WWDC 2009 (Keynote)

I found most of the keynote announcements interesting.

The hardware upgrades on the MacBook Pros were cool. First, Apple seemed to acknowledge that the difference between the unibody MacBook and the MacBook Pro was not strong enough, so the MacBook is dead, long live MacBook Pro. This means the 13 inch laptop has now some of the Pro features, namely Firewire was brought back, in it’s 800 Mbps version. Other nice stuff, like the non-removable high capacity battery and the back-lighted keyboard made their way to the MacBook Pro 13”. The usual CPU speed bumps were there, of course. The only decision that left people a bit confused was the introduction of the SD-card reader. Not only it seems useless (because you may plug any SD-card enabled device to your Mac using USB) but because it kicked out some old features on the Macs that got it. The Express card slot went away on the MacBook 15”, and the Audio in port on the MacBook (now Pro) 13” was replaced by an Audio in/out jack found on the iPhones. Although you can buy an Apple headset to plug there, there’s an obvious question not yet answered, how to record audio from the line in?

The MacBook Air also got some CPU upgrades, and very interesting price cuts. Finally they are not ridiculously overcharging (at least, not as much as they did) the MacBook Air form factor, despite the fact that the machine specs were disappointing. I think they should ship them with 4 GB of RAM instead of 2 (specially because it’s not upgradable), but despite that it’s becoming a really interesting machine to buy if you travel a lot. The only feature I miss (and I was hoping to find it on this new machines) is a 3G modem, which would avoid carrying one more USB dongle. But they may be because of…

… the iPhone. Apple surprised me with the new iPhone 3GS and the 3.0 version of the OS. Despite the ugly name, the 3GS is a really nice improvement to the old model, and the differences are in the details. Among all, we have:

  • (3GS only) Hardware encryption of all your data. That’s really cool on a device that can easily be lost or stolen. This helps keeping your data private, but it’s not all.
  • Find my iPhone. Every mobile phone user went trough this at least once. You look for your iPhone, but it seems to be nowhere. If it’s somewhere around your house, you just grab the landline phone, call it, and follow the ringtone. But sometimes, no ringtone will sound, and that’s the time you start panicking. Did you left it in the car? Or maybe in a restaurant? Or, worse, someone stole it without you even noticing? Now, if you subscribe MobileMe, you can simply access the service, and ask for the current localization of the phone. If it’s turned on, the iPhone will report it’s current position (based on the usual localization facilites, like GPS or WiFi triangulation) that will be presented on a map. But there’s more: you may ask the phone to make some noise, and display a message with your landline phone number and address, and with luck, someone will pick it up and return it to you, or deliver it to a local police station. There’s the nice detail that the phone will make noise even if it’s set to silent. But, even better, if your phone is lost forever, you can still keep your data private. Just beam it an order to wipe all the data on it, and the phone will start erasing your stuff. If it’s encrypted, the wipe is immediate. Later, if you get back your iphone, just plug it to your Mac, and the content will be restored from your backups (which can also be encrypted, for extra protection).
  • Tethering. This one is big, at least for me. iPhone will share it’s 3G connection either trough the USB cable or Bluetooth. This is awesome, allowing you to pay only one 3G subscription instead of two (one for the phone, and one for the laptop). Also, no more crappy 3G modems with questionable quality drivers.

There are also some nice details, like the faster CPU on the 3GS, MMS support, better camera, etc. The iPhone is becoming more and more interesting, and I may find myself finally getting one, if the portuguese operators manage to sell them for decent (or not very indecent) prices.