WWDC 2011: The Good The Bad, and the Meh
As with all big Apple events, I once again find people turning to me for my opinion on the announcements from Apple’s 2011 World Wide Developer’s Conference. Honestly I can’t blame them, as my opinion is often the only correct one when it comes to such things. I seem to have the uncanny ability to cut through the hype with laser beam-like precision, and somehow categorize the day’s events into one of three categories: Good, Bad, and Meh. Here’s how the WWDC 2011 broke down:
– Lion: There’s quite a lot to Lion, and most of it will take some getting used to, so it’s a little hard to paint it all with one broad brush stroke of “good”, but for the most part, Lion is just an evolution of OS X, bringing it closer to the experience of using an iPad. Most of the big changes shown off today are not so much new features, as such as they are a new way of accessing the old ones. The big problem I see here is that it seems to rely a LOT on trackpad finger gestures, and I kind of think we’re already getting close to the limit of truly useable ones. I also think it is going to make people who easily adapt to these new gestures much more proficient, and make new Mac converts a bit confused. And unless Apple starts including their Magic Trackpads with each new Mac Pro, iMac, and Mac mini they sell, it’s going to start frustrating some of their gesture-less customers. Full Screen apps shouldn’t take any getting used to, really, but Mission Control… my God, I just got my Mom and Dad moved over to the Mac last year… WHAT ABOUT THEM!!?
– Lion’s Autosave feature looks pretty sweet Not much more to say here, but assuming it works as seamlessly as it appears to, the auto-resume feature of apps will be not only a time-saver, but might finally make lost data (especially in MY favorite “crash happy app”, After Effects) a thing of the past.
-Lion only costs $29/App store Download only: On the plus side, download means it will save some trees, and it’s only $29, which is good for most users. But not me, which is why this also ends up going into my BAD category later (see below).
– The new Mac Mail app This is a borderline “meh”, but I bumped it up to “good” because it looks slightly nicer than the current version. However, I am not really seeing anything amazing in it that warranted a mention on stage – I already find it very easy to search my Mail for stuff – but I guess Apple wanted to show 10 things instead of 9.
iPhone Notifications, Take 2: This actually looked pretty sweet, and is pretty much what everyone thought Notifications would look like back in iOS 3. Apple had to play a little catch-up here since they let Android beat them to the punch, but it looks like the way notifications on the lock screen and throughout the OS will be handled should be reasonably unobtrusive, unless you’re a teenage girl who gets 40 texts a minute. My one concern is how to clear multiple alerts at once, but we’ll see.
– iPhone Camera works in lock mode, Volume UP key now snaps pics Apple got mad when developers used the volume keys to let their photo apps take pictures, and now we see why – they were pissed THEY didn’t think of it.
– Twitter all over the place in iOS I love this. I love Twitter – and you should follow me – but aside from that, Twitter is hip with the kids, and kids need to send photos of themselves up to the internet as quickly as possible. Twitter is so much cleaner than that messy old FaceBook, it’s no wonder Apple chose it as it’s main go-to Social Media “partner”. Plus, I think we can all agree, FaceBook is evil and one day Apple will have to compete with them when FaceBook has a music and app store, so better to steer clear of giving them any extra business now.
– MobileMe is dead, and now free This is pretty sweet. MobileMe’s Mail, Calendar, and Contact syncing are now all free, and you get 5 GB of Mail storage. Somehow my spider sense is tingling, and that tiny Admiral Ackbar in the back of my head is screaming “It’s a TRAP!”, but on the surface, if you’re already a Mac geek, and have given yourself over to the Mac side, I guess further committing yourself to Apple’s way of doing things isn’t a bad idea. And hey, at least their Mail has no adds.
– iTunes will store all your music for streaming to iDevices, for $25 a year. Holy shit that’s insane. It even includes your ripped and stolen music. And it support sup to 11 devices, which is great. The only problems I see are that
1) I am not sure I want my 6 year old being able to accidentally listen to my Eminem songs, so hopefully there’s a way to control syncing per-device
2) This isn’t as cool if you just have an iPod with WiFi, as you could just wirelessly listen to all the music on your computer already without having it all stored on the device if you’re in your house, and if you take a car ride, you’re only going to have what you manually synced.
3) Hopefully it doesn’t mean the iPhone 5 will still top out at 32 GB, with Apple expecting you’ll stream all your media.
But still, I wasn’t looking forward to this when I thought it would be $10 a month, but $25 a year sounds pretty sweet.
– AirDrop Nice idea… a little late, and at least in OUR office, we are already networked in such a way as we have access to a central storage server from any computer, so we can put the files where they actually need to go, not just in someone’s drop box. Still, who knows? As with a lot of these features, we’ll have to get them and have them around for awhile to really know if they’ll prove useful. I would assume for most home users though, this is a “meh” at best.
– Over-the-Air updates: People have wanted this for a long time, but personally, I don’t see the allure. Apple claims they are seeing more and more people getting their devices who don’t own a computer. I say, “Show me ONE. Just ONE.”
I never had a problem with hooking my iPhone to the computer to update it – it was always nice to be able to charge while syncing. Now, we’ll have the opposite. Our batteries will run down during untethered updates. Also, there is now the chance for “unintentional updates” . For example, I have seen quite a few updates to games and such where the developer realized they screwed something up after uploading the update to Apple, and they will post something like “IF YOU ARE USING A 4TH GEN IPOD TOUCH DO NOT INSTALL THIS UPDATE. YOU WILL LOSE DATA. WE ARE AWARE OF THIS PROBLEM AND ARE SUBMITTING A PATCH TO APPLE.” The problem is, you only see that disclaimer if you bother to click on the app and read the description of what has changed, either on your computer or on your iPhone in the UPDATES tab, instead of blindly hitting “UPDATE ALL” when you see a “12” in that little red notification badge.
And given that the iOS over-the-air updates only work on WiFi, how often is this going to “save the day”? I doubt I will feel I “need” to update my iPhone OS at McDonald’s if I read a Tweet saying an update just came out. I think I can wait an hour. I’m not saying this isn’t conceivably a good thing, I just can’t seem o get myself more worked up over it than “meh”.
– Game Center updates: Game Center has been on my shit list ever since they began forcing you to give out your real name when you friend someone and forcing you to create multiple iTunes accounts for your kids. As most gamers know, anonymity is the key to bragging and putting other people down on the web, and I like the idea of being known only by my handle UNLESS I CHOOSE TO DO OTHERWISE. So I don’t really know how much I will be using Game Center, but I bumped it up to “meh” from “bad” because if you aren’t a privacy nut or don’t have kids playing on their iPods linked to your account, then you might only see the new features’ good sides.
– Lion costs $29, and is download only. I listed this as a “Good” earlier, and it is, for most people. But not me. Here’s why. I own more than 5 Macs that I would like to have run Lion. And my parents have a couple too. In the past, I would pay my $129 for Leopard, then go Mac to Mac installing the latest OS. Yes, this violates the license agreement, but you know you did it too. But here’s my problem: A loooooong time ago, when iTunes put a 5 computer restriction on purchased songs, my brothers and I decided to pool our user accounts into one Master account. And we threw my dad a bone as well, and included him. So basically, I got 2 authorized computers, and my dad and each of my brothers also got to log in as me. That way, if any of us bought a song, we could all play it. This worked fine until the App store came along. Now suddenly, my iTunes account is tied to THEIR app store accounts, which means it is going to limit how many Lion installs I can do on my own Macs at home, since I am limited to two. Sure, you can say I have been bitten by my own snake, trying to go around Apple’s 5 computer rule and branching out to my extended family, but… screw you. Who are yo? Mr. Perfect? Anyway, I don’t mind telling my dad he has to fork over $29 to upgrade to Lion, or get yet another iTunes account, but it’s just going to suck finding a way to manage these updates now.
[UPDATE: I originally wrote this based on reading text-updates as they were happening direct from the Keynote from various sites, so I did not have all the facts. It appears that my readers, who are usually smarter than me, have since watched the keynote and tell me that Mac App Store purchases, including Lion, can be installed on up to 10 machines. So assuming they’re right, I guess forget my App-only bashing.]
– iCloud: Well, as you can perhaps guess from my “Why I don’t like Lion being download-only”, I am not a big fan of iCloud’s wireless syncing of all Photos, documents, media, etc. across all my devices. I am not 100% clear on how easy it will be to enable/disable what gets synced where, but just as I was sharing my iTunes account with my brothers for music purchases, I have ONE iTunes account that I use to to sync apps to all my iDevices – my wife’s, my kids’, etc. This saves me a ton of money when I can buy Plants Vs. Zombies for myself, and am then able to put it on the wife and kid’s iPods without spending another $30. Add that savings up over the course of 200+ games, and it has been a real Godsend.
iCloud seems like a great idea for the unmarried person who owns a Mac and an iPhone, and maybe also a laptop and an iPad, but it isn’t sharing any of their media and apps with other family members. Right now I can’t think of a benefit for me, and I’m curious to see how much of a pain this will be to avoid.
– The over all “Sherlocking” of developer’s apps: There’s a fine line between innovation, the evolution of an OS, and just flat out stealing the ideas of your developers. Apple famously stole the search functionality of Watson in inventing Sherlock, and there were a couple announcements today that might have riled a couple developer’s feathers. For example, Apple added a To-Do list app called “Reminders” to iOS 5, as well as some Photo editing abilities, and a feature called Reading List that seems to do exactly what Instapaper does. Thy also stole the “volume key takes a picture” idea from Camera + (I think it was Camera +, anyway). Obvioulsy it is not beyond imagining that Apple SHOULD have the ability to edit photos, or make a To-Do list app, but given how many developers have made similar products, it feels a little like Apple decided to see what apps were popular, and cherry pick the best ideas. Still, it’s their right as the makes of the iPhone, and hopefully their solution will be simple and elegant, or at least easily hideable in a folder if I like the developer’s versions more.
So there you have it, Apple’s WWDC 2011. Feel free to tell me how dead-on accurate I am in the comments.