WWDC: What Apple Didn’t (Exactly) Say

| Ted Landau's User Friendly View

From the MacBook Pro with Retina display to iOS 6 to the new AirPort Express (not mentioned in the Keynote but posted online afterwards), Apple announced more than enough new stuff at yesterday’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) to keep us busy for…at least the next few weeks. Even so, Apple revealed more than what was spoken on stage or published to its website. There were “hidden subtexts” to almost every announcement. To uncover these messages, all you need to do is read a bit “between the lines.” Here’s what I mean:

Reading Between the WWDC Lines

The host. Tim Cook was the official “host” of the event, in the truest sense of the word. A bit like Billy Crystal at the Oscars, he was there for the opening and closing…but didn’t do any of the heavy lifting in between. The actual reveals and demos were handled by the likes of Phil Schiller and Scott Forstall.

Apple’s subtext: “This model is working well for us. Tim likes it this way. Expect the pattern to continue for future media events.”

 MacBook Air. At the Keynote, Apple emphasized the MacBook Air as its “consumer notebook” line, using the phrase more than I have ever noticed before. 

Apple’s subtext: “The MacBook Air is our designated successor to the now-defunct white MacBook. If you’re seeking a (barely) under-$1000 entry-level machine, this is it.”

MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro with Retina display is sweet. It lives up to Apple’s hype; it is a complete rethinking of the Pro design — from the jaw-dropping display to the internal hardware. It is truly the “next generation” of MacBook Pros.

Apple’s message: “This is just the start of the next generation. You can expect a 13” model to come along before too long. And prices will drop over time as well. The current non-Retina 13” and 15” models will then be end-of-lifed. For the moment, however, if you want a 13” Pro laptop or can’t afford over $2000 on a machine, you’re stuck with the speed-bumped ‘last generation’ MacBooks.”

Retina Display. The MacBook Pro with Retina display sports a 2880-by-1800 resolution. By comparison, Apple’s 27-inch Cinema Display has a measly 2560-by-1440 resolution — that’s less than the MacBook!

Apple’s subtext: “Be warned. Attaching a Cinema Display to one of these new machines may seem like a step down in quality. True, it’s a larger display, but not a superior one.”

USB 3. Apple added USB 3 ports to its MacBook lines, Air and Pro.

Apple’s subtext: “Thunderbolt adoption is not going as fast as we might have liked. If you need a speed boost and there’s no Thunderbolt option, you can now use USB 3.”

Ethernet. There is no Ethernet port on the MacBook Pro with Retina display. To use Ethernet, you need a Thunderbolt adapter.

Apple’s subtext: “We are committed to ‘wireless networking’ (a phrase Phil Schiller used a couple of times during the Keynote) as the future of communication — even for our Pro users. Ethernet is still faster, but this won’t be so forever. We’re happy to be slightly ahead of the curve here.”

Optical drives. Pop quiz: Are there optical SuperDrives on the upgraded 13” and 15” MacBook Pros? If you don’t know for sure, you’re not alone. Here at TMO, we had an extended debate among the staff while we attempted to sort this out. The answer is: Yes, they are still there. It’s clearly shown at the bottom of this page. The confusion stems from the fact that this is not clearly indicated on many of Apple’s other feature lists and spec sheets. For example, you won’t find mention of these drives anywhere on this MacBook Pro Tech Specs page. Nor were they mentioned in the Keynote, as I recall. Adding to the confusion, the Pro with Retina Display has no SuperDrive built in.

Apple’s subtext: “Optical drives are history. We’re still retaining them on these legacy models for now. But don’t expect them to be around for long.”

• 17” MacBook Pro. Is Apple still making a 17” MacBook Pro? No. Apple quietly 86’d it from the Apple Store, except for refurbished models.

Apple’s subtext: “If you want the real estate that a 17” offers, you’ll have to make do with a 15” MacBook Pro with Retina display. Don’t consider it a sacrifice. Although the image size may be a bit smaller, you can actually fit more on the screen at one time.”

Mac Pro. Apple did a stealth update to the Mac Pro after the Keynote was over. Very stealth. Apple didn’t even note it in their press releases. It was a speed-bump, with upgrades to the processor and graphics card. But there wasn’t the slightest redesign of the model — not even to add a Thunderbolt or USB 3 port. This means you still can’t connect Apple’s Thunderbolt Cinema Display to these machines.

Apple’s subtext: “Yes, the Mac Pro upgrade is embarrassing. That’s why we barely mentioned it. But we’re still on the edge of dumping this machine entirely from our product line. So don’t expect to see significant changes here — ever.”

New iMacs. David Pogue, writing about yesterday’s announcements, said: “Many Apple observers also wonder if Apple thinks that desktop computers are dead, since not a word was said about the iMac and Mac Pro. An executive did assure me, however, that new models and new designs are under way, probably for release in 2013.”

Apple’s subtext: “Desktop Macs are not where our money comes from anymore. We’ll upgrade the iMac when we have the time. No rush. As for the Mac Pro, see the previous subtext.”

Maps in iOS 6. Apple revealed the major new features of iOS 6 (due this fall) at yesterday’s Keynote. The feature that received the most attention was Maps. The old Google-based Maps app is gone, replaced with one done internally by Apple. Improving on Google’s app, the upgraded Maps includes 3D “flyover” views and turn-by-turn navigation. Adding convenience, you can access the app from the Lock Screen as well as enter Maps commands via Siri. However, missing from the new Maps will be Google’s StreetView. Also, there is no integrated transit or pedestrian routing. Apple plans to tap into third-party “transit apps” as a substitute; whether or not this will be adequate remains to be seen.

Apple’s subtext: “We didn’t have the time or capability to build all of Google’s features into our app…yet. So, instead, we’ll be piggybacking onto third-party solutions. Even so, don’t expect to see anything like StreetView. And, by the way, Maps’ newest and coolest features are not for all iOS users: Flyover and turn-by-turn only work on the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 or later. Sorry.”

Passbook. iOS 6 introduced Passbook, allowing you to combine boarding passes, movie tickets, store cards, and more into one convenient app location.

Apple’s subtext: “We think this is quite cool. Yes, we know it is still not a true mobile wallet substitute for credit cards. There’s no Near Field Communication (NFC) capability or anything like that. But we haven’t revealed all our cards yet.”

Other new features in iOS 6. Either listening to user feedback, or perhaps just its own common sense, Apple has included numerous long-requested features in iOS 6. There’s FaceTime over cellular, a Do Not Disturb feature for phone calls, offline reading lists in Safari, a single-app mode, and the ability for Siri to launch apps.

My in-my-dreams Apple’s subtext: “Hey Ted. Single app mode; Siri launching apps. We do read your columns and take your advice seriously. Really. Thanks.”

Mountain Lion. Apple showed off OS X Mountain Lion at the Keynote. It’s due to ship in July. I’ve talked about the iOS-ification of OS X several times before. In looking over the highlighted new features of Mountain Lion, it becomes clear that Mountain Lion goes beyond a limited “iOS-ification.” We are really looking at the ultimate unification of the two OS versions (not a code unification, but a functional one). Apple’s goal is to allow an almost seamless transition between the OS platforms. From a user interface point of view, learn something in one OS and you know how it works in the other — especially if you stick only with Mac apps from the App Store. Mostly, this unification comes from making OS X more like iOS, but it can go in either direction.

More specifically, take a look at the list of highlighted new features in Mountain Lion: iCloud (including Documents in the Cloud), Reminders, Notes, iMessage, Notification Center, Dictation, Sharing (Twitter and Facebook), AirPlay Mirroring (which I assume is coming even though I couldn’t get it to work on my MacBook Air running Mountain Lion), and Game Center. Every one of these features already exists in iOS 5 or will be included in iOS 6. Take away these iOS-derived features and there’s virtually nothing of note new in Mountain Lion.

Eventually, there may be push-back from end-users about Apple’s moves in this direction. Apple may then have to back-pedal a bit. But I wouldn’t count on it.

Apple’s subtext: “iOS has been a spectacular success for us. It gives us more control over what third-parties (and end-users) can do on our devices than we ever had with the Mac. We like this. And consumers seem to love it. So we’re going to do out best to make the Mac work the same way. Heck, with Mountain Lion we’ve almost already done the job.”

Television. The one big thing that Apple did not mention —  at WWDC or on its website —  was television. There was no upgrade to Apple TV announced, no mention of support for third-party apps running on the device, no gaming on Apple TV previews, and especially no Apple television SDK.

Apple’s subtext: Tim Cook already told you: Apple is ‘doubling down on secrecy’ when it comes to product releases. You’ll know about Apple’s television plans when we want you to know about them. And we don’t want you to know about them yet.”

Image made with help from Shutterstock.

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Comments

Ted Landau

Despite my skepticism, Tim Cook now appears to have promised:

“Although we didn?t have a chance to talk about a new Mac Pro at today?s event, don?t worry as we?re working on something really great for later next year.”

That sounds like more than a year to wait. A lot can happen between now and then. Including dumping this plan. But OK. I’ll look forward to seeing it.

I might add that “something really great” may not in fact be an upgraded Mac Pro but something entirely new and different. Maybe even better.

1stplacemacuser

I do miss the “...one more thing…”

/Sad that Steve’s gone.

geoduck

I do miss the ?...one more thing??

Yeah I found myself thinking they’d do a “One more thing” with a redesigned Mac Pro.

<sigh>

d'monder

?Desktop Macs are not where our money comes from anymore. We?ll upgrade the iMac when we have the time. No rush.”

Time?  More like interest.

Saw the same thing 25 years ago. “The Apple II is not where our money comes from anymore. We?ll upgrade it when we have the time. No rush.

JKP

I’m disappointed at how quickly the iOS devices get left behind from a software perspective. One of the things I always loved about Apple was I could drive the new software on older gear for quite a while if I didn’t need to worry about speed.

I’m really disappointed that my iPad 1 won’t be able to take advantage of iOS6. I plunked down over a grand for two of those things less than two years ago (one for me, one for the family) and it’s already going to be left behind by the latest iOS release?

That is not cool.

furbies

I?m really disappointed that my iPad 1 won?t be able to take advantage of iOS6. I plunked down over a grand for two of those things less than two years ago (one for me, one for the family) and it?s already going to be left behind by the latest iOS release?

That is not cool.

+1

danf

I haven’t bought a new piece of Apple kit in 2 years.  ios6 does not motivate me.  Heck I havent even upgraded to ios5 yet.  I will probably buy a new laptop soon as my current machine is almost 4 years old, but I will buy from the refurbish list.  No point not to.  And I will buy before more features are stripped from these products (ethernet port, optical drive)  all the things apple thinks I can do without.  I have been toying with buying a mac-mini to run as a server, but am now thinking of buying a white-box linux machine.  One thing MacOSX has done is to teach me to be comfortable on the unix command line.  Apple may think it’s in the catbird seat, but the only thing that makes it valuable is the breadth of it’s platform.  That is quickly evaporating…It will be interesting to see the decline of Mac numbers in the June quarter financials.

MacFrogger

Very insightful analysis Ted - I think you are spot on. Most especially with respect to this one:

? MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro with Retina display is sweet. It lives up to Apple?s hype; it is a complete rethinking of the Pro design ? from the jaw-dropping display to the internal hardware. It is truly the ?next generation? of MacBook Pros.

Apple?s message: ?This is just the start of the next generation. You can expect a 13? model to come along before too long. And prices will drop over time as well. The current non-Retina 13? and 15? models will then be end-of-lifed. For the moment, however, if you want a 13? Pro laptop or can?t afford over $2000 on a machine, you?re stuck with the speed-bumped ?last generation? MacBooks.?

Future laptop lineup will undoubtedly be 11 and 13 inch MBAs, and 13 and 15 inch next gen slimmed down MBPs with retina displays.  Future iPad lineup will be current 9.7 inch size and we can all feel in our bones that a 7.85 inch version is coming. 

Please indulge a bit of speculation from MacFrogger: I wonder if we might see a design convergence of the next gen iPhone towards the tapered tear drop design of the folded up MBA? Meaning that the top part of the phone (the part that would be near your ear) would be thinner than the bottom part (the part you speak into) so as to achieve an overall integrated Apple-esque design motif.  After all, its sexier than your plain every day rectangle…which is why everyone else is trying to copy the MBA design for the PC market. Wouldn’t such a design also add some sex appeal to what is similarly a rectangular iPhone? (Of course we’re not talking flip phone here folks)

John Elberling

Enjoyed your “subtexts,” JL. mostly on target.

but you must know by now Cook himself pledged a fully updated Mac Pro “late next year.” so not dead, just another Apple “hobby” now.

the big advantage of Passbook is that - even tho modest - it will actually be useful right away! i bet it will be an instant hit. NFC and digital wallet are, really, so far mostly vaporware. and do you really think the credit card companies are ever going to let Google eat their lunch?

and you missed what i think may prove the biggest news of all - Siri access will be built into a large % of the worlds’ cars. all it takes is a button (plus some stuff you don’t ever see). the only other location as important is our homes. and all that would take are stick-on bluetooth units with a mic/speaker and button you could put anywhere. or a Siri access button built into any appliance or gadget. or even your wristwatch, bracelet, or iPod. this could be the start of something big ...

vbroido

Cook himself pledged a fully updated Mac Pro ?late next year.? so not dead, just another Apple ?hobby? now.

I don’t think the Mac Pro is going to be hobby, Tim Cook’s address was clear, it was just not opportune to mention it as the Retina Mac Book was the focus for the hardware part.

John Elberling

I don?t think the Mac Pro is going to be hobby, Tim Cook?s address was clear, it was just not opportune to mention it as the Retina Mac Book was the focus for the hardware part.

well, by “hobby” i mean something Apple will always do - not for the money, given the Mac Pro’s small niche market segment, but for the love of it: the best “muscle car” desktop computer it can make (and thus, it feels, anyone can make).

1stplacemacuser

the big advantage of Passbook is that - even tho modest - it will actually be useful right away! i bet it will be an instant hit. NFC and digital wallet are, really, so far mostly vaporware. and do you really think the credit card companies are ever going to let Google eat their lunch?

The passbook is a great idea.  I’ve been doing a hack version myself because I don’t have ready access to a printer.  So when I got tickets to movies or from Eventbrite or such, I just copy the PDF of the ticket and send it to myself.  Not the coolest way, but various venues accepted the ticket in emailed PDF form.

I also agree that NFC is currently vapor.  Right now, I belong to several groupon-like social apps (localmind, foursquare, urbantag, scoutmob, etc) and they offer deals on occasions.  I use them, and the waiter/ress sees the deal and presses the accept button.  I think if they roll them into passbook, it would work more seamlessly.

Paul Goodwin

I’d like to see more OS X-indication of iOS, not the other way around. I love my iPad but having Notes instead of TextEdit is kind of a bummer. I use Notes all the time, but it doesn’t even have a Find function or formatting. Notes is like using a terminal emulator on a MicroVax. And Reminders? A synced Calendar is far better. I’d like to see the Open With command in iOS, and a Save As.

I use the iPad as I would a small laptop, and it’s a wonderful machine,but I’d like it to be closer to alaptop running a great OS. Imagine an iPad with file sharing to your computer and networked drives, and being able to do all the things you can on the computer. Great…port the really slick iOS based apps to OS X, but turning the iPad into the best ultrabook with whatever limitations it would have in terms of hardware interfaces seems the better way to go to me. Yes, the computing power of the iPad is limited today, ...” but this won?t be so forever”. Or give us the option to re-boot the iPad in a scaled OS X mode.

Scott B in DC

There?s no Near Field Communication (NFC) capability or anything like that.

Good… because I wouldn’t use it anyway! I have been working with the folks in my company’s lab and found that NFC is not as safe as being projected. Passive NFC is not encrypted and readable up to 1 meter. We prototyped a 2-inch by 2-inch breadboard with a device to capture NFC signals. Take it off a breadboard, it could be made smaller, cheaper, and planted anywhere.

Active NFC can be read up to 10 meters. Put it in an iPhone as an active NFC device and I can walk around with a device in my pocket with a few megabytes of RAM. Activate NFC chips and steal your information.

In fact, anything wireless is a security risk. All I have to know is the frequency and I can electronically poke at any RFiD tag to get its information. I hope the iPhone does not get NFC!

Paul Goodwin

I’d rather see the OS X-ification of iOS, not the reverse. I love the iPad, but using Notes instead of TextEdit is a bummer. I use the iPad as I would a laptop. I would much rather it be more like a laptop. Imagine being able to re-boot an iPad in a scaled down OS X, with sharing of folders and networked drives, and all of the available full function apps. Naturally there would be limitations due to space for all the hardware interfaces you find on laptops, but that would be a small price to get a real computer in the form factor of an iPad. True, computational speeds aren’t quite there yet on the iPad, but ....“it won’t be like that forever”

KitsuneStudios

Apple?s subtext: ?Thunderbolt adoption is not going as fast as we might have liked. If you need a speed boost and there?s no Thunderbolt option, you can now use USB 3.?

I don’t think that’s justified. Thunderbolt was Apple-Only until this year. USB 3.0 required an extra controller on the motherboard until the Ivy Bridge chipsets supported it natively. It would have been more effort for Apple to restrict Ivy Bridge MacBooks to USB 2.0. Meanwhile the first PC Thunderbolt motherboards are now shipping.

gnasher729

I don?t think that?s justified. Thunderbolt was Apple-Only until this year. USB 3.0 required an extra controller on the motherboard until the Ivy Bridge chipsets supported it natively. It would have been more effort for Apple to restrict Ivy Bridge MacBooks to USB 2.0. Meanwhile the first PC Thunderbolt motherboards are now shipping.

Maybe someone at Apple noticed the price difference between the cheapest Thunderbolt external drive and let’s say a 2 TB external drive with USB 3.0. USB 3.0 gives about 3 times speed advantage for a current rotating hard drive compared to USB 2.0 at almost zero cost. It’s in Apple’s best interest to make it possible for customers to use cheaper accessories. If I have a ?2,000 budget to spend on a good laptop, together with a reasonably fast 2 TB external drive for data, and another reasonably fast 2 TB external drive for backup, I can now buy a Retina MBP and give ?1799 to Apple.

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