WWDC 2011: Back to the Dev

Every year, I watch WWDC with interest. I watch it from a consumer standpoint, and not a developer standpoint. I fully expected Apple to release a hardware product at WWDC this year, but last year, the developers were quite upset that Apple had forgotten about them in all the iPhone 4 hype. Certainly Gizmodo’s checkbook journalism and the sensation that this caused in the media, so huge actually that the story reached CNN, was a show stealer.

This year, was entirely unlike last year. This year, the WWDC keynote delivered by Apple focused on developer tools and developer features in Apple’s upcoming offerings for their devices. Of course, I’m talking about OSX Lion, iCloud and iOS 5.

There is a great article on iCloud by Andy Ihnatko in the Chicago Sun-Times that tells you everything you need to know about iCloud in a way that only Mr. Ihnatko can. You can read the article for yourself, but this quote sums it up nicely, “Apple forcefully made the point that iCloud is meant to do no less than replace the PC in its current role as the hub of the digital experience, and relegate it to the status of Just Another Device that syncs data between itself and everything else”. This says it all.

iCloud is not just some other feature that’s being added to OSX and iOS. iCloud is the future of computing as Apple sees it. It’s the bridge between where we’re going and where we are and it’s going to teach us how to abandon our old ideas about what technology should be, just like iTunes showed us how to walk away from record stores. It will be difficult for those of us that are a bit old school in our computer usage to walk away from the desk or the table and go sit in a park and wirelessly do everything. I have my concerns about having all of my information up in the cloud and I used to argue very hard that cloud computing was not the way to go, even though I knew things would always eventually end up here.

In spite of my dislike of this, and my mistrust, I think that OSX Lion is going to play a huge part in moving me into that future where all of our data is stored in the cloud and we will no longer need to keep massive hard drives on our machines. It is frustrating, however to watch the media compare iCloud to other services, because it is so much more than Amazon Cloud services, or even the OTA sync that Google has in some Android devices. iCloud is not limited to a narrow field of use. iCloud is simply everything.

iCloud will not be available for all of us to play with until July, but we did get a taste of the kind of services that Apple will provide to us with iCloud from iTunes in the Cloud, which is available on your friendly neighborhood Apple device right now. I suggest you play with it and go see what Cloud living will be like in the Apple universe. It’s eye opening to see how easy Apple made this for consumers to use. I hope that iCloud and all of its services will be as uncomplicated for the developers to take advantage of.

One of the things that I do after the WWDC keynote is go out in search of a bunch of news articles from a bunch of sources on the keynote to consider the opinions of other writers before finalizing my own thoughts and ideas. Sometimes it can be eye opening, or there will be a feature that I find to be really cool that I must have missed when I got up to get a drink.

This time, I found a complaint that there is no “free music streaming” of any kind associated with iCloud running around in WaPo, PC World and some more mainstream media outlets. It was interesting to see this noted in these articles because these writers seem to have forgotten the same thing that Apple forgot about at last year’s WWDC. WWDC is all about opening the doors for communication between Apple and their third party developers. That is the purpose of the conference. For those who are unaware, WWDC stands for “World Wide Developers Conference”. Notice that the word “developer” is in there. Apple did forget that for the last couple of years, and it was truly a good thing to see them focus on the developers and all of the innovations that they have made to iOS and OSX under the hood. So I’m wondering why it is that WaPo and PC World forgot the most famous slogan associated with Apple products, so pervasive that it’s a running joke in most high schools around the country.

“There’s an app for that.”

Apple ticked off a lot of developers yesterday. iCloud and AirDrop together effectively replaces the DropBox app under OSX and iOS. Camera + has been outmoded by updates to the native Camera app under iOS. They ticked off their cellular partners by not letting them in on their little iMessages gag and let’s not even get started on how they pretty much made Instapaper obsolete by adding Reading List to Safari. In spite of these things, Apple did not forget why they were there.

This keynote was about the developer. This was about the changes they have made to xcode and about the new APIS and getting the SDK for all of their new features into the hands of the developers so that they could take the tools that Apple was giving them and be let loose to see what they could do with it.

It isn’t about the consumer or the end user here. It’s not about more features for you and me. It’s about more features for the developers to play with so that they can make something truly awesome for all the end users so that when Apple comes back in six months or a year and looks at everything their third party developers did, they can say, “See? Look at that! We made that possible!”

And they most certainly have.

My only lament about this keynote is the realization that my three year old 13″ unibody Macbook with a 2 GHz Core 2 Duo processor is the lowest CPU on the totem pole that will run Lion. That more than likely means no OSXi for me.

Somehow, I suspect that won’t be such a hardship though, even if I don’t upgrade my hardware when OSXi is released.