WWDC 09: The Good, the Bad, and the Meh - Macenstein

WWDC 09: The Good, the Bad, and the Meh

Faithful Macenstein reader Billy Cape requested I do another one of our “The Good, the Bad, and the Meh” keynote wrap ups, and when one of our readers says “jump”, we ask “how high?” And if their answer is reasonable, and we’re not already laying down or something, we do it.

It is important to remember that despite what the Mac community has built it into, today’s WWDC conference is not meant to be Macworld. The big announcements coming out of a developer’s conference really should just hint at the possibilities of what developers can do with the upcoming OS improvements, and while many of us expected Santa Claus to come down the chimney in June, this is really more of a geek fest than a “check out all our cool new hardware” type of event. Of course, that doesn’t mean we all didn’t get our hopes up, so let’s see whether they were justified, or smashed into little bitty pieces…

The Good:
– New MacBook Pros have a longer lasting battery, better screen, slight speed bump. The only bad thing about these updates is that I bought a 15-inch MacBook Pro about 5 months ago, and while 5 months is certainly a decent timespan between updates, it doesn’t mean I can’t feel screwed.

MacBook Pro Price cuts: Price cuts are never bad, so I can’t really find fault with this (except of course for the whole “I just paid more 5 months ago” thing mentioned above). If these cuts are a response to Microsoft’s “real” fake people ads, then I suddenly find myself wanting to kiss Lauren (the blond Lauren, not the first red-haired one).

– Reasonable upgrade price for Snow Leopard (thanks Chris). $29 for a completely new 64-bit kernel and the ability to finally use all that WAAAAYY overpriced RAM Apple tries to sell us is a great deal. Unfortunately, as excited as I am about all the rumored speed increases, I have yet to see a speed or battery life increase claim from Apple come close to reaching half the claimed specs in real life, so I am a little wary. But still, great price.

The Meh:
– Pretty much everything that was discussed in the iPhone 3.0 software presentation was word for word what we already heard about 6 months ago. Sure, I was just reading along to the keynote but i could actually hear people in the audience zoning out. The funny thing here is that although I did not realize it at the time, I actually got the iPhone 3Gs about 6 months ago when I jailbroke my iPhone 3G. Tethering, MMS, GPS driving directions, video recording… I can do all that already. I am sure the native solutions will end up being slicker, but the jailbroken versions are certainly going to be cheaper.

– No new iPhone design. Sure the iPhone 3Gs is faster, but it is kind of like Apple’s upcoming Snow Leopard upgrade in that there is no real killer feature that would cause the average consumer to upgrade their iPhone 3G (that isn’t to say I wouldn’t, I am after all a tech nut and Apple Fanboy) but many people expected things like a front-facing camera for video chats and other wonderful features. Like I mentioned above, since jailbreaking my iPhone I have had most of the new iPhone 3Gs features I want, and once the jailbreaking community hacks the 3.0 software, odds are I will continue to jailbreak my device.

– Non removable MacBook Pro batteries Ordinarily I would file this under “bad” except I kind of agree with Apple here in that I have now gotten away with owning two Apple laptops in my life, and never owned an extra battery for either. But I understand that people who travel DO have need extra batteries, and their bitching is understandable, so I rate this as a solid “meh”. I really don’t understand the perceived benefit to consumers for non-removable batteries. Is it just that Jonathan Ive wants the BOTTOM of the MacBooks to look smooth? Let’s hope Apple’s battery life estimates aren’t 2.5 hours off like they usually are.

– Safari 4 is ready to go? I admit I haven’t had time to play with the final version released today yet, but the Safari 4 beta I have been using for months sure does crash a lot, ironically when clicking on links that are supposed to jump me to their iTunes store. As for all this talk about speed… I don’t know, for something that is supposed to be 400 times faster than anything else out there, it feels identical in speed to everything else out there to me.

– The new Quicktime X logo. I don’t know… What do you think? The purple ball thing… meh.

– Find my iPhone This iPhone retrieval service for lost iPhones looks very cool, so it is filed under “meh” simply because I hate the way Apple is pushing MobileMe on us. One of our readers was nice enough to give me a MobileMe account to play with, and while I see the benefits of some features, I feel the price is a little steep considering MobileMe tie-ins are usually some of the only big new features in things like iLife and Mac OS X that I pay to upgrade each year. Given that most people will never need to use the Find My iPhone feature, it seems like something Apple could have thrown in for free (accessed via iTunes, not MobileMe) and touted as a cool feature of the iPhone itself, not MobileMe.

– No “Return of Steve Jobs. Sure we all love Steve, and it would have been dramatic if Phil called Steve out to say “hi” as the “One more thing”, but as big as the applause would have been, it would also have been a little lame. I’m not really sure how he should come back (maybe swinging in, suspended by wires, eating a cheeseburger, with lots of on-stage pyrotechnics or something). But just a quick “Hey” at the end isn’t what we want.

The Bad:
– The new SD slots in the MacBooks Pros
Why? How about another couple USB or FireWire ports in that space instead? Having two young children I take a TON of pictures every week, and I still can’t think of anything less called for or useful. First of all, even on my 11 Megapixel Cannon, my SD card holds over 1000 pictures at best quality, so it’s not like I need to quickly unload my card while out in the field to make room on the card. Does Apple think having this card slot will save me the trouble of carrying my camera’s (apparently) unwieldy mini USB cord vacation? Once you’re traveling with a 15-inch laptop, this cord is not a back-breaker. I figure having this slot might save me about 1 minute and 27 seconds a year.

– Just about every “amazing” new feature the iPhone got in the 3Gs update or will get in the 3.0 software update is something it should have had at launch, if not by the second generation. I’m all for these features coming to the iPhone, but to tout a decent camera and MMS as “amazing” is really kind of embarrassing, and to me it just illustrates Apple’s pre-envisioned “upgrade path”. The best thing about the iPhone is that pretty much every new advancement worth talking about comes from the software updates, but unfortunately, since those updates run just as well o the 1st gen ans the 3rd, those updates won’t sell new iPhones. Odds are from the start Apple planned to intentionally hold back these extremely common features as long as possible, knowing 3G speed and GPS would be a big enough selling point for the 2nd Gen iPhone, and it needed something to try to get people to upgrade to the next version.

– No tethering support in US yet/No MMS in the US yet It’s kind of embarrassing when 2 of the most requested, and LOOONG overdue features to finally make it to the iPhone can’t even be used by residents of the US. AT&T is really showing its weaknesses here, and the amount of money they end up charging for these is going to decide if many of us jailbreak our 3.0 iPhones.

– The cost of upgrading to the new iPhone for existing iPhone customers is obscene.
This is more of AT&T’s and O2’s problem than Apple’s, but obviously Apple had talks with its carriers during negotiations and knows what their choice of carrier is going to do. Anyone who already likes the iPhone enough to own it will have to pay $499 for the iPhone 3Gs, or wait a couple months or years until their contract hits a certain point and they become “eligible”. This is one of those cell phone policies I will never understand, as keeping existing customers happy never seems to come close in priority to landing new customers. Maybe if AT&T could reallize that happy customers are the number one way to bring in NEW customers, they’d realize letting we current iPhone 3G owners upgrade to the 3Gs (and re-lock oursleves in for 2 years) wouldn’t be the end of the world, and might actually help them. Now all they have are 50,000 bloggers bitching about them.

27 Responses to “WWDC 09: The Good, the Bad, and the Meh”
  1. Vas the Man says:

    Yeah, that SD card slot is pretty gay. The ExpressCard slot could be used for eSATA, professional AV I/O, another FireWire port, an HSDPA modem and dozens of other things. An SD card reader can be plugged into a USB port, and isn’t much trouble to carry. Does it even support SDIO cards, or just plain old SD memory cards?

  2. loser says:

    “No tethering support in US yet/No MMS in the US yet ”
    i think it’s my first time, as an apple fan, to be happy not living in US
    and for us greeks, finally greek language support (hopefully something to follow in snow leopard as well)

  3. darrell says:

    I don’t use the expresscard slot but I do know a few people who rely on it – and even though there are USB solutions for 3g cards, apple really shot themselves in the foot here. I’m wondering if this will be reversed in the next revision.

    Other then that I’m quite pleased with the software roadmap for macs and iPhone.

  4. Lucas Wxyz says:

    I like the idea of a card reader… but (correct me if I’m wrong…)
    Professionals DO NOT HAVE cameras that use SD cards… at least not as their main body….
    Compact Cards is what they use…
    How do i know that… Because I am one!
    it will be better to have a CC reader, that if needed, you could use an adaptor for SD, than the SD slot…
    A good intention gone wrong…
    Also the screen… when are they going to have matte screen for the macbook pro (i mean, the real one, with he graphic card…)

  5. Jerry says:

    Doc, How come your website is the slowest to load? out of all my web browsing I do, your page takes for ever to load. I use the new Safari 4.

    Blue skies!!

  6. Chris says:

    You missed out on one “good” The upgrade price for Snow Leopard. $29 for a completely new 64-bit kernel and the ability to address what amounts to unlimited memory and all of the other under the cover goodies is one heckuva good deal.

  7. HEATHER Lecus says:

    Great article. I love how you broke it all down and made it very simple. Keep up the good work

  8. VulpesRex says:

    Mobile Carrier policies are all about locking new customers into lengthy contracts. Once they lock you in, they can simply treat you like shit. Why spend money to provide customer service or to try and keep you happy? They have you locked in for at least two years. If you want the latest and greatest phone, you have to pay more money. If you want to get out of your contract, more money! It’s a win-win-win for the telcos and a lose-lose-lose for the consumer.

    Regulation in Europe has largely kept the same thing from happening over there, but over here, all the wingnut and libtard politicians are for sale to the telcos, assuming the campaign contributions are large enough.

  9. tmay says:

    re: SD slot. It’s there because SD is the standard for HD video cams, and there are many prosumer DSLR’s and a few Pro DSLR’s that use them. CF has a majority but declining market in Pro DSLR’s.

    If Apple had to pick one, SD was the right choice, but losing the expresscard slot on the 15 inch Mac Book Pro will certainly have an impact.

  10. photogirl says:

    I’ve been an AT&T customer for years, considering I was with Cingular before AT&T bought it… and with my 1st Gen iPhone going strong, there’s no WAY I’ll be upgrading…. mainly because AT&T can’t get their act together! No MMS – No Tethering available, that’s ridiculous.

    AT&T….. f a i l.

  11. Piotr says:

    “Just about every “amazing” new feature the iPhone got in the 3Gs update or will get in the 3.0 software update is something it should have had at launch” – I couldn’t agree more. My 4-year old (at the time of release of 1st gen iPhone) Ericsson could send MMS, record video, allow tethering using build in modem via Bluetooth, had voice control, copy and paste etc. And how about something as basic as message delivery notification? Do we still have to start every message with some awkward (like *k#) sort of code? How hard can it be? My 10-year old Nokia could do that. And maybe a letter counter in the message so I wouldn’t send 2 messages instead of 1. I’m sure providers love lack of this function because you pay for it. Why developing everything from the scratch? Why couldn’t they just go and look how others are doing that and just copy all the good things, redesigning the UI? Different not always means better.

  12. Mark says:

    I agree with everything except for the SD. I think it’s more valuable than an extra usb port. However I don’t see why Apple can’t add 2 more ports on the other side. Many PC laptops have 4 ports and an SD slot standard.

  13. Shannon Shiflett says:

    @Vas the Man: Your usage of ‘gay’ in the pejorative makes you look like a punk and sound like an uneducated redneck. Learn to express yourself without using 4th grader slang. And, better yet, without ignorant hate speech. I understand when it comes from the youth community, but you are too old for that stupid shit.

  14. Shannon Shiflett says:

    And Snow Leopard should be free — it’s just Apple doing some housecleaning. Man, some people are just itching to cast their money to the wind.

  15. Justin says:

    Of all the features I thought were lacking when the first iPhone came out, the lack of voice recognition was my only barrier to entry. I could care less about MMS (I never use it), copy and paste, or stereo bluetooth. Now that voice recognition has bowed, and not just with contacts but the entire phone, I will finally buy an iPhone.

  16. Marcus Andersson says:

    Good article. To Vas the Man (first commenter): when you say something is gay because you mean to say it’s bad, do you realize what you are saying? I know it’s a small thing to many people, but it’s a big thing to children who are scared of their sexual identities.

  17. Fili Campos says:

    I agree with you Doc, I am very disappointed with apple. I still have my 1st gen iphone, and I was planning on buying the 3Gs but its not worth it, it is basically the 3G with a camera and who needs a freaking compass… seriously. I have been an apple fanboy for a while now I started with my G5 tower, an ibook, then a mac mini, then a macbook pro and recently a 8 core tower. But apple really let me down they could have at least made the 3Gs wider or something. Well just had to get that off.

  18. Jay says:

    The sense of entitlement on display on those 50,000 blogs you mention would be hilarious if it weren’t so pathetic. The proper response to an item whose price is out of your reach has always been and will always be to simply leave it unpurchased.

    In a self-defeating and foolish move, American customers have allowed carriers to give them underpriced phones and sell them overpriced connectivity. So the unsubsidized price of the iPhone comes as a shock. There’s no doubt that the iPhone as a piece of hardware is worth the asking price; but people are remarkable resistant to making simple mathematical calculations.

    The inclusion of AT&T in the mix definitely muddies the emotional equation for Apple fanboys, but I doubt AT&T’s stockholders want to be held to ransom for a $200-per-customer payout every time Apple decides to improve its product line.

  19. Alex says:

    Great article! ;D

    anyway I loved the new QTX icon! Of course it looks waaay cooler with the Snow Leopard wallpaper.. but it does look more professional to me.
    I just wish that the time-progress bar were bigger, as big as the whole movie, so that when you’re trying to find a particular scene in a 2-hour movie it’s not as hard as it is in iTunes.. right?

  20. Jim says:

    The best thing about the iPhone is that pretty much every new advancement worth talking about comes from the software updates, but unfortunately, since those updates run just as well o the 1st gen ans the 3rd, those updates won’t sell new iPhones.

    Voice control will work only on the 3G S because it requires the faster CPU in that model.

    Yes, the updates are largely based “in software” but that’s meaningless if the hardware doesn’t/can’t support the software it’s supposed to run.

    Video recording requires a specific type of (more expensive) non-volatile memory, which the 3G S will have. Previous models don’t have it, so video recording on them will cause the phone’s storage to fail much sooner than it otherwise would.

    WTF is the deal with the Steve Jobs item even being listed? It’s not like he showed up and it was lame. No one expected him to show up; he wasn’t due to show up. Everything was as it should have been.

    Find My iPhone: more than likely, this is using a specialized version of Back to My Mac for the iPhone. That’s a reason it would require MobileMe, and a valid one. The iTunes systems aren’t built or designed for this sort of thing.

    Given that most people will never need to use the Find My iPhone feature, it seems like something Apple could have thrown in for free (accessed via iTunes, not MobileMe) and touted as a cool feature of the iPhone itself, not MobileMe.

    Um.. it’s insurance. How much money do most of us throw away on insurance that doesn’t get used — or doesn’t return anywhere near the value of premiums put into it? What they should have done is offer FMi as a standalone service. Still using MMe as the backend, but without all the other stuff people may not want or need. They could probably charge $29-$49/yr for it and not get too much grumbling, but $99/yr for just FMi (assuming that’s the only thing that got used) is probably a bit steep.

    As for the battery life claims… well, that’s why they always say “up to” and “actual usage time will vary”. Of the four Apple laptops I’ve owned (17″ Powerbook, 17″ MBP, rev A MBA, rev B MBA), they all get (or got, in the case of the PB) the charge-life advertised as long as the OS is a base install and nothing but wired web browsing or file editing (Office stuff) is generally going on. No sane person or company is going to sell stuff using any other number because that’s the only consistent usage pattern that’d mean anything.

    P.S. It’s 2009. How ’bout a frickin’ preview button, dude? 🙂 Or at least a list of HTML tags that will work.

  21. mike says:

    I’m waiting for the ipod touch revision with a camera instead. Apple has to ditch AT&T for… no one… they should become their own telecom, and make the skype model a reality… Then Mobileme would make sense.

  22. Justin says:

    I know most people will disagree with what I’m about to say, but just trying to look at it from different perspective.

    The Apple should have had X features since gen 1 argument doesn’t really mean much in most cases as they are a computer / iPod company entering a new market. If they don’t have the features you want, but something else.

    The at&t $499 upgrade sucks, but when they are covering more than half the cost of the phone you can’t really complain. If they let users upgrade a new phone every 12 months they would go out of business pretty quickly. Anyone that has an iPhone 3G now will be able to upgrade about 12 – 18 months into their contract at the full discount price.

  23. daveo says:

    Your comment is totally gay.
    And Snow Leopard is much more than some Microsoft service pack.I’m cool with $29.

  24. Imagine Engine says:

    MacBook updates: I don’t understand why Apple opted to change the MacBook 15″ Expresscard/34 slot which offers flexibility to a SD memory card slot which is limited. If you want to use a SD memory card you can sync either via WIFI or with a data cable. At least the 17″ MBP still offers an Expresscard/34 so as to not obsolete customers Expresscards. Where is the upgraded graphics? I would of liked to see the MBP offer the NVIDIA GTX 280M or a NVIDIA Quadro NVS 510M. I would of also liked to see the MBP offer enhanced security such as A-GPS for laptop recovery, fingerprint reader, facial recognition. I’m happy with the option for increased storage and RAM on the MBP.

    iPhone 3GS: WTF? Sorry Apple I won’t be shelling out my hard earned cash for minor hardware improvements. After the free iPhone 3.0 OS update is launched the only real difference between the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS is the latter will have a higher resolution camera, a compass, the option for 32 GB storage, faster HSPA and slightly better graphics. What about a front camera for video conferencing? What about offering 802.11n? What about offering an Xenon flash for the back camera? Have they ever tried taking a picture in low light areas (ie: nightclub, film party, restaurant, etc)? What about competing with competitors by offering a 5MP camera?

    Time Capsule: I would of liked to hear if Apple would be providing the ability for first generation Time Capsules to have Guest Networking via a firmware update. Also it would of been nice to hear if the Time Capsule would offer 2 TB or support for RAID.

    Snow Leopard: I’ll be happy when it’s released to finally use all that expensive Apple RAM I have in a true 64-bit OS. As well happy with the low cost upgrade fee going from OS X Leopard to Snow Leopard.

  25. Grover says:

    Most of this article and the comments are utter brain poison, but I thought I’d address the sealed in battery issue. The sealed in battery is how they can get “7” hours out of a single charge as opposed to the “5” hours for the removable with the same technology. So if the overwhelming majority of users are loosing 2 hours of charge in exchange for a feature they aren’t using, it makes sense to remove the unused feature.

    And for the few people who need it, there are other external options. I realize it’s not an optimal solution for them, but the time when the traveling salesman was the main buyer of a laptop has long gone.

  26. Mr Clicky says:

    “Yeah, that SD card slot is pretty gay.” – Vas The Man

    As opposed to your picture…? I think you’re shooting yourself in the foot there son.

  27. Kutt-Out says:

    Well now I just feel totally famous Doc. Cheers for doing this and love how my name got featured in bold =)

    It’s an even better article than last time! Keep it up.

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