The WWDC 2011 Keynote



There hasn’t been an Apple keynote like this since January 2007.

Right now the air around Moscone Center, and in the Mac-centric community, is electric. Not unlike when Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone at Macworld. That was a this changes everything type of moment. But it was more than that — it was an electric announcement. When Steve Jobs announced the iPhone we sort-of all knew it was coming. But we didn’t know what was really coming. It was one of those moments when what was actually announced blew past expectation.

When Jobs introduced the iPad, we also knew it was coming. And it too was a this changes everything type of moment. But, there wasn’t the same type of electricity in the air after the iPad. When we saw the iPad, we though it was just what we thought it would be. It wasn’t until you got one in your hands and began to use it that you realized how great it was.

Up until this week, a lot of people had the hunches about iCloud, the music locker, Lion, iOS 5, et al. And as in the days of the original iPhone announcement, our guesses were not just met, they were exceeded. We had no idea what was coming.

Obviously iCloud was the announcement with the most far-reaching impact. It was the one product that Steve took the stage to announce, and it was saved for last. Ten years from now we won’t remember 2011’s WWDC as the year we got Notification Center on our iPhones. We’ll remember it as the year Apple cut the cord.

iCloud is the most ambitious new product since the original iPhone.

Of course, that is not to say that the features announced in Lion and iOS 5 are chopped liver. By any means. In fact, Monday’s jam-packed keynote could have been three separate WWDCs. It was a wonder they fit all of it into just 2 hours.

Lion

Over the past year, 73% of all new Macs sold have been laptops. The iMac used to be Apple’s flagship Mac. Now it’s the MacBook. (I don’t know if this is a result of Apple’s marketing to their consumer base, or if it is them responding to their customers.)

I have this theory that Apple is building OS X Lion with one particular device in mind: laptops with SSDs.1 Even the demo computers that Craig Federighi used to show off the new features in Lion were laptops. I can’t ever remember a keynote where a desktop computer was not used.

When you take a look at some of the features in Lion — full-screen apps, version saving, session saving, and others — they are features that (a) run optimally on a SSD; and (b) look best on a laptop-sized screen.

Apps which run in full-screen mode are cool, but the bigger the screen, the less cool they are. Running one Lion’s Mail or Safari in full-screen mode on a 23-inch cinema display is just awkward. Running it on the 15-inch display is pretty good. And from what I’ve heard, those with the 13- or 11-inch MacBook Pros/Airs appreciate full-screen apps even better.

Steve said at the front of the keynote, if hardware is the brain then software is the soul of their products. A lot of thought and attention has been put in to Lion.

There are many incredible refinements which make Lion even more polished and attractive than its predecessors. Moreover, there are many new functionalities which make it even more simple and easy to use: LaunchPad, the Mac App Store, auto-saving, and more. These are all an assault against the role of the teenage son as the family tech consultant.

It’s hard to sum Lion up with a single sentence, but if you’re going to twist my arm about it then here goes:

Lion is the the world’s most beautiful and simple operating system.

iOS 5

This is not your average iOS update.

Once Scott Forstall had gone through the premier new features coming to iOS 5 I couldn’t think of one thing which I felt they had left out. That is not to say that iOS is finally perfect, but this one is jam packed with big stuff.

Usually, when an OS update is announced there are a a handful of things we were wishing for or bothered by in the old OS that didn’t make it into the new one. Not so with iOS 5. I cannot think of one thing in iOS 4 that irks me which hasn’t been addressed in this next update.

Not only were several of the biggest wants and needs addressed — such as notifications, faster camera access, and over-the-air updating and “syncing” — but many new things were added as well that we didn’t know we needed. Such as iMessage. It’s as if iOS 5 was built with 4 years of listening behind it.

iCloud

The future is mobile, and the path to that future is paved by the cloud.

iCloud cuts the USB cord between our computers and our iPhones. It “demotes” the Mac and the PC to the same plane as the iPhone and the iPad. It lets you activate and update your iPhone from inside the car when you’re on your way home from the Apple store. It is something that lets you listen to a song on your iPod even though you bought it on your work computer.

But iCloud isn’t just a way to cut the USB cable. iCloud is an exciting and ambitious vision. It is the missing piece to get mobile computing to act the way it ought to.


  1. More specifically, I think they’re building Lion with the MacBook Air in mind.