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T-minus Six Days

June 6th, 2007

That’s how long before Jobs’ keynote at the WWDC, and that’s how long before we find out, at long last, what the hell those “top secret” features are. On Apple’s 30th anniversary, and ten months since Jobs’ cryptic remarks about hiding secret features from Microsoft, and after delaying Leopard supposedly to concentrate on the iPhone, Leopard had damn well better have some fantastic stuff waiting in the wings. If not, then Apple’s stock will decline by a lot in a single day–not a disaster, as the stock has risen dramatically over the past month and may even need correction, and then the iPhone release may help recoup whatever losses could come.

However, I am guessing that there are some actual “top secret” features that may actually be at least somewhat spectacular. That’s the general expectation. The question is, what will those features be?

The most-expected feature will be Core Animation utilized in the OS at a fundamental level–that is, animation available everywhere. Knowing Apple, that would not mean that your Mac would suddenly become the same flashing, graphically shouting morass that Flash ads turn your favorite web sites into. It would mean classy, subtle, smooth, real-world-imitating animation, animation like we see on the iPhone. In fact, many believe that the new animation features we see on the iPhone are part of what’s coming to Leopard. One example is how scrolling works–you scroll, and gravity seems to take over; when the end of the scroll is reached, there’s a small rebound. Little touches like that which make the interface appear more lifelike.

However, animation alone seems a bit lame for such a huge build-up, no matter how well-executed it may be. But animation could be one part of something that Apple has been urged to do for some time now: FTFF, or “Fix the Fracking Finder,” paraphrased. This could be as subtle as fixing the dozens of small but annoying glitches in the Finder interface, or as overt as changing the interface style completely, as was supposed in a theory that Apple was switching to a “windowless” interface.

A second theory has resurfaced recently, one that personally I don’t think is likely: that Apple is readying the Mac so it will be able to run Windows applications without installing Windows. While this is certainly possible, it is unlikely for at least a few good reasons. First, this would require massive changes to the OS, adopting all manner of Windows APIs, adopting clashing styles of the two OS’s to work together smoothly within a single interface, and then dealing with more criticism than praise when not everything works well, at least at first. Not to mention that Apple’s workload would increase as they would have to keep updating this feature whenever changes in Windows or its application set evolved. Unless Apple has, in complete secrecy, pulled off a programming miracle, I doubt that this is really going to happen.

Second, Apple has benefitted well from Parallels and has voiced public support for them, even to the point of saying that they do not plan to supplant it. Parallels could well be devastated by an announcement that Leopard could do its job instead, and without the cost of either buying Parallels or Windows XP. Of course, Apple has screwed developers before by incorporating their software’s abilities into the OS (Dashboard stealing Konfabulator’s gig was one such example), and Apple has in the past denied things that turned out to be true (such as building Mac OS X versions that run on Intel). But this instance would almost be going too far, as Parallels has so far been a major boost to the Mac since the Intel switch.

Third, this is not a rumor based upon observations or leaks–it is pure speculation, and that tends not to bear out too well in the end.

On the other hand, there was that very odd rumor that Apple delayed Leopard to make it compatible with Vista; making the Mac run Windows apps natively could have mutated into that chestnut. And there is no denying that, with all the flaws that would be inherent in such a revolutionary change, such a feature would in a single stroke shoot down one of the biggest criticisms of the Mac platform–specifically, that it doesn’t run “most software.” (As if anyone ever criticized Windows for not running software made for other platforms.)

And then there is the possibility that Apple has something completely different, completely unknown up its sleeve. They certainly have kept the lid on tight concerning this story. Less than a week from the event, and no clear idea exists as to what is coming up. Any way you look at it, it should be interesting–and for me, a good reason to stay up until 4 am in the morning to read about it. And yes, I know I’m a total geek for it.

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  1. June 6th, 2007 at 16:42 | #1

    I’m also suspicious of an iPod line update. The last big movement was 9/12/06, so, about 9 months to the day. Seems a bit long for Jobs.

  2. Luis
    June 6th, 2007 at 17:17 | #2

    Well, the problem there is conflict with the iPhone, as the next iPod release should almost certainly be a widescreen model. A lot of people worry that a widescreen iPod might steal some of the iPhone market share. I would think that Apple will wait maybe 3 months after the iPhone is released to let a widescreen iPod also join the product line.

  3. June 7th, 2007 at 02:22 | #3

    But a year without a new iPod? Seems long for Jobs. My random speculation has been an interim generation. Basically a 5.5 gen with bigger drives, then the release of the gen 6’s a few months down the roads.

    I’m leaning more towards your thinking, but I am just really surprised at the lack of tooling with the iPod since the iPhone announcement. I understand the thinking of launching a whole new product line, but to push aside the product line that even made this possible seems a bit foolish to me.

  4. ykw
    June 8th, 2007 at 04:50 | #4

    I think it would be neat to have an iPod and iPhone application, on windows and Mac, that simulates that hardware, so that folks that learn the hardware can then open the app and know exactly what to do. The iPhone app could then use the internet to transmit/receive voice. Also, one could have a sync feature that would sync the app with the hardware. I know there are apps that do the phone/pod thing, that are modeled as typical apps, yet I think some folks would be more comfortable w/ something w/ an identical user interface.

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