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:

The Good

– 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!!?

Oh yeah, THIS doesn't look too confusing.

– 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.

The Meh

– 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.

The Bad

– 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.

Note to self: Remember to screw developers...

– 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.


Conclusion

So there you have it, Apple’s WWDC 2011. Feel free to tell me how dead-on accurate I am in the comments.

Comments
23 Responses to “WWDC 2011: The Good The Bad, and the Meh”
  1. Tice says:

    I only imagine what it will be, if I try to buy (and sync) my music to a non-Apple-MP3 player. That allready is nearly impossible. With iOS, the App Store and Lion we go down the same road.

    We chain ourselfs on Apple – with a smile. I will not use iCloud. I will never buy an iPhone or other iOS device, because I don#t like to be forced to buy ALL MY APPS AT APPLEs STORE.

    But I see many people going down that way because it´s sooo easy … I like to buy apps wherever I found one in the internet – and I would like to have that option in the future too.

    • Chris says:

      You aren’t forced to by Apps on the Mac App Store. You can still buy software on discs or download from a company’s website, so I don’t know why you’re complaining about Lion. As for avoiding iCloud, can you say “tinfoil hat”?

  2. Jef says:

    “Show me ONE. Just ONE.”

    My mother-in-law who I don’t think has ever seen a computer in person has been jonesin’ for an iPad since she saw it on Oprah. Aside from being able to afford to buy her one, activation/updates were the big question mark. Now she can have one.

    • Lee Ann says:

      My hairstylist- a very nice Chinese lady – has an iPad because she can enter Chinese on it faster than I can type English, and google-translate it to English that’s about on par with hers for her grandkids. I hooked it up to my Mac for its first and only Mac connection because it’s her only computer-ish device.

      (As for Mail being on the top 10 list – could be worse; there was one WWDC where one of the top 10 items was a different default desktop. Now *that’s* desperation.)

  3. Brandon says:

    “Show me ONE. Just ONE.”

    My roommate who’s personal computing needs don’t require anything heavier than an ipad. He broke his laptop’s screen and decided to replace it with a new iPad 2. He absolutely loves it, and the only negative thing he’s had to say about it was that he had to keep his broken laptop and borrow a monitor to do the initial setup (and was bummed about the prospect of keeping the old laptop around for only one purpose and going through that trouble again for updates). He’s pretty stoked to be PC-free.

  4. Michael Spurlock says:

    As far as Lion goes, the Apple web site says 10 computers can use the download from the Mac App Store, just like any other MAS item. MAS does not use the same rules as iTunes.

  5. Jonro says:

    – 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.”

    Believe it or not, plenty of people don’t have or want a computer, but do want an iPhone and/or an iPad; my mother, for example. As soon as the iPhone 5 and IOS 5 are available, I’m marching her over to the Verizon store to get one.

    Regarding iCloud and streaming media. You can’t stream from iCloud when you’re above the clouds. We still needs loads of memory for our iPhones, since you can’t rely on a connection to the Web 100% of the time. Still, most of the time streaming will be practical.

    Regarding Reminders and other features: There’s a lot of functionality that should be included with IOS and OS X. Just because a developer has implemented it first doesn’t mean that Apple hasn’t been working on it. I, for one, will welcome a decent To Do list integrated with iCal, as well as other new apps included with IOS 5. I hope those developers whose toes have been stepped on will find some inspiration for new ideas for new apps and to improve their existing apps.

    • Dana says:

      I take calls from people all day long who do not have a home computer yet have an iPhone or iPad.. Many of them tell me they needed a new computer so they bought an iPad… Then they become upset when I explain why they can not restore the iPhone using their iPad…

      All the same many people are being sold the ‘Smart Device’ as a substitute for a home computer. Sad to say I see most of these calls originating from places like Mississippi and Kentucky. Though not exclusive to those states. I blame a lot of this on small town sales people. They take advantage of people .

  6. Court says:

    Pretty much my feelings.

    Would have like to see some SIRI mojo… but maybe that’s being saved for fall iPhone 5 update.

  7. Eric8199 says:

    In regard to your Bad for Lion coming from the App Store, I think you can use those apps on up to 10 computers now, instead of five. Petty sure that was mentioned in the keynote today. Could be wrong, but I read it somewhere else too.

  8. Alejandro says:

    Doc, about the wi-fi syncing. I recall Scott Forstall saying that it will sync wirelessly when it’s in the same wi-fi network as your computer AND it’s charging, so no wasting of battery life while syncing.

  9. Alex says:

    Lion only from App Store is strange. My fiance has Tiger (business reasons) and Tiger can’t access App Store. I would like to know how people like she will upgrade to Lion…

    • Pete rags says:

      The requirements of lion is snow lepoard, even people on leopard will need to upgrade to10.6, so she will need to buy the Mac box set (retail 129) considering that was the price of leopard upgrade that’s a great deal to skip 3 os versions, and not for nothing she should have upgraded to atleast leopard by now.

    • Teegan says:

      She also needs an Intel processor. PowerPC will not cut it.

  10. JimD says:

    I have two issues with Lion only from the App Store. First, I have more than 5 Macs in my house. There are 5 laptops and two iMacs. Along with these, there are 3 iPads and two iPod touches. This limits the authorized devices on each account.

    My second issue is what do you do when a hard drive crashes and you have to rebuild from scratch. Without a boot disk, how do you even restore from a backup. I look forward to learning how this can be done.

    • Michael says:

      The Lion from the App Store sounds nice, however I like to see a way to get it so I can boot off a Thumb drive or CD! But for the ones complaining about owning more than 5 Macs, DAMN people it is $29 bucks. In the past we had to pay much more than that and for each computer unless you bought the family pack which was more. I mean let’s not be SO cheap!

  11. whitewater2 says:

    JimD,

    You have 7 computers, you will be able to use the Lion from the APP Store since it can be used on up to 10 computers, not 5 like the original (now updated) article stated.

    Again, if it is only $29, so anyone over the 10 computer limit, its only $29!

  12. nuvs says:

    Doc:

    Apple has started including the Magic Trackpad with all iMacs (not sure when this happened, but I think it was within the last few months).

    It’s not included wit the Mac Pro, however, and the Mac mini has never included any peripherals.

    • Pete rags says:

      You can custom order the magic trackpad online but all iMacs still ship with magic mouse in apple stores, as of right now that hasemt changed on I’m store models.

      • Pete rags says:

        I feel like if you are wealthy enough to own 5 or 10 plus macs an extra 40 bucks isn’t killing them, and it does 10 macs for the 30$ price point.

  13. Frank Hauser says:

    I think your “Bads” are far to specific to your situation and not very objective. Makes me feel like I wasted my time reading the article.

  14. Dimitri says:

    ok, two comments:

    1st, about the over the air updates. you cant say its meh because you think you dont need it. lately i use my macbook less and less. there are even times that 5-6 days will pass without opening my macbooks lid. so why do it just for updating my iphone??? i can just lie on my bed and do it over the air.

    2nd, let me give you ONE EXAMPLE of someone who doesnt own a pc. my mother, she is only 50+, and she actually owns a pc, but every day she asks me some pretty stupid questions like :
    -how can i visit http://www.something.com ??
    -mum, you open IE/firefox and you write it on that white bar on the very top
    -but IE/firefox is for reading my email, how can i do that?

    so what i want to say, is that i want to burn her laptop, throw it out of the window, maybe even do some charity, buy her an ipad and then stop having this stupid questions… she will have an app for everything…simplicity. and now you give me a reason mr Macenstein why i would want her to own a computer besides an ipad…

    and something more. i still have leopard on my macbook. why on earth would i want to go through the trouble to BUY and INSTALL snow leopard to go to Lion??? i mean, i didnt do it for the past one year cause i though its too much trouble for nothing, and i will HAVE to do it now for lion…. apple, you are letting us down…. after all leopard is only 3 years old, you should support that too!!!

  15. Teegan says:

    The biggest question for me is the Download-Only of Lion.
    Someone else mentioned that there are potential problems with not having a disc – How do we boot from disc if our software has a problem?
    Also – How do people who have Leopard update? Do they have to buy Snow Leopard and then Lion? Seems like a sucker move to me….but then again, Apple loves nickel-and-dimming people.
    The upgrade problem wont be bad for me because all the mac at my house have Snow Leopard, but a friend of mine recently asked for a couple reasons why she should upgrade to Lion. However, she has Leopard. I guess she’ll just stick with that (Leopard is still really nice).

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