Tomorrow I will be flying to San Francisco to attend WWDC. As many (probably most) Macintosh users I have been hearing all the rumors about possible new product launches at the conference. People are talking about new Macs, new iPods and even iPhones (let’s not forget the always popular tablet rumor).
The fact is that few are talking about Leopard, even though this is the only product we know for sure that will be presented at WWDC. Those who mention it usually focus on the applications that come with the OS such as iChat or iCal. When I started thinking about it I felt that this was quite weird. I remember the days when a new OS launch focused exclusively on the its new features. For example, when Prodos 16 was launched (back in the old good Apple II days), it’s major new feature was 16 bit support for larger volumes and files. Everyone was excited (well, kind of). Today, Apple has understood that new OS releases do need to have a broader appeal and therefore they usually try to balance innovation between OS improvements which are critical but seldom understood by the general public and new flashy features such as Dashboard or Exposé which can hardly be described as part of the OS. In fact, they have been so successful at this game that once again Microsoft is copying the model. Vista was supposed to be a major revamp of Windows but it turns out that the most interesting features for developers and power users such as WinFS have not been able to make the cut and will not be included in the final product when released in late 2006 (or 2007). However it seems that there will be a lot of eye candy for the average Joe.
So, do I really care about iChat, iCal, iSync and the other iApps included as part of the OS? Sure, but I want more. I want significant improvements to Cocoa, with new frameworks that will help developers create great new applications faster. For example, what about a new framework for charting? That would be great, suddently all Mac applications could look much more professional than their Windows counterparts. I would also like a new Kernel. Moving to a Linux 2.6 kernel would help Mac users to be able to use all the professional database engines available for that platform and scale better which is important now that most new Macs have dual core processors. Let’s not forget that we are likely to see Macs with four and eight cores before Apple releases another major update to the OS (probably in 2009). Without tweaking the current Mach kernel or moving to a totally new kernel the Macintosh will have a tough time competing as a server platform. Full 64 bit support is also required but Apple seems to have taken care of this aspect, if you look at the WWDC posters pictures published by most Macintosh sites.
What else would be nice? A new release of XCode. Sure Cocoa is great and objective-C is a nice language, but XCode is much worse than Eclipse as a development tool. I really expect Apple to at least improve the text editing functionality of the product with a tabbed text editor that helps me quickly move from one file to the other.
Well, on Monday we will know. I certainly expect Apple to manage to keep a fair balance between end-user features and stuff that really matters. This also means that I do not expect them to talk about iPods unless there is a new API to program to, which, by the way, would be very nice.
I will blog daily during WWDC. Keep visiting this page to find out more about this exciting event from a casual developer perspective.