but attracts the folks who do the preparation work, building apps and software services that ride on top of the Apple platforms.
This was the 23rd WWDC. This year 6000 software developers of every kind, a record number, bought up every ticket within an hour and 43 minutes. Dave Howell, a former Apple engineer who works in Portland, Oregon, where he does development on iOS and Mac OS X, says he could get only one ticket this year and gave it to one of his engineers; it's the first time in 20 years he has not attended.
It is mostly a networking and workshopping conference. Developers obtain beta releases of new operating systems when they are available and are made aware of a host of application programming interfaces.
Among Apple's own innovations, few were more impressive than a new, elegant Maps app, striving to replace Google Maps in the Apple firmament, possibly because of the pricklier relationship Apple now has with Google, maker of Android.
The newly unveiled hardware was interesting: refreshed MacBook Air and Pro notebooks and an impressive newcomer, a 15.4-inch MacBook Pro with a Retina display screen that offers an extraordinary 2880-pixel by 1800-pixel resolution, sharper than high-definition TV.
It has no optical drive, a large battery giving a claimed seven-hour life each charge, and solid-state storage that can be optioned up to a whopping 768 gigabytes. Though called a MacBook Pro, it is - at 1.8 centimetres thick and two kilograms in weight - a MacBook Air on steroids. All have new Intel Ivy Bridge i5 or i7 processors, Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 and 2.0 connection and backlit keyboards.
MacBook Pro and Air notebooks now comfortably outsell desktop Macs, while iPhones and iPads are streaking even further ahead on sales figures. Integration of the desktop and mobile operating systems is something Apple is doing to improve its position against rivals.
Apple is attracting considerable third-party innovation and inspiration to its inter-platform ecosystem.
Apple chief executive Tim Cook set out the size of it: more than 400 million credit card accounts active on the App Store, the largest number on the internet; 650,000-plus apps, 225,000 for iPad; 30 billion apps downloaded from the iTunes App Store and developers having been paid more than $US5 billion.
So, some new integrations: Messages, including iMessage, formerly on the iPhone and the iPad only, is now available to the Mac, as are Reminders and Notes. Pages, Numbers or Keynote documents are available through iCloud to all devices.
Changes on one device are automatically updated to documents on all other devices the user has and mobile's Notification Centre comes to the Mac in Mountain Lion.
Voice Dictation now works on a Mac on any documents for which you use a keyboard. Contacts, Mail, Calendar, Messages, FaceTime, and Find My Mac content on iPhone and iPad will automatically migrate to your Mac. Images and high-def video can now be shared with Messages.
A feature called iCloud Tabs allows users to share open web pages between iOS and Mac OS X devices, and Safari has been revitalised. Search in the browser is faster and smarter, Apple says.
Siri's knowledge has been greatly expanded, with features such as Eyes Free for drivers, which car makers will adopt with steering-wheel controls so you can control Maps and other information apps through Siri without taking your eyes off the road. Oh, and heaps more, some due next month in Mountain Lion and the rest in iOS 6 about September (and maybe the iPhone 5).
Garry Barker attended the WWDC as a guest of Apple.