While I watched the WWDC keynote, I picked up on some little bits and pieces that are worth mentioning. Some are politics, and the others are engineering.
One of the most notable events in the keynote was the presence of Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix. I have written a lot about Netflix over the years: the fact that Mr. Hastings sits on the Microsoft board of directors, that Apple TV customers have yearned for Netflix access, and the competition between Apple and Netflix for entertainment dollars.
The Apple TV serves one purpose, and that’s to sell content from the iTunes store. So it’s been reasonable to surmise that we wouldn’t see a competitor, Netflix, built into the Apple TV OS. (You can fix that with various hacks to the Apple TV, and they generally require a wireless keyboard and mouse as well.)
The iPad, however, is a different kind of animal. It’s more of a general purpose media device. So there are two reasons I can think of why we saw Mr. Hastings on stage with Mr. Jobs. 1) The iPad/iPhone is perceived as a different kind of device that really needs Netflix to make it whole. 2) The seduction of Mr. Hastings into the Apple camp can be read as a slap against Google as Apple teams with parts of Microsoft or Microsoft allies.
The question remains this: if the Apple TV morphs into an iOS 4 device, will we see Netflix there as well? I think the answer lies in Apple’s perception of whether Netflix is a competitor to be fought or a service that helps them complement their offerings and battle Google and Google TV. I think Apple has moved from the former to the latter camp.
Mr. Jobs mentioned that, just like the iPad, the iPhone 4 has an A4 processor. What he didn’t mention was the clock speed. Apple has likely omitted that number for an important reason. Apple doesn’t want technically confusing comparisons with other products. Here’s how it goes: It’s possible that because the iPad has a 25 watt-hour battery and the iPhone 4 has a 5.25 watt-hour battery that the clock speed of the A4 in the iPhone 4 is less than the 1 GHz of the iPad. That’s to conserve battery life. Let’s say, for the sake of argument that it’s 600 MHz. Then competitors could build comparison charts showing how the “speed” of the iPhone 4 is “slower” than their product.
Of course, we know that some CPUs are more efficient at doing certain tasks than others because of their architecture and instruction set. So a 600 MHz A4 could well be faster dealing with 720p video than, say a 1 GHz Intel Atom or a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon. (That’s just an example, not a technical fact.) What’s true is that pure GHz comparisons are meaningless across CPUs so Apple doesn’t go there with speeds and feeds. What matters is the user experience.
The new iPhone 4 has a gyroscope. For a minute, I thought that it might be a ring laser gyroscope, but it turns out there is a simpler and cheaper solution: a MEMs gyroscope. I first saw the mention at Macworld UK, and it’s based on the idea that a miniature vibrating structure has gyroscope-like properties. It’s cheap to make, and I’m betting that’s what Apple used.
iPhone 4 Antennas
I am a bit confused by Mr. Jobs’ explanation for the three cuts in the stainless steel edge of the iPhone 4. Three cuts creates creates three segments in a loop, but there were only two segments exploded and two sets of radio devices mentioned. Why is there a cut on one side if that’s not a third and separate antenna? The exploded view in the keynote only showed two antenna segments. Maybe there was a disconnect between the engineers and the keynote presentation. Or maybe Apple is trying to obscure something. Time will tell.
The Keynote’s Audience
Finally, some bloggers have suggested that Apple wasn’t speaking to the developers and that the keynote was more directed to the public. I think they just weren’t listening. During the Retina Display section, Mr. Jobs pointed out how the iOS 4 will auto-scale apps’ text to the better resolution, but that if they do a little more work, things will look really great. He advised developers to get under the hood of their apps for a big payoff. Later, Mr. Jobs pointed out how, in June, Apple will ship it’s 100 millionth iOS 4 device and that Apple has 150 million customers with credit cards on file. These are all customers ready “to buy your apps.” There is no doubt about the emphasis Apple placed on the business opportunities for developers!
That is the ultimate seduction.