Here I am in San Francisco again, for WWDC. I couldn't quite believe I was here last year, and that sense of disbelief has manifested itself again. After an Air New Zealand flight upon which I slept a little, which always surprises me (I don't sleep well in the best of circumstances), I navigated the snaking queues to Customs.
Update from the keynote: New Apple Mac features unveiled
The official saw my Media visa and asked 'You here for WWDC?'
'Hmph. That's why it's so busy today.' The queues were indeed long, but the two Kiwis behind me were discussing latency and coding so I asked if they were here for the Apple conference. They laughed. 'No. We work for Google.' This is the IT centre of the known universe, after all.
I got a taxi into town with a very friendly bloke who came from Mongolia, of all places. Last year I had a San Franciscan taxi driver from Nepal, which I also found impressive. Mongolia is 1,564,116 square kilometres, according to the Apple Dictionary app (it's in the Applications folder of every Mac, please note; you just type a word into it and press Enter) and yet the Russia-China surrounded country only has 3 million people. So where we have about 34 Kiwis to every square kilometre, Mongolia can field only - nearly - two.
Does that count as an impression of San Francisco? It does to me. This has always been a place of great diversity. From my hotel window, I can tell from the Maps app that I'm looking towards the Moscone Centre, but all I can see is a large Macys, plus a group of four flags: two I can't identify but one's orange. The others are the inevitable Stars and Stripes and next to it, oddly, a skull-and-crossbones-on-black pirate flag. To the left of that clump, across the street, is a huge Stripes flag. Oh wait, the first third is wrapped around the flagpole.
I wander down to the Moscone Center, where people who got tickets are picking up their entry badges for tomorrow's event. People are wondering what the next OS X will be called, after the change away from big cats to Californian places of note (ie, Mavericks the famous surf break for 10.9). Not only are huge banners up (8 and 10, for the iOS and Mac OS coming, almost doubtless, tomorrow) but there's a massive Apple sign on the outside corner of the building.
But even the building opposite is bedecked in Apple's WWDC 2014 banner, in large sections. The Metreon is a four-story mall built over the corner of the underground Moscone Center convention centre. Here's a twist of history for you: this mall was originally built as a Sony 'urban entertainment centre': dining, gaming, music, exhibitions, shopping, and movies all in a sort of theme park and gallery for Sony products ... but here's another 'ouch' - a major tenant, the Microsoft store, exited in late 2001. A few years later Westfield acquired it, according to Wikipedia.
I still remember when Sony ruled the roost as the top producer of consumer tech.
Browsing the Mac news, there's lots of pre-Keynote speculation about Beats Music. These smart-looking headphones may well help Apple out in the audio space, but if you think Apple's earbuds sound tinny (they do, except for the in-ear speakers) these shiny things err the other way, into a bass-heavy mush, light on mid-tone definition - to my ears, anyway. I can't help wondering if Dr Dre will take the stage tomorrow. It would be the only way I'd ever see him from an audience viewpoint, anyway. At least he's been on stage before, unlike some nervous developers who have to take the WWDC stage sometimes.
It's thought Apple will maintain the Beats branding, at least at first, and the brand is quite popular. I guess we'll see. However, the real draw might be the Beats Music subscription service which, though new and small, is apparently an excellent service with smart curation features. "It gets Apple in the game", thinks Macworld.
Macworld's Jason Snell's real point in this article is that the Beats acquisition is not something Steve Jobs would have done, and that's a good thing. I hope it is a good thing. I mean, I think Apple forging a path not bound by Jobs vision is a good thing, sure - I'm just sceptical about Beats.
Turning the TV on to catch the news, and I'm presented with the option to watch an animated Disney film for $16 US! It puts the average NZ$7 rental price of a movie in the iTunes Store into perspective, doesn't it? I have free wi-fi in my hotel room, so there's nothing to stop me ordering through there and watching something on my superior Retina MacBook Pro display.
On the news: six presumed dead in a Mount Rainier (Washington state) avalanche, fog on the Golden Gate Bridge already and possible rain tonight - but the sky is clear and blue in all directions from where I sit on Geary Street. Tomorrow the whole city might be engulfed in one of its famous fogs. That would be interesting.
Then there's lots of news about the congressional race for California's 17th District. It's funny, the campaign ads are really personal: 'Mike Honda is Yesterday's Man!', for example.
And while we're on yesterday, get a great deal for the whole month of May on a new Chevy!
Hello, General Motors - it's June.
Another pro-Ro Khanna ad accuses Honda of 'mudslinging'! But back to WWDC - there were plenty of people down at the Moscone Center doing what I was doing: taking photos. Apple people have been saying this one's going to be exciting, and I haven't heard that from Apple employees before. Tonight I'm having dinner with other journalists covering WWDC for Australian and Singaporean news outlets - no doubt they'll all be speculating, too.
Soon we'll know.