Apple WWDC 2008: full preview

The Feedster

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Jun 26, 2007
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It says a lot about the state of consumer tech in the last few years that even the most insignificant announcements from Apple take on a whole new life of their own - from iMac updates to employees’ holiday.

That’s partly because Apple has arguably done so much to change people’s perceptions of what good tech can be with the Mac, the iPod and, of course the iPhone.

But it’s also a symptom of how characterless much of the technology industry actually is - that it needs a figurehead like Steve Jobs or even Steve Ballmer to show the direction it should be heading in.

The biggest hoopla, of course, will surround Steve Jobs' keynote speech on Monday 9 June.

iPhone fever

He’s expected to reveal who’s been lucky enough to be awarded a third-party licence to develop apps for the iPhone; then to top that by unveiling the iPhone 3G, which should cement Apple’s place as a major player and innovator, in what is already a very competitive mobile phone space.

Apple’s move to allow third-party apps for the iPhone has, of course, been mired in controversy.

Apple seemed entirely dismissive of the idea at first, leading to a wave of third-party hacks that showed how far some early buyers and developers were prepared to go to get what they wanted from the iPhone.

That was followed by a compromise deal that saw Apple offer developers the chance to deliver non-resident web-apps for the iPhone.

Final capitulation came at Macworld in January, when Apple announced its iPhone Developer Program, so setting next week’s announcements in train.

Third party apps

There has, of course, been a great deal of speculation over what kinds of iPhone apps we’ll see and from whom.

Rumours suggest that games developers like Electronics Arts and even Nintendo are keen to get on board, as are makers of more ‘serious’ software. We’ll know the headliners are when Jobs invites them on stage at WWDC on Monday 9.

As for other Apple hardware the jury is still very much out. Apple rarely launches new Macs at WWDC, since it’s primarily a forum for software developers. Having said that Apple’s biggest hardware move of recent years came at WWDC 2005, when Steve Jobs announced that Apple was switching from PowerPC to Intel-derived CPUs.

Mac OS X and the iPhone

Elsewhere much of the focus will be on Mac OS X, especially since it underpins much of what the iPhone and iPod touch can do.

Apple has lined up 150 different sessions over the five days of WWDC, of which 19 have yet ‘to be announced’. That suggests that these sessions will be oriented around announcements made by Apple CEO Steve Jobs during his keynote on Monday 9 June.

iPhone sessions

Of the sessions we do know about there’s obviously a lot of focus on developing apps for the iPhone - from creating games the make use of the iPhone’s range of sensors to employing 3D graphics using Open GL.

Apple has lined up 24 iPhone dedicated sessions in all, plus additional labs (workshops) where developers can get help, advice and hands-on training from Apple engineers.

Other WWDC sessions highlight the obvious synergies between the iPhone and Mac hardware, since they both use Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard.

Developers! Developers! Developers!

This has enabled many Mac-dedicated developers to get a head-start when it comes to developing for iPhone, as they’re already familiar with key frameworks like Cocoa and Core Animation. But it has other pay-offs too:

Any new developers who get to jump on the iPhone bandwagon will also be able to bring the skills they learn to Mac applications too.

That could spark a new golden age of Mac development that should finally lay to rest the old ‘there aren’t any apps for the Mac’ myth that in truth has been meaningless for years.

The fact that there are 27 of these joint Mac / iPhone sessions at WWDC speaks volumes about the potential crossover between the two.

Upclose with Leopard

However the lion’s share of WWDC has been rightly dedicated to Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard itself. Launched just six months ago, there’s still plenty for developers to chew over in the new OS.

They’ll have plenty of opportunity to do so, with 50 training sessions and over 50 different labs to enjoy.