WWDC Keynote Quick Take

Whew! Information overload. This year's WWDC Keynote address had more than enough new announcements to keep me busy for days, if not weeks. Here's my quick take of what you absolutely need to know about the day's events.

MacBook Pros. The biggest surprise of the day came right at the start of the Keynote: new MacBook Pros.

We now have the final piece of the puzzle about Apple's recent update to the white MacBook and how it would affect the unibody MacBooks. I predicted "that the aluminum MacBooks (and perhaps the entire laptop line) are likely to be upgraded soon." And so it came to pass.

Apple answered the question as to how the unibody MacBooks would compete with the cheaper but almost as good white MacBooks. The solution was a novel one: Eliminate the unibody MacBooks altogether. In the unibody family, there are now just MacBook Pros.

I believe this is a smart move. This simultaneously responds to the requests of all those who had been asking for a 13" MacBook Pro as well as those complaining about the loss of the FireWire port on the MacBooks (the port is back!). There's now just one integrated line of MacBook Pros, going from 13" to 17" models.

Phil Schiller also made a good case for the built-in battery that is now included in all MacBook Pro models: It should last longer than most people will keep their notebook Mac.

Amazing! The secret word for the Keynote was "amazing." By the end of the two hours, the most amazing thing was how many times the word was spoken. These people need a Thesaurus.

Snow Leopard. Due out in September, and only for Intel Macs, Apple was right on target for the pricing of Mac OS X Snow Leopard: $29 if you already own Leopard. It's not a $129-worthy upgrade, and Apple made it clear that it understood this. The Keynote was the first really public introduction of the new features in the OS. While it may not merit $129, it certainly merits our attention. Check Apple's Web site for all the details. Here are my personal highlights:

• Preview application can now select text from a column-formatted document by correctly selecting each column in order. At last!• Crash protection in Safari. When a browser plug-in crashes, only the page that was using the plug-in "crashes" -- rather than the entire Safari app. A great convenience if you have dozens of pages open.

• Full history search in Safari. Find that Web page that you opened 3 days ago with a review of that new HD TV you were thinking of buying.The new Exposé in the Dock allows you to copy and paste across applications with ease, quickly locating the windows you want even when you have dozen of windows open in the Finder.

• A new QuickTime Player application allows you to quickly trim movies and share them via email etc.

• Built-in Microsoft Exchange support, with the ability to open PowerPoint attachments, even if you don't have Office installed.

iPhone OS 3.0. iPhone OS 3.0 will be out June 17. It's free for iPhone users and $10 for iPod touch users. Not too much else new here, as most of the iPhone OS 3.0 features (such as copy-and-paste) have been announced previously. But here are two that I believe are new:

• Autofill will allow you to remember names, passwords and form data in Safari.

• Find my iPhone looks really super. If you lose your iPhone, it will show you where it is on a map. If necessary, it can even remote auto-wipe the phone. You need MobileMe for this.

No MMS or Tethering for U.S. Unfortunately, the most significant news today about iPhone OS 3.0 is what it will not have, at least not yet for U.S. AT&T customers.

iPhone OS 3.0 includes broad MMS support (allowing photos, audio and video to be shared). Even more impressive is the iPhone's tethering feature. Working over both USB and Bluetooth, it allows you to use your iPhone as a modem connected to your Mac.

Only one problem: You can't use these features in the U.S. until AT&T enables them. For MMS, AT&T won't be giving the green light until later this summer. As for tethering, no date is yet set. This drew the only boos from the audience for the entire Keynote. Is it time for Apple to look for a new U.S. provider? We'll see.

New iPhone apps. Among the new iPhone apps showcased at the Keynote, I was especially impressed with TomTom's GPS app. Together with its hardware "car kit," it is essentially a complete substitute for stand-alone turn-by-turn devices. It looks like this could be another case where the iPhone eliminates the need to carry around yet another separate device. AirStrip's Critical Care was also a knock-out, with its ability to read a patient's waveform data remotely from an iPhone. ZipCar was also quite slick, with its ability to honk the horn of your reserved car when you are nearby, so you can easily locate it.

iPhone 3GS. The most anticipated announcement was, of course, saved for last: a new iPhone model. Called iPhone 3GS, the S stands for speed; Apple claims the new phone will be, on average, about 2X faster than the existing 3G.

While not a revolutionary upgrade, the new iPhone does offer a few noteworthy new features. Here are the two biggest:

• Voice Control. This is the one that has me drooling. Just hold down the Home button and engage Voice Control. Yes, it works as a voice dialer (something that has long been near the top of my iPhone wish list). But that's just for starters. You can also use this feature to perform an assortment of tasks, just by speaking the command. Want to play a particular song? Just say so.

My only question here is: What about hands-free use? Will you be able to enable Voice Control via a Bluetooth headset? And speaking of Bluetooth headsets: Will Apple be coming out with a replacement for its now discontinued model?

• Camera. The iPhone's camera is now 3 megapixels. More significantly, it features both auto-focusing and manual tap-to-focus (just touch the part of the picture you want to be the focus point). The result appears to be much higher quality photos.

Plus, the camera can now record video at 30 fps!

The iPhone is on the verge of replacing the need for a separate low-end camera.

When and how much? The new iPhone 3GS goes on sale June 19, just two days after 3.0 OS. This 2 day interval is probably intended to avoid the hassles that occurred last year when the new OS, the new iPhones, and MobileMe all launched on the same day.

As for price, the biggest news is that the existing iPhone 3G will remain on sale for only $99. Wow! That should help fend off the competition! Meanwhile, the new 3GS will come in 16GB and 32GB versions, for $199 and $299. [Update: Expect to pay more if you have had your current iPhone for less than 18 months.]