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Mac Planet: WWDC 2013 - what does it all mean?


Someone asked me if I was disappointed at the June 10th announcements; did it mean Apple wasn't innovating any more? No, I don't believe so. At all.

Apple has a pattern of releases it follows and hates releasing things that don't work properly. When, on the rare occasion the Inc does release something that doesn't measure up, heads soon roll. Just look at the Apple Maps app.

Apple is also not market driven; it rarely reacts to market swings or fads unless they're considered to be of lasting value. That's why when Samsung put out a smartphone with a distinctly larger screen, I didn't expect Apple to follow suit.

Apple has already designed the size of smartphone it thinks is correct, and this may have been honed with the iPhone 5 to give a very slightly longer model and one-row-of-icons more screen real estate, but I do believe this is as far as Apple will go. Likewise with near-field communications, thumbprint scanners and other whizzy stuff. Just how much do you want your iPhone to do, actually? But anyway, Apple's new Activation Lock addresses lots of security issues immediately iOS 7 comes out, and will work on all the current iDevices that will support iOS 7.

To my mind, as a long-term Apple user, everything is still chugging along swimmingly (sorry to mix metaphors). It seems to me that those who were new to Apple thanks to iPhone and then iPad have wildly different expectations compared to longer term users. Longer-term users see iDevices as adjuncts to their Mac computers, not a whole exciting new world. Perhaps this is jaded, but at least it reins in expectations.

I think the new iDevice fan-base is partly what causes fluctuations in the stock prices, especially when some in the media succumb to the 'what's new!' roller coaster. But those sorts of expectations simply don't drive Apple. As Tim Cook repeatedly stated, Apple's goal is to make really great products to enrich people's lives.

In a way, iDevices are like blank slates. That's partly why they are so simple physically, with so few buttons. The real magic comes from the touch interface, the OS and the apps, and that's why iOS 7 is significant. People already (mostly) love the Apple experience, and iOS 7 will make that experience a lot better, while OS 10.9 'Mavericks' promises the same.

Of course, iRadio could be seen as a response to Spotify and Pandora, and perhaps it is, but it's also simply a way to keep people using iTunes and the Music app. It may be late to the party, but if it works well, it will be great to have those capabilities in iTunes.
For now, WWDC 13's announcements on the two operating systems promise to drive your existing, qualifying Apple products faster, more efficiently and to make them more intuitive and productive to use. What more could an Apple fan ask for?

Innovation? OK, the new Mac Pro is outstanding. I tangibly want one, even though I don't need one. If you do need one, your lust may be ten times mine. As Phil Schiller stated so rudely for the critics, "Can't innovate any more my ass!" This became a trope and was shown on US news channels like CNN for the rest of the day. And Schiller is right. Check out the specs, the new Mac Pro is brilliant. This is Apple expertise done right.

As for price ... well, we don't know yet, but this kind of power won't be cheap. But the MacBook Air has also received a real boost as a laptop, and Apple sells a lot of laptops. Price for the 11-inch remains the same, the 13-inch has actually dropped a little, but they're both much more powerful.

Post WWDC commentary on US TV, though, did dwell on Apple's stock price, which only rose one per cent after the announcements. Apple's stock price, they said, has gone down 20 per cent this year while Samsung's has risen 12. This might worry Tim Cook with his accounting background, but does it hurt the core of Apple? I don't think so.
I mean, is Apple a company you invest in for returns or a company that makes products you want? I sit firmly in the second category.

So many smiling people leaving the Moscone Center at once meant Apple employees had to let people onto the down elevators in batches. At the bottom, in the lobby, I spotted a New Zealand flag held aloft on an iPad. The bearer was one Thomas Rix, a Kiwi who has lived in the Bay area for three years and who currently works for Twitter.

He was surrounded by Australians - that flag is an easy mistake to make - and I was the first Kiwi to talk to him. He and the Australians around him were, as developers, were positively buzzing at what they'd seen. That, in the end, is the crux of the matter, because that's what we, as consumers, end up with: their products.

Personally, I was relieved that Apple's presentation basically demonstrated business as usual: excellent products, excellent core software. I was heartened there was no succumbing to cheapness or geegaws, despite the critics, despite the market and stock pressures. I am very glad of the new Mac Pro, and it was good to see the developers get genuinely excited.

But I looked forward to finding out what the other journalists in this hotel thought: Hedirman Supian and Derek Ho from Singapore, and Rodney Chester, Garry Barker and Chris Griffith from Australia. They're all experienced watchers of the Apple world - Garry had, over a long journalistic career, been to 20 Apple events like this, including the Macworld conferences when Apple still keynoted them.

He had even interviewed Steve Jobs in Tokyo when a Macworld was held there. The consensus for the 2013 WWDC keynote seemed to be the same as mine - steady at the helm was a good thing, producing excellent software and hardware was Apple's core value and there were plenty of signs of that.

We also discussed the fact that the whole WWDC had a new American focus, or maybe refocus, since the original Apple computers were built here until they were farmed out all over the world - Ireland, Malaysia, Taiwan then China: the new Mac Pro will be built in the US, and the next ten years or Mac operating systems will all have names from the region of California. Go USA. This fact will go down well, here in the US at least. Actually I think even someone in China would be proud to buy a US-built Mac.

The only resounding regret was that everyone wanted to buy a new iWatch. And that was not announced.

- NZ Herald

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