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WWDC 2011—Initial Impressions


Today Apple began the annual WWDC week with a keynote that introduced OS X Lion, iOS 5, and iCloud. If you haven’t done so yet, check out the keynote stream. Rather than just re-iterate the new features, I’d like to share some of my thoughts.

Lion

At first, I have to say that as far as features go, it was a bit underwhelming. I do have to say , I’ve been using pre-release seeds of Lion. Because of the NDA, I can’t talk too much more about the exact features…

Having seen and used these features, I realized that from a new user’s perspective the features are actually really compelling. Why did I find them underwhelming? It’s because the features have integrated themselves so smoothly and seamlessly into my daily experience that they’re really not obtrusive. Some commentary:

  • Gestures: I love them. Takes a bit of getting used to at first, but really integrate into my user experience. I love being able to touch everything and directly interact with it. My only complaint is that there is (at the moment, at least) no built-in ability to define custom gestures.
  • Full Screen: Very useful on laptops, not so much on desktops. Could be useful in some cases, but I’m not sure I like it at all. Its usefulness is doubtful, in my opinion.
  • LaunchPad & MAS: The App Store is actually really nice. Convenient, easy, accessible—everything is as advertised. As far as LaunchPad goes, I find it easy enough to use, and with the gesture to invoke from my Magic Trackpad, it joins my repertoire of app launching, along with the Applications stack, Spotlight, and LaunchBar. Not always as smooth as advertised though.
  • AutoSave, Versions, etc.: Very helpful. ‘Nuff Said.
  • Resume: Usually very useful, for when I have a bunch of documents open in Preview, but can be annoying at times. Sometimes the point of quitting an app is to clear out all the windows. It’s a bit more annoying when the files take a while to load, as they might when launching QuickTime. But very useful after a reboot.
  • Mail: Great new interface, no loss of functionality—great recipe.
What happens is that OS X is less of a new OS, and more of a new paradigm. With the further integration of iCloud, it definitely fits this role. That’s also part of the reason why it’s $29.99—a great price for a preview of the future of computing. And yes, I honestly believe that.

iOS 5

  • Notifications: This one was a long time coming. Predicted by rumors for months, this is probably the best way to do notifications in a mobile platform. Very well done.
  • Twitter: I don’t use Twitter. I don’t get Twitter. …
Logo of WebKit framework

WebKit

  • Safari: The tabs are frankly a bit ugly, but the rest of the stuff is awesome. I’ve been a proponent of WebKit since the original iPhone. I love Safari Reader on the desktop, and I’m glad they brought it to iOS.
  • Reminders: Everyone needs this. The problem with To-Do lists though is forgetting to actually use them. Not sure what Reminders is going to do for that.
  • Camera: How do I up the volume in camera mode…? Actually, the features are really nice. If the iPhone 5 bumps the camera specs a bit, it could become a serious competitor to higher-end point-and-shoots, or maybe even some dSLRs…?
  • The New Keyboard: The keyboard on the original iPad always seemed just a little bit too small. I like being able to split the keyboard, but can’t help thinking that simply typing with my thumbs might not be the most efficient. Of course, this isn’t an issue that can be fixed overnight. Why couldn’t the screen have been just a tiny bit bigger…?

iCloud

Actually not sure what to think about this yet. The features look compelling enough, but without having half a dozen Apple devices not sure how well this’ll work. And plus, some companies, schools, etc. might block anything besides in-house cloud services, so its practicality might be limited. We’ll see.

First Impressions

So, that’s some initial commentary. I kept them to short blurbs for a reason—they’re first impressions. Incidentally, for developers, first impressions are absolutely vital. So, what are your thoughts? Post them in the comments below.

What’s in it for us?

Well, all the new APIs must mean something. What happens, though, is that Lion is literally bringing the iOS design paradigms to the desktop. Which means that user interfaces can be re-thought. Instead of simply relying on individual mouse clicks, gestures are now a now interface interaction method. This allows for much more fluid interfaces. What happens is that the design of user interfaces now takes prominence. Always emphasized with iOS, this design-based nature will trickle down to OS X. These interactions are visible in the new Mail, Safari, and iCal (^^). Sometime there will no longer be a single pair of coordinates for a mouse pointer—there will only be multi-touch and gestures. That is the future. And that is what developers must work for.

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