Did I See What I Expected At The Keynote?

Apple’s keynote for WWDC (which isn’t considered confidential, so I can talk about it) only had one real surprise. The rest of what was presented was more-or-less expected, and some of it looks promising. The only surprise was the upcoming Mac Pro.

No More Cats

Apple has run out of big cat names, so now they are using California locations. The next release is named (somewhat awkwardly) “Mavericks”. I like the idea of the name, but in this case, I’m not thrilled with the ¬†implementation. The word is a plural, but it is being used as a singular. I foresee a lot of people dropping the ‘s’ and just calling it “Maverick”. And really, with all of the amazing places and names available in California, they choose one that is only likely to be well-known to surfers, not exactly a large portion of the population. There’s trying to be clever or imaginative, but this seems just plain odd.

The new version of OS X has a lot of features under the covers, and finally (finally) addresses multiple monitors. It’s been disappointing that it took them about 2 years to figure out that there are those of us that aren’t using a single screen all the time. The presence of the dock and menu bar on all of the screens is a welcome addition. I have wanted to add more screens to my Mac Pro (my current one can support up to 4 with no problem, but I’m only using 2), but the question of “where to put the menu bar” was one that has made me reluctant to go beyond 2 screens.

The performance and battery life features are also encouraging. It’s good to see companies are starting to look beyond the way thread and process schedulers have worked since the 1970’s and 1980’s, and put some thought into novel ways to use processor resources wisely. I believe that the surfeit of processor power has made us a bit lazy when it comes to core elements of the kernel. Let’s be honest, the last “big” thing was thread-level scheduling, and that came about in the early 1990’s. After that, there really hasn’t been any serious changes to how processes and threads are managed, and CPU’s allocated, for a while. It’s time someone stopped assuming that processor power is essentially infinite, and treated it as a truly finite resource again.

A Flatter iOS

The new, flattened iOS looks really good. I am actually breathing a sigh of relief, because the whole skeumorphic thing was a bit tiresome. It also made for a lot of really bad (and downright ugly) design decisions in plenty of apps. I will have to raise my hand as a guilty party. There were far too many instances of a texture of the sake of a texture. They didn’t add anything, didn’t convey any additional information, and their sole purpose was to “look cool”. I do expect, though, that the stock photo/texture vendors will take a bit of a hit here.

The addition of “real” multitasking is also a welcome addition. It wasn’t a big deal for the apps I have now, but I have things in progress that could benefit from being able to run more often. It appears, to, that the features added in OS X to improve CPU usage have made their way into iOS, with increased battery life being the biggest result. Apple still isn’t letting iOS apps have free reign all the time, but they’ve loosened the strings a little.

MacBook Air Refresh

Sadly, we didn’t get to see retina displays make their way into the MacBook Air. The biggest changes are dramatically increased battery life and a somewhat lower price on the 13″ MB Air. Otherwise, the machines appear to carry on much as they did before. Sure, they’re faster, but it doesn’t make me regret the Air that I just bought recently. Sure, a bit more power and battery life would be appreciated, but I’m not unhappy with what I have now.

Mac Pro

I want one of them. Holy cow! That is one small, scary powerful machine. I use a Mac Pro for most of my work (when I’m not on the road), in part because I still have occasion to process insane amounts of data (billions of market data records for one project). But I like having the power, the easy ability to open a lot of apps at the same time, and drive multiple screens with little effort required on the part of the hardware.

It is shocking just how much Apple is cramming into this little cylinder. Sure, it doesn’t have the traditional expansion slots, and for some, that will be an issue. But for me, my biggest requirement is storage, and with Thunderbolt 2, I’m not concerned about the throughput.

If I have one worry, it is whether the machine can truly handle the heat involved. It sure looks like it, and the details look promising (the Apple web site shows the insides in far more detail). I just hope it all works out.

However, I still want one. I’m looking forward to trying out iOS 7 and Mavericks, but I would really like the Mac Pro.