Thoughts on the Keynote

So today was the keynote and I have to admit – it was a little underwhelming.

Most of the chatter I heard around the show today seemed to share that sentiment. The excitement was pretty good surrounding the newer features – specifically the new Finder, Cover Flow integration, Time Machine and Core Animation. It’s cool stuff. I personally never found the Finder offending enough to need replacing.

The keynote was definitely entertaining – which is good since I waited three hours for a chance to see Steve Jobs in the flesh. Since this is my first real Apple event, I got a true taste of what these things are like starting around 7am. The line stretched around Moscone Center West quite early. We were corralled into the center little by little as a teasing mechanism. As time went on, we found ourselves wound up on the 2nd floor and spiraling throughout the entire complex. Finally, when the doors were opened to the Presidio, where the keynote was to be delivered, the flock began moving. One of the escalators stopped working on one side of the lines. One guy had the bright idea that he was going to jump lines. He did so and what resulted was a crowd following suit until the security folks halted the movement. At least one person quite loudly declared, “This is bullshit man! Our escalator stopped working and we can’t get upstairs!” He was quite upset.

Anything that does that to a grown man has to be good.

Good it was. The opening video of John Hodgeman showing up on all of the HDTV projector screens in Jobs garb was a scream. He declared that he was Steve Jobs and that since Vista had sold “10 to 15 copies or so” he was going to just have to shut Apple down. It really had the crowd laughing.

But as the speech went on, the crowd found themselves waiting for some of the rumored announcements – you know… new iMacs, ZFS, anything meaty we could grab onto. Alas, there was not much announced that was not already shared with the general public. The final stance of 3rd party apps on the iPhone was ultimately a real downer. The iPhone supporting 3rd party apps through AJAX only was enough to put most developers off their food. I didn’t hear one person speaking positive of this issue… it was too little, too late. Ultimately, it was a generally regarded as a “duh.”

One surprise that got me quaking (pun intended) was John Carmack in the flesh. To me, that clearly showed Apple’s new committment to gaming. With the exception of C&C3, I could care less about EA’s new committment to gaming on the Mac. I thought that having John Carmack present to show id software’s belief in Mac gaming was a very direct statement.

I will point out that in the lunchroom of Moscone Center West, there is a LAN-party style gaming lab that is laden with iMacs and Mac Pros for anyone to take a load off and play Quake 4 to their heart’s content. The best that I could tell, this was running Parallels 3.0 with 3D acceleration and Coherence working its magic. I didn’t get a chance to sit and play much, but I am going to try to do so during lunch tomorrow.

All in all, it was an eventful day, but I can understand how some folks are disappointed in the keynote. I did see/hear other exciting Leopard server developments that should make Windows architects salivate quite a bit, but I can’t share that due to NDA. The press releases have already mentioned iCal server’s existence… but the details of it are quite extraordinary. I left the presentation with the feeling that Apple is directly coming after Microsoft.

The release of Safari on Windows is clearly a strategic move – probably a brilliant one. I use and like Safari, but I don’t find myself desiring to use it on Windows. Perhaps I should load it and give it a shot anyway.

All in all, a fun day… back I go to reading professional opinions about the show. But I did want to get out in the community that the backchatter I heard after the keynote was not oozingly positive even among the devoted Mac developer crew. We’ll see how it plays out over time.

Day two tomorrow… whee!