60 minutes to go

…and the Apple store is still open. Ooooh!

No idea what I’m talking about? Apple’s World-Wide Developer Conference starts today in San Francisco, and at 6pm BST Steve Jobs will strut his stuff and announce… umm… who knows what?

[Damn. I’ve accidentally sucked myself into writing a long Apple speculation post. I’ll hide the remainder behind the fold, so it’s easy to skip if you’re not remotely interested. Or if you see this more than an hour after it’s posted, by which time it’ll be obsolete anyway.]

Anything less than a major preview of the next Mac OS X release, v10.5 ‘Leopard,’ would at this stage cause mass defections to Ubuntu, but it looks like we’re safe on that (phew!). Overnight, people have been snapping photos through the windows of the conference centre, of bombastic banners that read ‘Welcome to Vista 2.0’ and ‘Hasta la vista, Vista.’ Those banners also carry an image of a DVD, so it looks like there’ll be, like, gen-u-wine code n’ stuff too. Which I have to say is mildly unexpected. Apple doesn’t normally issue OS releases – even to developers – that are less than (nearly) feature-complete and beta-quality.

Now, it’s rather early for them to be issuing a beta of a, say, Spring 2007 OS release: they’ve not taken that long to squash bugs before without calling at least one of the intermediate releases ‘final’ (cough10.0cough). Which makes one rather suspect that Leopard might be released in time for Christmas 2006. That is, before Microsoft’s Windows Vista. Which would really set the (big, spotted) cat amongst the pigeons.

But if that’s the case, I find it hard to believe that we’ll get the funky über-modern filesystem we think we want (ZFS, something based on the work that ex-Be chappie has done, whatever). Unless – and this is possible, actually – it was quite far along for 10.4 but didn’t quite make the cut.

Otherwise, I’m hoping for raise-the-bar-type Finder enhancements like the long-rumoured file ‘stacks’, and also an application framework for remote collaborative working à la SubEthaEdit. In fact, if the latter doesn’t arrive with Leopard, we might as well give up on desktop app development and do everything via AJAXified websites. Come to think of it, it may already be too late.

Unless… oooh! OK, developers are going to laugh at this one, but… suppose you could develop stuff that ran on OS X desktops and handled collaborative work over local networks, but that also had a server-side component (on, say, a revamped .Mac) to allow you to take your local app and deploy it trivially easily for dispersed working.

Now suppose that the client end of this was based on a lightweight widget engine rather than full-blown Cocoa. Like – for example – Dashboard. It’d be possible to run that on Windows clients, wouldn’t it?

Umm… OK, people who know about such things: tell me, why do we expend so much effort shoe-horning everything into the browser? Wouldn’t it be simpler if the front-end was just a little less tied to a page-back/stop loading/URI-based navigation system?

So, that’s my off-the-wall prediction: forget YellowBox, I posit WebKit for Windows, as the client end of a new networked app MVC development model, with OS X and .Mac as the back-end. Forget Vista, they’re after Rails.

You know, I thought I was joking about that, but now I’m starting to wonder if I’m serious.

The only trouble is, it’s like Java, only backwards. Rather like JSP, I suspect. Hmm. P’raps not, then. But I do have to wonder – isn’t it rather late for OS-level collaborative working frameworks, when we already have WriteBoard and Writely and activeCollab and… ?

Other OS stuff: VoIP. Durr. CoreData extended to allow data storage on a remote server, with contention handling and a database engine abstraction layer, initially with support for SQLite, MySQL, and Oracle (purely so the PostGres fans have something to complain about). I really really want to see a revamped, group-aware iCal, AddressBook and Mail make-over, but that’s all user-level stuff. Unless it’s using CoreData extensions, etc.

Oh, I don’t know, do I?

Right, hardware: meh, who cares? So long as there are honking fast desktop workstations at sensible prices, I’ll be happy. And if there aren’t, we may as well all give up and go home (or to Ubuntu, whichever’s closest), given that Apple makes their dosh out of hardware. I’d like to see some new displays, preferably for prices not much different to Dell’s. Other than that… answer hazy, ask again later.

I don’t expect to see an Apple tablet (still too expensive, unclear market, ‘cool’ isn’t enough) or phone (still can’t make it work quite right, better not do it than do it badly). WWDC would be a weird place for announcements about movies for sale via iTunes; if there is such a development, I’d expect to hear it in two weeks’ time, at a separate event.

Meanwhile, I’d best post this, before it’s too late. Or, you know, way too long.

1 Comment

  1. So what happened at the developer conference?? I could go and look myself but I’d only end up coming back to check with you if the version 5 update of isync (that lets me sync my radio favourites on my phone to my dashborad DAB widget, and automatically downloads photos of Mark Radcliff)… is really any good.

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