11 Jun 2013

Apple refocuses on professionals with new Mac Pro and deep features in OS X

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Apple’s WWDC 2013: "Can’t Innovate anymore, my ass!" Our Apple correspondent, K Stewart, reports that Apple is turning again to its core "professional" following, who have felt neglected recently

 Apple’s 2-hour plus WWDC keynote was a powerful statement of intent from Apple for multiple target audiences, perhaps most notably the professional community who’ve grown increasingly restive after the botched launch of Final Cut Pro X in 2011 and only the most minor update to the Mac Pro in June 2012.

Includes humour...

It was also a surprisingly funny presentation, with Software Engineering VP Craig Federighi taking multiple swings at skeuomorphism - ‘no virtual cows were harmed’ in production of new ‘faux leather’ free calendar app. Despite Apple shares being down 37% from last September, all the presenters looked upbeat and cheerful. Marketing VP Phil Schiller seemed on a mission to cram in as much technical jargon as possible in his presentation, not only to wow attendees with Mac Pro features but to add weight to his 'Can't innovate anymore, my ass' rebuff to Apple’s critics.


Tim Cook UTO


The well worn trope about Apple wanting to ditch the Mac and focus on iOS had little evidence here. Apple’s iTunes Radio service, which has been a popular pre-WWDC media topic, was presented with flair, but not given much more time than tabs and tagging features in Mac OS.

This was a keynote with a cohesive vision of an ever more tightly integrated eco-system of Apple computers and mobile devices. No hints about an iWatch or iTV, but plenty of substance to keep Apple’s existing product categories moving forward.

Mac OS X Mavericks

After feinting at Mac OS Sea Lion, Craig Federigh revealed a new naming schema intended to last for another ten years - California place names, beginning with OS X Mavericks. To be honest, for those not living in the Golden State, the surfing references got a bit wearying as the keynote went on but Tim Cook delivered the pay off with the ad which closed the keynote; the familiar ‘Designed by Apple in California’ is the company’s signature, its statement of what it believes in.

Put another way, Mac OS isn’t going away. There’s a ten year vision of a post-Steve Jobs Apple and Mac OS is a key part of that. Unlike iOS 7, there’s no bold new UI to get used to, but instead a mix of technical and functional changes to maintain its position as what Apple calls the ‘world’s most advanced operating system.’

Federigh chose to emphasise three key features. Tagging is supported when you save any document, enabling you to add or create tags which aid in search and are also pulled through in the side-bar with Finder. Tabs also come to finder (try XtraFinder if you can’t wait) and support for multiple screen displays is enhanced, including using an AirPlay enabled HDTV.

Under the hood, there’s technical enhancements to enhance battery life and system responsiveness. Timer coalescing focuses CPU calls to reduce usage by up to 72%, while compressed memory enhances how the system pages out RAM usage to disk space to reduce those moments when your £2K MacBook abruptly bogs down and you wish you were using an iPad.

Safari is also being polished with a similar focus. App Nap looked particularly neat in a demo, with a graphically intensive web page dropping to minimal CPU usage when a simpler page overlaid it. No more hunting through tabs to work out where all your CPU cycles are being consumed.

iCloud Keychain aims to enable easier sharing of passwords between Apple devices, plus automatic generation of strong keywords, storage of credit card information in a way very similar to what 1Password offers now as a powerful, but expensive set of Mac/iOS apps.

Apart from the first indicator of skeumorphism’s ouster, the Mac OS calendar app showed Apple responding to Google Now with lots of smart, contextual logic. Type Pizza as an appointment and local restaurants are suggested. Pick one and travel time will be added to your calendar, plus weather conditions. The iOS Maps app is also coming to Mac, making it easy to plan a route there and then send over to your iPhone quite seamlessly.

Another iOS app coming to Mac is iBooks. What took so long might be an honest question, but it was neat to see how well notes and study aids worked with an interactive text book. A Mac is never going to be the best device for reading the latest thriller, but for studying it could well give your iPad a run for its money.

Mavericks is due this Autumn, with developer builds shipping now. No price was announced, but Mountain Lion was the cheapest update yet at just £13.99. Affordability isn’t likely to be an issue then, but let’s hope supported hardware is expansive.

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