WWDC 2004 Promises a Long[horn]-Be[OS]-Tiger Mac OS X

As Futurama’s Professor Hubert Farnsworth usually says: “Good news everyone…“. Apple introduced today its upcoming 64-bit enhanced Tiger operating system due in the first quarter of 2005. Click in for our report from today’s WWDC opening which includes 18 pictures of the event.

The Apple WWDC is taking place at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the same place as last year, and the keynote was on the 3rd floor. On our way up up to the second floor we bumped to some old friends, Andrew Kimpton and Duncan Wilcox, both ex-Be engineers now working on Mac-related projects. Speeding fast next to us, there he was, the man himself, Dominic Giampaolo. Many will remember Dominic from his work on the 64bit filesystem for BeOS, BFS. Dominic now works at Apple… read more on that below.

Moving to the 3rd floor –where only the Media and VIPs had access at that time– we saw Steve Sakoman, also an ex-Apple, ex-Be, ex-PalmSource and now back-at-Apple’s-iPod-division exec. Steve looked pleased at how things were progressing for WWDC and he was also looking forward to the keynote. On the way to enter the large keynote room we saw Pudge from Slashdot and started chatting about various things. Later, we got to chat briefly with the editor-in-chief of the MacAddict magazine too.

Overall, the crowd this year seemed quite a bit larger than last year. There were especially a lot more media people. Last year they had all the media people only semi-filling up 1/4 of the 3rd floor, while this year they were filing up the whole floor. There were also more registered developers than last year, Steve Jobs said they had 17% more people registered this year.

The show started on time and Steve Jobs (wearing the exact same black sweater and jeans he always does on keynotes — this time he shaved though, we women notice these things) initiated the show with a roundup on iTunes, Airport Express and the BMW-iPod deal. After this, Steve explained the absense of the 3 GHz G5 that he had promised last WWDC and put the blame on the industry hitting the wall at 90nm. Then, some developers came on stage to show their new apps for OSX like Alias with Maya and a guitar pro application. The big wows came, though, from a small third party developer who had developed complex satellite orbit prediction software with Cocoa and OpenGL in under 3 months using XCode. The application is very “visual” and impressive, and Steve called it innovative. However, coming back home and trying to find some info on “Orbit” through Google, I found a bunch of other similar apps, all for Macs too.

And there was of course the introduction of the new Cinema Displays with the gorgeous looking 30″ model, coming in August. Another important point of the keynote was that Mac OS X had now about 50% of the Mac installed base and over 12,000 applications to choose from. Apple is pleased with the fact that they achieved this transition in about 4 years.

Moving on to Tiger (screenshots), there are over 150 new features in the OS, but there was only time to show about 10 of them: “VoiceOver”: Access the Mac through speech, audible cues and keyboard navigation for the visually impaired. .Mac Sync: Keep valuale data on Macs, portable devices and .Mac accounts up to date using sync. Enhanced UNIX Support: Work efficiently using Tiger’s 64-bit enhancements, new utilities and an optimized Kernel and Xcode 2.0. Macminute presented Xcode earlier today:

With Dead Code Stripping, developers can remove unused executable code from compiled applications and immediately see the effect in smaller code sizes and faster customer downloads. Applications are purportedly even easier to design, create and maintain by offering developers a clear visual representation of the application structure with Visual Modeling and Design.

Xcode 2 also includes: 64-bit development tools to build data-intensive applications using 64-bit memory addressing; an integrated Apple Reference Library to offer a single search and presentation interface to all of Apple’s online and locally stored developer documentation; Apple’s enhanced version of GCC v3.5, the next generation of the compiler; graphical remote debugging to display the debugging of data for full screen applications on remote machines; Auto Vectorization to automatically generate Velocity Engine-optimized code without requiring any source code changes; Ant build system support to make cross-platform development of Java applications easier; and support for Subversion Source Code Management, in addition to supporting CVS and Perforce, to enable easy integration with a range of development infrastructure.

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More information and pictures on the second page.

Among the most important new features you will find Dashboard, a Konfabulator ripoff (sorry, but I have to say it like it is. From all languages, Dashboard uses Javascript like Konfabulator does) with the added convenience of appearing/dissapearing from your screen using Expose’ (note: the Konfabulator guys announced on Friday a similar feature). I must be clear about this: When I see a QuartzExtreme-alike engine or a BFS-alike file system across different systems I see EVOLUTION, not copying. If it works, it only makes sense to move to these areas that others might be doing for years. But doing something SO close to Konfabulator in SO many ways, I can only call it a ripoff. I know that writing something like Konfabulator is a full time job of 2 engineers for a year or so, that’s about the cost of half a million dollars. Trying to buy Konfabulator would cost more than that if only for the lawyers alone going through the contracts. And so for Apple, it was a better deal to recreate it, than to buy it. However, when recreating something in general, companies add their own little touch to make it feel and look a bit different from the original, but in this case, Dashboard is a pure copycat visually and coding-wise, and that’s where the real problem is. But hey, business is business.

Then, there was Safari RSS, a very useful integration between the HTML part of the net and the RSS/Atom feeds. With nice transitions you can switch from the HTML view of a page to its RSS/Atom one. Elsewhere, Automator will put together actions and batch tasks in a visual way instead of forcing the user to learn Applescript.

Then, there was the H.264/AV codec which delivers higher quality video at lower data rates for everything from 3G cellphones to HD. QuickTime will come built-in with the codec and I can’t wait to start be watching trailers on Apple’s site using the codec. It is a truly impressive codec and even more impressive the fact that iSight owners will be able to use this codec with Tiger. The differnce in quality was immense, over the same amount of bandwidth! For some weird reason, though, sound was crappy and felt like “mono” (possibly iSight’s mic is the culprit here), while video quality kicked some serious a…

Regarding the Server version of Tiger (which will include XGrid), it will deliver over 200 new features including native support for 64-bit applications; Weblog Server that “makes hosting a weblog as simple as checking a box;” iChat Server to deploy private, encrypted communications within an organization; and migration tools to make it easy to upgrade from legacy Windows servers to Mac OS X Server. Tiger Server will be available in the first half of 2005 for $499 for a 10-client edition and $999 (US) for an unlimited-client edition, MacMinute and MacWorld reported.

I left the two best new features for the end:

1. Core Image and Core Video
This is a new API that gives access to a more advanced graphics engine that can use the graphics card’s GPU to deliver faster and more precise calculations. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to sit down on the sessions and learn more about the exact technology, but it’s clear that this feature is going against Longhorn’s new 32bit floating point precision gfx engine which is a must-have for photographers and other people in the “visual” industry. If anyone knows if the precision is in the co-ordinate spectrum or the color space, please let us know too. Anyway, Apple will be shipping some ready-made filters for use in applications, however a median-cut filter is missing.

2. Spotlight
When Steve demoed Spotlight, the new search indexed facilities on Mac OS X, it was like seeing Pavel Cisler (ex-Be Tracker developer, now works on Apple Finder) and Dominic Giampaolo on stage and not Steve Jobs. Looking at these screens, it was nothing more than a beefed up BFS with additional features and a more integrated interface. This work is so clearly the handiwork of Pavel and Dominic that I can’t even describe the feeling. So, “live” queries are there, query saving for future use is there, metadata searching is there, an instant indexed just like in BFS. However, Apple additionally did what it does best: a more integrated interface to Finder and on other applications that use the new API automatically. Also, they added searching inside documents which is also as, if not more, important. (that was never true on BeOS, however there was already a third party application called Passepartout for OSX). Regarding the generic “search”, it is now also live and instant, like BartLauncher for BeOS and LaunchBar and Quicksilver for OSX. However, unlike LaunchBar & Quicksilver, BeOS’ BartLauncher and Apple’s search does search on a live always up-to-date indexed filesystem, while the first two apps have to “crawl” through your files a few times a week and index them *manually* because the filesystem thus far didn’t support that operation. Now, it does, and Apple is taking advantage of it. I am very excited about the whole Spotlight thing.

After the keynote was over we were handed a big poster with an actual size 30″ Cinema Display, while the registered developers were handed the OSX Tiger OS & SDK and a t-shirt (not sure if the Media people were handed more gifts, I only managed to get a pen with the Apple logo ;-). Too bad we had to leave for home early today and a guard wouldn’t let the Media people enter some specific areas yet, so trying to enter the convention area with the third party companies presenting their products was out of our scheduled time there. I would have loved to talk to a few people like the GriffinTech guys or Aaron Hillegass, but hey, there is always next year.

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Special thanks to Jean-Baptiste Queru (JBQ) for taking all these nice pictures!


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