WWDC Keynote Is Quite The Event

I attended my first WWDC keynote today, watching Steve Jobs in person. I was amazed by the size of the crowd (all 5,200 attendees must have been there, plus a ton of media and Apple employees). I was impressed with the atmosphere and the way the keynote was produced: everything set up to focus on the stage, with few if any distractions in the auditorium.

What I’m not going to do is go into the details, because there are plenty of other sites that will cover it better (and I’d just end up summarizing them anyways, since I didn’t take notes, I just watched). The highlights of the presentation were the new phone, which in pictures is stunning. The display that comes with it looks very impressive, and I hope that Apple does bring it to both the iPad and the MacBook in the future. The resolution and clarity, if the presentation is any indication, is simply amazing. The video calling was pretty neat, but to be honest, its not like I haven’t participated in video calling before. We did some of the early beta test work with video conferencing when I was at BNR back in the 1990’s, and back then it was truly incredible. Apple appears to have done an outstanding job making it easy to use, since it is pretty much configuration-free. The fact that it is portable is very interesting. Where it goes from there, only time will tell.

It was amusing to watch the first demo of the new high-clarity screen fail, though (the screen didn’t fail, the website Steve was using didn’t load). It turns out that 570 WiFi networks is a bit much for the iPhone. That’s right: between people using their laptops as wireless base stations, a plethora of MiFi and similar devices, and the infrastructure for the conference and nearby businesses, there were 570 different WiFi networks operating. The bulk of the audience needed to turn off their devices so that the demos could proceed, and many people complied. I can anticipate a fair bit of negative reaction to that, though. Lots of ‘first amendment violations’ and ‘typical Apple censorship’ accusations and such. Oh well, such is life.

A lot of stats were tossed around during the presentation, but what was interesting was the number of apps submitted and approved on what Steve called a “curated app store”. 95% of all apps submitted are approved within 7 days. I can attest to the 7 days part, since it took Apple almost exactly 7 days to the hour to approve GearBox originally, and only 5 days to approve the upgrade to it. Apparently the top 3 reasons for rejection of apps are stunningly simple ones: the app doesn’t do what the description says it does, the app uses private or unpublished API’s, or the app crashes. There are other reasons, but these were the ones that Steve mentioned in his presentation. The fact that 95% of apps manage to pass without crashing during simple testing, and that is 95% of 15,000 apps submitted every week, is pretty impressive.

A fascinating omission was anything to do with the Macintosh. There was basically nothing. The entire keynote focused on some updates around the iPad, the rebranding of iPhone OS to iOS, and the new iPhone 4. The Mac does continue to become a smaller part of Apple’s business, but the iPhone and iPad are still really tethered devices. They still require a desktop of some kind of certain types of activities (OS/firmware updates, installing very large apps and syncing with media libraries). Granted, any sort of Mac announcement would have been buried by the iPhone announcement. What was disappointing was there wasn’t some kind of mention of the Mac during Steve’s initial comments and updates.

Overall, though, I was impressed by the keynote. Seeing it in person definitely adds a different perspective to the message. That perspective doesn’t come out in the live blogs or tweets during the event, nor in the blogs or articles after the event. It is bad in a way, because it loses the atmosphere, but good in a way, because it can be easy to get caught up in that atmosphere. I certainly plan to attend WWDC next year.