Off-Road WWDC: Day Five

It's the last day of WWDC. It's also the day that television signals convert to all-digital. Coincidence? You decide.

Friday 11:00 AM

Last night was Apple's big WWDC Bash. It's an outdoor party held on the lawn of Yerba Buena Gardens, across the street from Moscone. Despite being outdoors, Apple still managed to maintain tight security. No one without a badge was getting in.

"Inside" were over 5000 people, none of whom seemed to care that they were missing the Lakers-Magic NBA Finals.

What I will probably remember most about the evening is going to the bathroom. Wait! It's not what you think. The memorable event is having to stand in a long line, waiting to get inside a crowded Men's room while, over at the Women's side, there was no line at all. Women just came and went as they pleased. I can't recall ever seeing the sex difference break this way before.

Back at the party, the weather was crisp but not cold. Just about perfect for a big outdoor event. The food and drink kept flowing. There were multiple food stations throughout the lawn, each with one of four different cuisines. You would could select from Japanese (sushi), Chinese (dim sum), Italian (pizza, pasta and salad) or American (hot dogs and potato chips). There was also ample soft drinks, beer and wine. And ice cream for dessert. Apple and the caterers were clearly prepared to deal with the large crowd. At almost every station, the lines were short and I had a plate of food within a minute or two. And when a serving bowl or platter was emptied, the staff quickly noticed and replaced it. Which made it incredibly easy to overeat. Which I, of course, did.

The entertainment of the evening was the musical group Cake. The identity of the band is supposed to be a secret until the last minute, and for many people it probably was a surprise. But it had leaked on Twitter where I had seen it; so it wasn't a surprise for me.

Earlier in the day, I attended a session on iPhone Configuration Creation and Deployment. The biggest news was that iPhone OS 3.0 supports over-the-air profile installations, making it easier than ever to deploy a profile to a large number of phones (although only after you do the needed setup work on your server). Understandably, the session's intended audience was "IT professionals," people who need to deploy a specific iPhone configuration (such as one that disables certain iPhone features while providing secure access to a company's private Web site) to all its employees' phones. I'm not such a person. Still, as someone who has played with Apple's iPhone Configuration Utility, I did learn some worthwhile tips about how it works. I'm now trying to determine what, if any, more general troubleshooting value the utility may hold.

Speaking of iPhones, I have now installed iPhone OS 3.0 on my iPhone and iPod touch. While Apple's NDA prohibits me from going into details for a few more days, I can say this much:

Cut, Copy & Paste works significantly more smoothly than it did in the earlier builds. This feature should get rave reviews. The Find My iPhone feature worked with MobileMe exactly as described at the Keynote. It correctly located my phone and sent a message (I'll have more to say about this feature, pro and con, in a future column).

Two other topics from the Keynote kept coming up in informal discussions: In-App Purchase (which was getting negative reviews from those who had been at the session the other day where its details were revealed) and the SD card slot in the new MacBook Pros. A new Apple Knowledge Base article makes it clear that an SD card can function almost exactly as if it were an external drive, including (as I noted before) the ability to boot from the card if Mac OS X is installed on it. In other words, these cards need not be just for transferring photos from your camera. This got me thinking about the role the slot may play in future Apple hardware. For starters, I believe a new MacBook Air will have this slot. That would allow Air users to install Mac OS X from an SD card without having to go through the hassle of interacting with a shared DVD on another computer. Eventually, DVD drives may disappear from the standard configuration of all Mac laptops.

Today, I'm working from home, skipping the final day of the WWDC. This was my first time attending the event (other than for the Keynote), so everything was new and shiny. I was impressed. Even though I am not a developer, I learned a great deal and had even more fun. If you are a developer, I can easily understand why this might be at the top of your annual must-do list. I plan to be back again next year.

For a wrap-up of the WWDC from someone who has been to 16 of these events, check out the column by my colleague, John Martellaro.