iPad Air

Hardware

I'm hesitant to say what I really think of this device.

In the D8 interview with Steve Jobs, he admitted that people make fun of him for calling the device "magical". Kara and Walt agreed, to laughs from the crowd, but then Steve went on to say that that's the only way he's been able to describe the thing.

That device has evolved tremendously since then, in both software and hardware, and there's another adjective that I'd really like to use, but I have the same apprehension, for the same reasons. So, to follow in his footsteps, I'm going to use it anyway.

This device, speaking about the hardware, is perfect.

Taking for granted Apple's constant ability to make impeccably balanced hardware, where not an inch of it feels weak or heavier or out of place, and not mentioning the display (which is amazing no matter how many times I use it, but is not technically a new feature), the iPad Air is an impeccable piece of hardware. It's incredibly powerful, and it fits that power into a perfect balance of weight and size. The retraction of the bezels on the long sides makes a noticeable difference in the pleasure the device is to hold and type on. It's a pleasure to use, but you really don't feel like you're using it - instead, you feel like you're using what's inside it or what's on it. It just fades away.

Apple has arrived at a wonderful place with the iPad, where they have a new starting point for tablet design without the compromises that the first 4 iPads required. They required too much power, or their display mandated compromises in weight. Not anymore: everything can now evolve together.


Software

I'm an iPhone user. For the foreseeable future, as long as Apple continues to make iPhones, I will keep buying and using iPhones. Third party applications are one of the many reasons for this. It took me a while to try out a lot of apps and see which ones suited me, but after the last two years or so after Retina displays shuffled the deck a bit, I've settled on a small but reliable set of apps to get stuff done.

So, I haven't really explored the App Store in a while. I read a review of an app when Frederico Vittici or Marco Arment write one, and if it seems like something I'd use or fills a need I have, I get it. But I've not had to ask the question "is there an app that does X for me" because for all intensive purposes, I have my needs met.

The iPad means that not only am I experiencing iOS 7 in a whole new way, I'm also revisiting and re-experiencing the App Store in a new way. So, in no particular order, my thoughts.

--On a baseline, I'm really happy with the number of my applications that show up in the "Purchased" tab of the store with ready-to-go iPad versions. Universal is the way to go, and a lot of the developers whose apps I use seem to agree. If I use 100 apps, I'd say based on my use case that 85% are universal and swoop right over.

This is a really wonderful experience. It's the same data: my Facebook news feed is the same stuff, I can look at the same list of restaurants on OpenTable, and I read the same saved articles with Instapaper or Reeder, but they are presented to me in a new, engaging and exciting way. Apple has hit this middle point between new and familiar that makes picking up this device and running with it so easy and enjoyable. It's by far the best part of the device's software experience.

--The apps that don't behave like the ones described above fit into three categories.

The first category are the apps that make separate binaries for iPhone and iPad. Not a huge deal, business is business, but it makes it much more likely I'll look for a universal solution. Tweetbot is the first example of this I can think of: they are separate for iPhone and iPad, and right now I use Tweetbot 3 on the iPhone. I also bought the most recent version of Twitteriffic when it came out, which is a universal app - so, right now, I'm seeing if I can stick with Twitteriffic on the iPad before I pay for Tweetbot's iPad version.

The second category is one where the iPad version is a significant downgrade from the iPhone experience. Many developers just haven't put commensurate energy into the iPad versions of their apps, and it shows.

The thing that will most likely effect whether I stick with Twitterrific or Tweetbot on the iPad is that Twitterrific falls into this category. Here's Twitteriffic running on the iPhone.

Don't judge my Twitter timeline. #tremendousfollowguilt

Don't judge my Twitter timeline. #tremendousfollowguilt

Beautiful layouts of well chosen fonts, custom animations and a well adapted iOS 7 aesthetic made it a really pretty app. I switched to Tweetbot because it seemed to offer the same aesthetic with more functionality: an upgrade, rather than a traversal.

Here's Twitterrific on the iPad.

Behold - Twitter for 95-year-olds.

Behold - Twitter for 95-year-olds.

It looks like a blown up version of the iPhone app, something Apple routinely roasts Android's tablet ecosystem and developers for churning out. Yet, here we are, 36 point font and all.

I can only guess that these developers either follow sales numbers for their apps and split resources and energy accordingly. In any case, some apps just offer a sub-par experience on the tablet.

The third category is apps that simply don't offer iPad versions. I'd really like to see Instagram or Uber or Transit or BusTrackDC offer iPad versions of their apps, but currently there's no such luck. The odds of finding a tablet version of your iPhone app are much higher than the odds in any other platform, but they aren't 100%, and that's noticeable once you really start shopping around on this thing.

This unfortunate fact yields an unfortunate consequence: there are tons of crappy, huckstery apps attempting to fill this void by putting a mask on a UIWebView and charging a few bucks for feeding people essentially the web version of someone else's product. They're easy to spot if you know what you're looking for, but they detract from two main selling points of the iPad - complete safety with regards to software and a positive user experience throughout the whole software stack. If you come into the store with a good deal of trust, which Apple hopes that you do, you might pick up a few of these simply by inputting a badly targeted search query.

One sub-issue relate to this is that app discovery on iOS as a whole is slim to none. Maybe 15 apps get placed in front of you out of the almost 1 million available, and there's no real guide once you dive in. Customer reviews are your only real guide, whether through the store or on Facebook, which is a developers worst nightmare. Apple, this is your store. Clean it up.

--iOS 7 on the iPad is really strange.

It's wide to say that, because it's nothing about the features and design in and of itself. In fact, it's almost an exact carbon copy of iOS on the iPhone in every way. The thing is, what feels right on the iPhone doesn't feel right on the iPad.

We all have an endless stream of stimulus demanding our attention. It comes at us from all different directions, some foreign and some familiar, but all constant and never slowing. This is a fact of modern life from before the iPhone; in fact, it necessitated it.

What made the iPhone so remarkable was that it took this huge stream of information and delivered it to us everywhere in a way that we could actually grasp and manage it. You might read your email on a Blackberry, but you'll get to Inbox Zero on your iPhone (if that's your bag). It's the difference between being a passive observer and an active participant in this flow of data. The ability for anyone to be involved at that high of a level anywhere had enormous consequences the whole world over.

IOS 7 is the next logical step in that mode for the iPhone. The design is such that it recedes into the context and let's the stream take priority. The devices size means that, when the data can go unabashedly full width and fill up that screen, you see more of what matters to you. On the iPhone, it was a complete success.

The iPad never had that mission, and doesn't really have that problem. The iPad has a screen the size of some laptops, or at least marginally smaller, or at least large enough so that one could mimic a PC-like handle on an average persons digital life. The iPad didn't have to solve the problem of getting more data on the screen, because it wasn't constrained by size in the same way the iPhone was.

The consequence of taking the same user interface that worked on the iPhone and putting it on the iPad is that where the iPhone feels like a better realization of itself, the iPad feels... Empty. White space is everywhere. Things are far apart, and user interface elements are stretched out.

Apps that adopt the new UI tend to go in one of two directions: either they space the elements out more by virtue of font selection and margin decreases, or they make everything huge. I've yet to see an app on the iPad show off iOS 7 like so many do in the iPhone.

Some of these problems will be solved with time. It's been about two months since iOS 7 launched to the world, and that was the culmination of a process that only began in late June, because the iPad version of iOS 7 was late. It's still in its infancy, and truly skilled developers and designers have yet to really make their mark on this side of the coin. I'm incredibly optimistic, and I'm waiting with baited breath, but I'm still waiting.

--Others, unfortunately, can't be solved with time. Apple has a job to do, and it's arguable that they haven't really done it yet.

One of the main reasons I cut developers a lot of slack earlier is that a) I feel their pain, but b) it's a course they have to chart alone, and ahead of them is a vast expanse of untouched territory. This is because, while Apple made the iPad and shipped the iPad and, now, brought its hardware to a point of ingenious wonder, they have yet to really give a coherent answer for what it's for.

That's not to say its not for anything, because it's for a lot of things - more things, in fact, than anyone in the PC industry ever give it credit for, to their eventual downfall. It's just that Apple has been keen to take a very passive position in guiding this products adoption: here's a magical, wonderful thing we built, we love it, and we can't wait to see what you do with it.

Industry and specialized fields have utilized the iPads potential to be a blank slate and have brought their specific needs to the iPad's screen, and that's wonderful. It's also not what sells iPads to parents and students.

The question the rest of us want answered is not what does it do right now, or what can it do, but what is it's role. What is it for? What is, to paraphrase Steve Jobs, it's reason for being?

That's why, when iOS 7 was released, it seemed to inspire a revolution in iPhone design and confusion and chaos in iPad design. Apple can't bring order just by releasing their own applications (which are wonderful, by the way: anyone who says you can't be productive, and I mean truly productive on an iPad is full of shit); they have to point developers in the right direction so they can bring the platform to true fruition.

Is the iPad the best tablet? Absolutely - it's not even close. I've had the unfortunate experience of developing for Android tablets, and they all suck, and the iPad is so much better than all of them.

Is the iPad Air the best iPad? Well, there's an argument for the mini with Retina, but if you lump this generation together it's obvious that these are the best iPads ever made.

So where does that leave us? The iPad is so good that it bumps up against this glass ceiling, this sense that it should do more, or be more capable. We have no reason to think that, because there's never been nothing like it, but that feeling is inescapable. Read the other reviews of the iPad Air - it's this unspoken disappointment with the best tablet out there that can be summed up with "it's so good at what it does, why can't it just do everything?".

I think there's a reason the iPad wasn't demoed on stage one time this year. iOS for the iPad isn't at a point where Apple's proud enough to show it to us in its full glory, to say "this is what we made for you, and we think you'll love it".

That's why I'm excited for iOS 8 -

...because I think it will be the OS the iPad needs,

...because it will be the first time Apple puts a foot in the direction we've been waiting for for four years, the sudden removal of the lid and the compass' reveal of true course,

...and because when it arrives, it will arrive on this, the device I have in my hand, that I'm using to write these words, making the impossibly perfect even more so.

Magical.

Mavericks GM Released Last Night, Public Release Imminent

I used OS X Mavericks as my main OS from beta 2 to beta 8. I'm back on Mountain Lion until it officially goes in the Mac App Store, and I have to say, there's a lot about it I miss on a fairly regular basis. I'm not going to go into great detail about it because of the NDA, but I will say that I'm excited to get my productivity, or at least my sheer operational speed, back up to where Mavericks put it. It really is a testament to its quality that a beta release from Apple, quirks and all, integrated itself so deeply into my workflow and improved areas I actually used.

My guess is that it's going to cost $19. However, we haven't heard the last of Apple for 2013 yet, and there's an event where they'll be introducing the new verison of iWork. Maybe that will go free for new Macs as well?

Maybe the whole OS is free? I highly doubt it, but it's always a possibility: Apple doesnt make their money on software, and generally prices it politically rather than for direct gain.

iMac Updated - My Hits and Misses

The link in the title is to the Apple's 2013: Desktops article I wrote back in April (unless it takes over the App.net PourOver feed again, in which case it'll be at the bottom until i figure out what the hell is going on with that thing). I correctly guessed that the iMacs would wait until desktop Haswell chips from Intel, and that they'd get new Graphics hotness as well (the Intel's are called the Iris Pro, and get pushed aside by new NVIDIA cards further up the line.) I also guessed that they'd get 802.11ac in a later article, and that turned out to be right too. They were all easy guesses considering the stability of that platform.

What I got wrong was that I thought they would get rid of the standard HDD and offer Fusion or SSD only. They didn't. Im guessing the reason that happened is that next year's iMac will be redesigned to get rid of that hump where the hard drive sits by getting rid of the hard drive.

I'm possibly in the market for one of these, and I'd never curse a spinning disk on it. It would be a hard sell, but I think i'd forego Fusion to move to SSD only, especially with that new PCIe Flash they're using.

Initial Thoughts and Impressions Regarding iPhone 5[S/C]

Throughout this, I'm going to use the term 5S and 5C, not Apple's designated qualifiers, 5s and 5c.

Why? Why the hell do you think?


In no particular order.

  1. "Remember When"

The nostalgia in the keynote was overwhelming. Every one of the iPhone 5S's tentpoles was preceded with a glance at what life "used to be like", not before the iPhone 5S, but seemingly before the iPhone ever existed. The A7 chip was compared to the A6 for mere seconds before the graph showed its delta from the chip in the original iPhone (laughably outshining it by a factor of 40 for CPU and more than that for GPU).

I don't know whether or not this was to increase the percieved "bump" given to the 5S. It only needed it if you were a spec hungry tech journalist, because any developer or programmer was whetted by the 64-bit processor architecture, the M7 motion coprocessor and the CoreMotion API, and because the design, fingerprint scanning and the camera are substantial enough areas of improvement for consumers to justify a price increase from $99.

I've been rewatching The Sopranos with my girlfriend, and we're in the middle of Season 6B. Tony and Paulie are in Florida hiding out a potential 30 year old murder rap and they're at dinner with Beansie and a couple of skanks, and Paulie and Beansie are reminiscing about the old days much to Tony's chagrin. They ask Tony if something's wrong, and he says this:

True? I don't know. Appropriate? Definitely.  We can marvel ourselves at how far we've come, but it's their job to point us at where we should be going.  We could do better than nostalgia.

    2. 4S: S stands for Seagal, Because You're Hard to Kill

How the hell does this thing still exist.  The main justification for the iPhone 5C was that, if it eliminated the 4S, it removed all non-4-inch, non-Lightning phones from the lineup in one fell swoop.  Instead, the iPhone 5 is gone.  Weird.

The main argument is margins - it's undoubtedly cheaper to make 5C's than 5's, and this makes up for whatever margins they lost on the iPad mini that infuriated the market (or, it makes up for whatever margins they're going) to lose on the retina mini that comes out this Oct/Nov).  They must have a ton of 4S lying around, too - remember, that was a global phone, so that exact phone model was sold everywhere for 2 years (unlike the 4 and 5, which have laughably ridiculous cellular compatibility charts and model designations, problems the 5C and 5S inherit).  

Tons of overstock on 4S explains some of it, but Apple's notorious for keeping very very shallow channel inventory, so I doubt there's enough inventory hanging out to justify full sales realignment.  If it's margins, it's margins.

Still, I would have loved to see the 5C for free, the 5 at $99, and the 5S for $199 and above.  But, then you get to this question: is the 5S justifiably $100 more expensive than the iPhone 5 to a new buyer (assuming of course that it's definitely not worth the money for a current iPhone 5 user due to upgrade fees, etc)?  Another argument could be made that the iPhone 5C is $99 in order to avoid that debate.

So, the 4S survives.  That 30-pin sporting, 3.5-inch screen-having, stubby, hefty little weirdo survives another year.  

3. The M7 

M7 knows when you’re walking, running, or even driving. For example, Maps switches from driving to walking turn-by-turn navigation if, say, you park and continue on foot. Since M7 can tell when you’re in a moving vehicle, iPhone 5s won’t ask you to join Wi-Fi networks you pass by. And if your phone hasn’t moved for a while, like when you’re asleep, M7 reduces network pinging to spare your battery.

That's a sentence in the online promos for the iPhone 5S, and it should have been in the keynote, because that's the first step in really showing people what this is all about - developers have all sorts of new information for use beyond simple subjects like fitness and health.   

Other phones have been advertising things like this for a bit, but they've either only been accessible to the phone maker's apps (in an effort to establish brand loyalty) or come with an amateur API that no one really used.  This blows that out of the water, and puts in the hands of every developer information that can be used in tons of innovative ways to make the experience of using an iPhone better. It's a perfect example of what Apple's done with a few features over the last few years - technically, they're bringing in a feature other phones have had before, but practically  they're bringing a set of functionality to the world that has never been implemented as well before, taking the concept mainstream and setting the standard for how it's done.  


I've been using iOS 7 exclusively on my iPhone since about beta 2, and I'm looking forward to writing up a review, but I don't want to do a feature recap or a screenshot heavy diagram of the OS, because enough people are going to try and do that on the 17th or so. What i'll try and do is tell you what I think their biggest decisions were, whether I think they were good choices, and what I think they mean.

Something to keep in mind when you read those reviews, though, is that iOS 7's biggest piece is still missing, and is going to come in in waves over the next three weeks or so - third party developers, interpereting the design and functionality decisions of iOS 7 to their own apps. So far, the only updated app I've received is the Reeder 2.0 update, but I spend so much time in that app that it's already made me think even more about what's really going on.

Tomorrow's Event

Here's what I said back in April about the upcoming iPhone - I was going to blockquote selections of it, but it's too large, so check the link to check my work.

Basically, I predicted the new iPhone would look essentially the same as the iPhone 5, with iOS 7, a global LTE chipset for use everywhere, a better camera, better battery life, an A7 SOC with increased power and graphics, and no change in price for the same size combinations.

For the most part, I still stand by those predictions for what we're now calling the iPhone 5S (I also called it that in April). We know now that a camera increase will most likely come alongside a dual-LED flash (to hopefully fix all iPhone night pictures looking a little washed out), so that can get folded into the mix.

We also know that we can expect a Gold/Champagne color, and maybe even a Silver color to go along with Black/White. I don't think this was a dealbreaker for anyone, but it will be inetersting to see what side of the cheesy line the Gold iPhone falls on. I have a decent amount of faith that they know what they're doing, especially since I've grown fond of the new color palate in iOS 7 (much much mroe on that later, when NDA expires).

There's also this fingerprint-scanner thing in the home button, which sounds cool but I have no idea how it will actually work. What I'm guessing is an IT-Security manager's wet dream - easy to implement 2-factor authentication for a mobile device that adds real device level security. The saying goes that all security measures go out the window once an assailant has posession of the device, but this might be the first step in reliable biometric locks for sensitive data.

The trick to it being IT-Security porn is that consumers won't really care, or at least they won't swoon. I expect that either Apple markets the safety and security angle to them, or they find a way to make this tech available for the user. I have no clue how - all I can think of are those keys for Benzes and BMW's (and Audi's I think) that sense who's key is being used to start the car and adjust seats, AC and mirrors accordingly. Completely UI-free user accounts on iOS devices, maybe? This plus iCloud keychain equals password-free life on mobile? This is by far my biggest question mark of the event.

So, iPhone 5S: iOS 7, new cellular tech, new SOC, new camera, better battery life, new colors, same price, and some crazy fingerprint home button thing.

What I didn't expect in April was that Apple would eliminate their current staggered iPhone strategy and split the iPhone into two yearly tiers - the Premium and the Bargain line. If the rumors are true, that's what it looks like: rounding out the iPhone 5S on the high end is the iPhone 5C on the low end.

Predictions and leaks indicate a 4-inch device with a Lightning connector and a plastic back with a whole lot of color combinations. Im guesing you could simplfy it hardware-wise to an iPod Touch, plus a cellular radio, with plastic instead of a metal back.

But the price? That iPod Touch goes for $299, and Apple is hearing it from everyone on Wall Street about margins being too low (a laughable complaint in every way, but the complaints exist nonetheless). I'd love to see it intro for $299, but my guess is that it's no lower than $399 - in fact, I'll bet that's the magic number.

A lot of this has leaked, but I don't really know for sure if this is a done deal. Apple does have an event in China the day after tomorrow - it's the first event Apple has had in a foreign nation, and it will either bring or immediately follow the introduction of the iPhone to China Mobile (the world's largest carrier, with 700M + subscribers). I think there's a chance the iPhone 5C could be exclusive to China.

If it's not, here's the lineup:

$399/$0 (off contract/on contract)- iPhone 5C $199 (on contract) - iPhone 5S 16GB $299 (on contract) - iPhone 5S 32GB $399 (on contract) - iPhone 5S 64GB

Besides the iOS 7 finalization (I'm sticking with a GM for devs tomorrow, general release on 9/18 and the iPhone 5S hitting stores on 9/20) and a few one-off updates (new iWork apps? Mac Pro release date? Haswell rMBPs?), I think that's it for the event. There's a chance they might do their iPod/music event concurrently like they did last year, because of iTunes Radio launching and all, but I think its just as likely for it to be iPhone only considering they have two phones to launch.

Even with iPods, which I doubt, that's still saving a lot of goodies for an October iPad event, which sets a dangerous precedent for next year. Apple definitely can't and shouldn't wait until Q3/Q4 to update their entire line next year.

(In fact, I even think they might not update a few Macs until February just to space things out. If so, no iMacs for Christmas.)

All in all, should be a fun day tomorrow, even though there's very few surprises. That's also what we thought last year, and we were in for a treat.

WWDC 2013: Predictions, and New Revelations

So I said a lot of stuff about what was going to happen, and some of it came true and some was wildly off the mark, as is to be expected. A prediction wouldn't be complete without a wrap-up, so here goes, in the order in which they were discussed at the main keynote.

OS X 10.9

The Name
My Prediction: Cougar (and more recently, Lynx, because I'm an idiot and didn't check my earlier prediction) What Happened: Mavericks

They left cats, and went to beaches/locations in California. As I noted, they were running out of Big Cats, and this is a tasteful and forward looking strategy. But, still, wrong-o.

Release Date/Details My Prediction: DP Today, Public release in August. What Happened: DP Today, Public release in "Fall".

Close, and as per traditional iOS updates debuted at WWDC. Mountain Lion got a very early preview, so it released earlier, but OS updates introduced at WWDC debut in the fall.

Features My predictions:

What will happen is that, even more so than last year, the updates OS X will get are going to be tailored to the smaller-screen, power-efficient-over-brute-strength style of laptops over desktops.

Surprisingly, not the case, especially considering this addendum from the same section;

(I'll let the multiple-monitor crowd talk about full screen apps, and share their pain and frustration with you in private.)

They addressed this head on, and fixed it. Go figure. Many thanks, and I'm really looking forward to a multi-monitor setup that works.

iCloud should have a lot more data from system preferences and settings on the desktop than it does now, so multiple Macs stay in sync as far as preferences are concerned.

iCloud Keychain could be seen as a step in this direction, and the amount of data synced with iCloud in the system is growing (i.e. the Maps app), but it's nowhere near as extensive as I predicted.

That's why I wouldn't be surprised if iCloud doesn't add many new features, but they market an increased level of reliability.

It's technically under NDA, but some of the session videos I've seen validate this, specifically in the area of Core Data. Good for them.

Remember the book layout of Address Book, the "notes in a leather notepad" look for Notes, or the faux Corinthian leather lining of Calendar? Yeah, gone. From what's being said around their campus, the word of the day as far as Apple UI design is "flat".

The Notes, Game Center and Calendar redesigns happened, but the redesigns seemed to stay there - not much on an OS-level design shift, more so "cleanup" of disgustingly skeumorphic apps, most likely waiting for a fundamental OS X rethink in 10.10 (or OS XI?).

I'd like to see App Store be the locus for all Apps, an iBooks for OS X that takes care of the iBookstore and a dedicated Podcasts app (I'd say this is why they pulled it out of the Music app on iOS). I could even see Quicktime become a more useful Media Center, or simply "Videos".

Got the iBooks app with the built in iBookstore, but nothing else.

Also, Safari 7 will release with it, and I'd imagine it's a full Webkit2 browser with support for even more CSS3 and with greatly enhanced JS rendering. It'll leapfrog Chrome as the fastest browser on OS X...for two months.

Nailed it. (I don't know if Safari 7 is the name, but it's the version number: they called it "the new Safari").

In order: a new file system, retinafied system fonts, updated features for the Finder (TABS TABS TABS), updated iWork apps, a replacement for the traffic-light (green is redundant with Full Screen), and the removal of legacy cruft like Stickies.app.

Got the Finder Tabs, iWork for iCloud showed up (with a promise for new iWork app updates for the fall), and there's a great bit of developer news regarding text, but Lucida Grande still remains and it looks like Stickies.app is here to stay. New file system was a pipe dream, and I knew it.

Hardware Updates

MacBook Air

So, I don't anticipate any striking changes on this front. No new design changes, no new ports (what would they be? HDMI? That's what Thunderbolt is for. And where would they go?) and no major new components to screw with an already stellar formula. They'll get Haswell when it arrives in late Q2, which will give them a nice speed boost and a better power consumption ratio, and with upgraded graphics they'll be even more capable machines. I don't even see a price drop - Apple has never sold a laptop for less than $1K and I don't expect them to start now because people are more than willing to pay it. I'm not in the camp that gives the Air a Retina display, either, which you'll understand in a bit.

Pretty much spot on, except for the price drop - the 13" actually dropped $100 to a $1099 starting config.

My hope against hope? An LTE radio. Likely? I honestly don't know. They've screwed around with it before, and now would be the time to do it, but making iCloud mandatory means a lot of bits are getting pushed and pulled in the background, and I don't know how much data people expect to use on their laptops, but I bet it's not that much. Consider this a sad "not likely."

Nope.

AirPort / 802.11ac

This is the year that 802.11ac comes to the Mac and iOS family. I'm even going to say that an update to the AirPorts will include it as well.

Yup. One of those new AirPort Extremes will be mine very shortly (maybe even a Time Capsule, but I'm not sure yet).

Macbook Pro / Macbook Pro with Retina Display

My pre-WWDC prediction bet on updates to the whole laptop line, but they only touched the Airs on Monday. I was a bit surprised, so we'll see what happens to these lines in the fall.

Mac Pro

Currently, the Mac Pros are running on the Nehalem E-series chip, which was the generation before Sandy Bridge, making the chips inside the current generation Mac Pro one generation old (there were no Ivy Bridge E-series chips). If they make a new Mac Pro, it is with complete certainty that I can say the next generation will have Haswell E-series architecture in it, making it undoubtedly the fastest and most powerful Mac they sell.

Nope. The releases for Xeons were staggered a bit, so it looks like the Mac Pro will be running the "new" Sandy Bridge E series, which is still currently the latest Xeon. So, my bad on screwing around predicting Intel timetables.

I can also say with certainty that, if they make a new Mac Pro, it will boot from a Fusion drive, standard. The Haswell chips will necessitate new motherboards and internal architecture, so it will have Thunderbolt (at least 2) and USB 3.0 (at least 4). It will have NVIDIA's latest desktop graphics card in it, so if it needs to power an external Retina display, it could.

They went full flash instead, using custom PCIe Flash and 1866Mhz RAM. 4 USB 3.0, but 6 Thunderbolt (2), and that's what they're using for expandability, so no internal drive bays. I also didn't anticipate a switch to AMD for primary graphics cards. However, while they didnt explicitly say so, 4K support through those cards and TB2 means a Retina display is in our future.

I'm also going to come out and say that it's not going to ship with an optical drive.

That was an easy guess.

Not having that is going to enable them to slim the profile down a bit. It'll be smaller, but not miniature - it's still going to be underneath a lot of desks, so it doesn't need to shrink, but it will slim down.

Um, it's the size of a coffeemaker. They decidedly went miniature. Just because it didn't need to shrink doesnt mean it shouldn't, at least according to them.

That product will make people who were waiting for a new Mac Pro happy. It's modern, fast and just what they expected.

Happy? Who knows. It's a fundamentally different product than the previous Mac Pro, even if it's made for the same customer. It also depends a lot on there being TB2 accessories to plug into it, as well as displays that use TB2 to push 4K. "Sneak Peek", hopefully, was more for OEM's than for the developers, to get them started filling that need.

Overall, I'm excited to learn more about this, but I'm going to reserve judgment until we get more info - after all, we don't even know how much this is going to cost, and the TB accessories that will really make this a true Mac Pro replacement are still too expensive. Intel made a point of talking about the work they are doing in driving those prices down, so lets hope they do that before this comes out.

iOS 7

I think it was because they knew that the day would come where Federighi would stand up at WWDC and say that now iOS developers have the ability to get into the share sheet on iOS - and OS X, by extension.

Nope.

I expect at least one of the things Eddy Cue will say at WWDC was that iCloud has seen a lot of under-the-hood work, and that speed and reliability have both seen improvement. I'd rather see that than even a new iCloud app of some kind - I understand that they might like to prove they can walk and chew gum at the same time, but they need to learn to walk first.

NDA.

Apple's not a toggle company - they want people to set it and forget it. Anything you have to repeatedly switch on or off is either a) horribly designed and/or implemented, by Apple's standards, or b) something that can and should be automated in the background, like brightness and proximity sensoring. "Widgets on iOS" goes alongside "Linux on the Desktop" - always next year, never this year.

Nope. Control Center gives us toggles, always accessible from a swipe up.

It could be said that one cycle is too soon to see a complete Ive-ification of iOS, but I'm going to take Gruber's statement that iOS is running behind to say that there's lots of small refinements all across the board for iOS this year, and I wouldn't be surprised if they were chiefly in the area of UI design. Not all the skeumorphism will go, but the overly-cartoonish leather and stitching will.

There was a redesign, it was extensive, and the "running behind" was shown by the iPad version slipping behind so the iPhone could see the light at WWDC. All the skeumorphism went. They got a lot done in 7 months. Holy shit, they got a lot done in 7 months.

take PDFs out of iBooks, which is hooked up to iBooks for Mac via iCloud. Then, make Preview for iOS, and hook it up to Preview on the Mac via iCloud, and automatically take all the PDFs out of iBooks and put them there.

There's an iBooks for Mac, but no Preview. This is the thing I was really most disappointed about from WWDC.

(I'd like to see swiping a message do more than ask to delete it - give me options of what to do, or just delete it on the swipe.)

Yep.

It's been a while since they've gone on stage and said "iOS is now faster." It's time...

Nothing explicitly about that. The tone of Apple's remarks about performance seem to suggest that the priority is decidedly toward reducing power consumption and conserving resources than increased speed and performance. The lack of texture and graphical assets I assumed would speed up standard processes has really been covered by the Dynamic transitions and animation, so I bet it's a wash, raw-speed-improvement-wise.

if I share a photo stream with you, you should be able to add to it.

Yup. Very happy about this.

Other stuff: nothing really added to Messages, so that just went through a redesign and got no new major features. I thought I remembered saying something about AirDrop making its way to iOS, but I was looking for any reference to it and didn't find any. In any case, AirDrop for iOS makes a lot of sense, and I wasn't surprised they added it: I'd been saying stuff about that since it came out on OS X. I just wish I'd written it down beforehand!


I've got iOS 7 installed on my phone. It's buggy, and some things are obviously incomplete, but it's not prohibitively broken to the extent that it's unusable. Put it this way: I walked around with a jailbroken device for months and have so far experienced less bugs now than I did jailbroken, so I'm OK walking around with it.

This is all to say that I'm going to spend some time walking around with it, and maybe wait until DP3 or 4 before I even begin to think about reviewing it or putting my inital thoughts down. Not only do I have a feeling that they're not done refining this thing, but it's too big of a change to think about all at once. I'm still finding little bits of it that have changed, and most of it for the better.

I will say this, however: after loading it on a dev device for a day, the transition between that and my iOS 6 device was so stark I had to put it on my primary device just to keep my head together.

I also have absolutely no idea what to expect for the iPad version of this. iOS 7 makes liberal use of space and text to delineate function. Where space is appropriate on a 3.5- or 4-inch screen, on an 8- or 10-inch screen it could be really stark, especially if it's whitespace. I hope iOS 7 on the iPad diverges from the iOS 6 layout enough to compensate for this.

Pre-WWDC: The Scorecard

What would a multinational company's press event be without an attempt to predict its outcome, amirite??


Today, as per my Apple's 2013 posts, here's what we'll see;

  • New MacBook Pro's, Airs and rMBP's with Haswell chips. All on sale starting today.
  • Elimination of the MacBook Pro line and Standardization of the rMBP.
  • New Mac Pro, updated specs. On sale today.
  • Introduction of OS X 10.9: Lynx. Increased sharing features, Siri, hundreds of feature enhancements. Design enhancements as well: flatter, less textured design. New system font (goodbye Lucida Grande.) DP today, scheduled for August.
  • iOS 7. New design language, improvements to core services, AirDrop for iOS (for easy sharing to/from OS X), speed improvements. DP Today, release for "Fall" (code for Oct/Nov.)
  • Nothing for TV, Watches, or new iPhones or iPads.

That's what we'll see: the question is, for the industry, what will it mean?

John Gruber says it will be nothing short of a new generation of mobile devices: an ushering in of solutions to new problems and a closed door of problems previously solved. I think, when it comes to what we're going to think looking back on this from the future, that he's going to be right - this was the year where Apple and tech companies as a whole took the training wheels off and felt like they could play a little with the touchscreen HMI.

This, of course, means we're going to be short on direct, user-facing features, which means contemporary tech journalists will weep. The mainstream press will lap it up because this will actually look noticably different than iOS 6 and thus innovation.

I'm very excited. In the end, it's because i'm a big fan fo Jony Ive, and no matter whether or not he gets up on stage and says a word (he's notoriously stage-averse), this is going to be his show.

Apple's Tick-Tock Strategy

Tick versions of iOS came with the S versions of the devices (iOS 3 with the iPhone 3GS and iOS 5 with the iPhone 4S). On the other hand, big hardware releases such as the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 launched alongside Tock releases of iOS (iPhone 4 with iOS 4 and iPhone 5 with iOS 6).

I've had this rolling around in my head for a while. Here's some other thoughts - 

  • I keep trying to figure out how this applies to Apple as a whole, but it doesn't seem like the product announcements on the Mac side line up just right.  That limits this to a relatively specific and limited set of predictions, with a whole lot of room for error.  
  • We have no idea if these trends, if they are in fact trends, will persist after the exit of Scott Forstall.

Still, if you actually look at Intel's chip roadmap, it actually bears a great deal of resemblance.  The updates aren't minor, they're internal. Intel shrinks a chip one year, and the next year rearranges its internals for efficiency, and then shrinks it again the next year, then rearranges.  In the even years, the improvements are internal, and in the odd years they're external.  Sound familiar?    

Apple's 2013: Grab Bag

So, about the iWatch...

No.

Wait, let me finish.

No, I don't think I will. There's a possibility that the new iPod nano will come specially fitted with a wrist strap (paying homage to the iPod touch 'loop' from last fall), but that's as far as it's going to go. It's definitely not going to be marketed as a watch - that market is way too different for Apple to get mired in, and I don't think Apple really wants to.

Okay, fine. No watch. What about the TV? No one's been talking about that at all!

Yeah, that's what I was thinking as well. The TV was in everyone's heads last fall, hoping it would be out before Christmas 2012, but nothing showed. The rumor mill died down, but that doesnt change all the reasons Apple should make a TV, and there are tons.

Personally, I think the delay is not because of hardware or even software design issues - I actually believe these are pretty much ready to go at this point, waiting on the mysterious third factor: network and corporate approval.

My assumption is that Apple's vision for the future of TV is a-la-carte subscription to shows rather than channels, where the customer pays for shows and gets new episodes delivered to them on the fly, accessed via "Shows in the Cloud", or some other iTunes in the cloud equivalent. Everything on CBS sucks except NCAA Basketball? No problem: subscribe and you're good to go! (That last statement's premise was not hypothetical.)

This is quintessential Apple vision, in that it's a) incredibly consumer friendly, b) allows Apple to control and act as the central hub for all content instead of allowing intermediary influence, and c) is contrary to the entire business model of it's clientele. Hence, the delay: convincing networks to give Apple their content for a rate substantially lower than what it would make using their current model of advertising and cable provider perks.

They were able to do so with the music industry because they convinced it that it was dying and that iTunes was the last house on the block to save their industry, which was arguably true in some ways. Their deals with movies and TV shows has been decidedly less consumer friendly, largely motivated by high demand rather than financial need - there was money on the table, and they're charging the highest price they can for the customers.

This deal would involve either relatively high priced TV show subscriptions for prices higher than most customers would feel comfortable paying, or lower prices that the providers would feel comfortale selling their content for. Umm...good luck.

That's my best guess for what Tim Cook meant when he opened up the idea of a "new product category". Steve Jobs' vision for the perfect TV UI, backed with great TV hardware and a new standard for consuming TV content, all delivered by Apple.

Will it show up this year? Honestly, I don't think so, but it's possible.

I am betting on HBOGO on Apple TV by the end of the year, though.

Schedule

I would never have guessed that we'd have to wait until WWDC for an Apple product announcement, but that's what it looks like from here. That's probably good, but I don't know how effective that is in the long term - to be silent for a whole quarter and refresh before the holidays every year is pretty bold, and Apple's not one to yield that level of mindshare to their competitors. Im guessing next year will resume March/June/August/October schedules for events.

Given how weird this year seems, I'm having trouble deciding what's going to happen when. It's fair to say that WWDC will show us OS X 10.9 and iOS 7, but it's not reasonable to write off new hardware being announced as well - last year at WWDC saw the retina MBP's introduction, so it wouldn't be out of the ordinary.

If it's new hardware, I suspect it will be the new Mac Pro and the removal of the standard MBP line. They'll spend 30 minutes updating stuff, show us the new tower, lower the price of the rMBP and make it the official new MBP, and then get on to 10.9 and iOS 7.

After that, there's a music event for new iPods (which I didn't write about because 1) I don't care and 2) who knows that the new iPods are going to look like - they're such a design playground that no one has any clue), an iPhone event that will encompass dropping final release dates for OS X and iOS, and an iPad event. Because of the 6-month time frame, I'm going to guess they do the iPads and the iPods at the same event, the iPhone event with the firm software dates, and another event whenever they finish the TV stuff, if they do at all.

Last year, they did 5 events - iBooks Author, iPad 3 retina, WWDC, iPhone/iPod, and the mini/iPad 4/whole fuckton of Macs event. Four events makes sense, writing off iBooks author as a one-time thing and bringing last years to 4, but 3 is a substantially less amount of time spent introducing new product.

Apple's 2013: iOS 7

Breaking iOS, OS X and iCloud is probably not going to make much sense after this year's WWDC. They're going to plug so extensively into each other, and iCloud is going to connect to both on such a deep level, that trying to separate all three categorically is going to be much more difficult than necessary. I'll use this to talk mostly about iOS, but there's a lot of iCloud stuff to talk about, too.

Inter-Application Communication (or, the Remote View Controller API)

When the original iPhone was released, I noticed something about the home screen that seemed peculiar, especially considering Apple's design aesthetic.

The home screen for the original iPhone.

I remember thinking when I saw it, even amidst all the hysteria, that that seemed like a lot of empty space for a product Apple designed. It wasnt just that empty row on the bottom, it was the missing icon in row three. Granted, they had to arrange 15 icons in some way, and they had a dock that fit 4, but still - take Mail and put it there to complete row 3, or use iPod. I mean, no one demanded they go with 4x4 for each screen with a 4 icon dock - why would they deliberately choose an alignment that left empty space?

I now believe that it was because they knew, and they wanted us to know, that this was a growing platform, and that that space was going to be filled by both them and us.

Later, of course, came the ability to create webapps that could be pinned to the home screen, and later came the App Store and the iPhone SDK, and the rest is history. Which brings me to this.

A share sheet in the Photos app on an iPhone running iOS 6.

The previous version of what is now called the share sheet was a single column of UIButtons, which looked complete no matter how many buttons there were. So, why switch to an interface like this? Why make it a 3x3 grid? And why, as the jailbreak community discovered shortly after they jailbroke iOS 6, did they allow for it to paginate if more than 9 options were available?

I think it was because they knew that the day would come where Federighi would stand up at WWDC and say that now iOS developers have the ability to get into the share sheet on iOS - and OS X, by extension.

The share sheet for Facebook, Twitter and Photo Stream is invoked by what's called a RemoteViewController in Objective-C - a new addition as of iOS 6. This allows for a small section or instantiation of the app in question to open and accept input - just enough of the application opens to work, but no more. It then closes and leaves the application that opened it into the foreground, because it never left. The ability for third party developers to use this would allow for the user to send and process files through multiple applications much easier, and provide a healthy alternative to the App Switcher for people moving from one app to another with data they'll be working with. I especially would like to see what this makes available on the iPad, where a larger area of screen real estate provides even more room for a mini-app to work and accept input.

This will be the biggest focus of the dev sessions at WWDC, it'll be called everything from a revolution in mobile OS design to a blatant ripoff of Android's Services or Windows' Intents, and in the end it will bring iOS in even more feature parity with OS X.

iCloud 2.0

This needs work in all the areas everyone's already said it needs work, so there's not much else I can say about what needs to happen. I can say that I haven't felt the pain yet - I've had nothing but reliable access to my iCloud data in all forms, shapes and sizes since launch, KeyValue storage has worked tremendously to my benefit, I havent lost any documents that have mattered, and iCloud backups have worked like a charm.

But, that's a big fat 'yet'. I've had a Pages document enter that grey, "I'm here but I don't know where I am so I can't be deleted or edited" stage, and if everyone else's experience is sufficient prologue, it's not too long before I'm looking at that linen background in Preview or Pixelmator in shock.

This isn't the typical Mac neophyte's exclamation that 'my hard drive crashed, so Mac's are crap.' Hard drives crash - its a computer, and shit happens. This is a product that's not as good as an Apple product is supposed to be, and if they haven't been working on that since WWDC of last year, they should have been.

I think they were. I expect at least one of the things Eddy Cue will say at WWDC was that iCloud has seen a lot of under-the-hood work, and that speed and reliability have both seen improvement. I'd rather see that than even a new iCloud app of some kind - I understand that they might like to prove they can walk and chew gum at the same time, but they need to learn to walk first.

New Features/Apps

Is this the year for widgets?
No.

But what about all my toggles!! I need my toggles!!
Nope. Apple's not a toggle company - they want people to set it and forget it. Anything you have to repeatedly switch on or off is either a) horribly designed and/or implemented, by Apple's standards, or b) something that can and should be automated in the background, like brightness and proximinty sensoring. "Widgets on iOS" goes alongside "Linux on the Desktop" - always next year, never this year.

UI Redesign/"Refinement"

It could be said that one cycle is too soon to see a complete Ive-ification of iOS, but I'm going to take Gruber's statement that iOS is running behind to say that there's lots of small refinements all across the board for iOS this year, and I wouldn't be surprised if they were chiefly in the area of UI design. Not all the skeumorphism will go, but the overly-cartoonish leather and stitching will. Look to the redesign of the Podcasts app for an idea of what's going to happen. I literally can't wait for this.

Preview for iOS

I can't tell you how bad I want this, as someone using Mountain Lion on their machines. I even have Dropbox, which serves this exact purpose (arguably better). It's still aggravating - I have a PDF in Preview's iCloud, and even though I can start a rich word processing document on my iPhone and edit it on my Mac in state, I have to get that PDF into iBooks (seriously?) and I have to do it manually. That's silly.

Of course, one solution might be to hook the PDF section of iBooks up to Preview's iCloud, but I think the cleaner and more forward thinking soloution is this: take PDFs out of iBooks, which is hooked up to iBooks for Mac via iCloud. Then, make Preview for iOS, and hook it up to Preview on the Mac via iCloud, and automatically take all the PDFs out of iBooks and put them there.

Upgrades to Safari

Safari will get an update that allows Apple to market it as the fastest mobile web browser, along with the ability to swipe back and forth fro the back/forward function, bringing it in parity with Safari for Mac.

Upgrades to Mail

This might be selfish, but I'm running a jailbroken iPhone with Mail Enhancer Pro iOS 6, and I'm really liking the mailbox selector feature so I can only see unread email. I'm pulling for this, but I expect they'll pull one or two advanced features from Gmail and a few UI features from apps like Sparrow and Mailbox (I'd like to see swiping a message do more than ask to delete it - give me options of what to do, or just delete it on the swipe.)

What I expect is a few minor enhancements, a couple of security benchmarks they can check off to make IT departments happy and access to Preview for iOS in the same way it has access to photos, for inline attachments.

Speed Improvements

It's been a while since they've gone on stage and said "iOS is now faster." It's time - they'll get rid of all the sub-retina images and assets (because they don't sell many non-retina devices anymore, especially once they retinafy the mini), transition away from processor- and graphic-intensive skeumorphic animation, and then optimize it in whatever way they can.

Multiple Contributors to Shared Photo Streams

I think Albumatic is great, but it's so vulnerable to having its reason for being copied and integrated much better than it's able to do itself. Also, I was a bit confused to find that this wasn't a feature they already had. It's easy enough to do - if I share a photo stream with you, you should be able to add to it.

Messaging Improvements

There's not much to be said for Messages, which is as much a good thing as a bad thing - it's not notably bad, but it's not good enough to be notable, and considering how crucial the messaging aspect of a phone is, it's time Apple took another stab at it and showed us how to do it right. A few features would be a "share sheet" not unlike the Facebook and Twitter options, where we could reply to a message from anywhere (I honestly think we'll see this even if the Remote View Controller idea doesnt happen) as well as a more streamlined design and a better view for group messaging. It's time to grow out of bubbles and grow into something more modern - OS X has a few other themes for its Messages app, so maybe it'll take some inspiration there.

I'd also like to see Facebook Messenger and Twitter DM's integrated with the Messages app, but I don't think Facebook would have gone through the trouble of Chat Heads if that were coming. It would be nice, though: it would go across all devices (right now, Facebook Messenger must be configured manually, even though credentials are already available to the system) and it would be a slap in the face of Microsoft-owned Skype and Google's GChat.

Release

Announcement at WWDC, first installed on the iPhone 5S, released to public 2 days earlier as an OTA update. Most likely the 5S will see a mid-to-late October release on a Friday, which pegs iOS 7 at either October 16 or 23. It'll go on the 4, 4S, 5 and 5S (No more 3GS) and will lose the oldest iPod touch. iPads 2-5 and both minis will get it as well.