WWDC 2013


Apple is becoming predictable – but only in the sense that it’s still doing incremental improvements with every release.

This year I was lucky enough to be able to watch the whole thing unimpeded at home on a decent TV, and loved having the event streamed without any significant glitches1.

Mavericks? Seriously?

Yeah, Mavericks (the name may be a great double entendre, but it’s totally lost on non-native English speakers) is, like Mountain Lion, better enough – or, realistically, as much of an improvement as anything you’ve yet to use can appear to be at this point.

Not that I can complain much, since out of my recent shopping list, I already got a few improvements in 10.8.4, namely some fixes for Messages and Calendar.

But still, they now finally fixed full screen (being able to use an Apple TV as a “normal” display made a lot of sense ever since AirPlay came along), tacked on saner dock and menu handling that will benefit everyone, etc.

Other no-brainers like tabs on Finder, revamping the age-old tagging metadata2, etc. are also welcome, but they feel a bit overdue and more of a new spin than genuinely new features. Of course most people would never bother setting up smart folders to use filesystem metadata, etc., but, still… They’ve always been around.

I’m a bit miffed at the return of iCloud Keychain – it was effectively one of the things that we lost after MobileMe and that could well have been re-introduced a bit earlier – and 1Password is still superior in the sense that it works across everything I use.

Also, it makes iCloud accounts a much more interesting target for hackers, so I hope they’re planning on moving beyond AES soon – as in, before launching.

But sure, I’ll upgrade, and am hopeful the efficiency improvements translate well to older hardware – that’s probably the most compelling reason for me right now.

A Quick Aside

The revamped “iWork in the cloud” is cool, but unlike its previous iteration (remember that?) it appears to lack collaboration features – which is why Google Docs is tremendously popular in some circles – and reeks of the same brand of solipsism that pervades iCloud storage, so I’m curious as to exactly why it was resurrected.

Hardware

Biggest disappointment? The MacBook Air still ships with 4GB RAM as standard. The battery and storage improvements mean it’s a lot better value for money now, but (alas) still out of my reach given the current financial situation.

As to the Mac Pro, only last week I was arguing that it made perfect sense for Apple to revamp their desktop flagship and manufacture it on US soil as a way to silence critics – I now regret about not having posted about that earlier, but can add to that feeling a mix of excitement about the hardware design and morbid curiosity as to what it will eventually look like with a bowl of petunias on top.

After all, and just like the previous iterations, it’s the best computer I’ll never be able to afford.

The web page, though, is a marvel of smoothness. Kudos to the web designers.

On iOS 7

Going back to my previous list, it’s interesting to see what came to pass and what didn’t – but improved Mail features (like searching and smart folders) were on the slides, so I’m happy already.

Furthermore, I’m very glad most of my hardware is still going to be supported (except for my old iPod Touch, alas).

As to the user experience tweaks, they’re an interesting grab bag of stuff I’ve always wanted and nice twists.

For starters, Control Center functionality is something I’ve been wanting (and taking for granted on Android devices) for a while now, and the PalmOS-like card swiping to dismiss apps is most welcome (as is the side-swiping to access item lists in some apps).

They’re not really innovations but rather idioms that have been folded into the iOS experience with a certain degree of panache, and they’re quite welcome.

On the design front, I suspect I’m not the only one who looked at the outline style icons and was reminded of UX wireframes – they are unmistakable, sure, and essential in the sense that you cannot possibly make them any simpler, but… somehow, I expected better.

Then again, they’re not meant to be remarkable, but rather the opposite – the new UI seems to have been very deliberately and consistently redesigned away from application content, so as to not steal attention from it.

The icons, I felt, are eerily reminiscent of the original Nokia look before the Windows era (you know, the look that pretty much died with the N9 until the Asha range revived a simpler version of it), but the overall design ethos and the emphasis on layered transparencies and neutral tones does set it apart somewhat – it’s a striking counterpoint to Android’s Holo Dark, and less cluttered.

I do wonder for how long Mac OS X will get away with having metallic windows, though.


  1. The only gotcha was having the kids prancing around and throwing noisy tantrums, but hey, that’s life. ↩︎

  2. I sure hope those carry across iCloud syncing, otherwise they’ll be pretty pointless. ↩︎