'10: Get Over It
(It's Not Just About
My Bad Attitude
In the last few years, I have been giving WWDC a bit of heat.
On a grading scale, I even gave last year's conference a D,
of you have told me was unduly harsh. Much of that had to do
with the eroding of Mac OS X's presence in favor of iPhone.
Well considering what's happening this year, last year's Mac presence
positively generous! Furthermore, I have been received
complaints for criticizing aspects of the conference which are not
really germane to its purpose. These are all fair points, and
WWDC '10 is forcing me to reevaluate what exactly this conference is
supposed to be.
As scandalous as this may be to some, this year's WWDC will be the
first ever not to highlight the next version of the Macintosh operating
system. That's not to say that WWDC will be devoid of
Macintosh sessions. Certainly the Mac has a presence, and a
very important one at that. But what Mac-related topics there
will be this year remain confined to the release Mac OS X 10.6 Snow
Leopard. But most importantly, this year the Mac is taking a
backseat to iPhone development.
To many people, including myself at first, I was appalled to hear that
the Mac was being all but excluded from its own conference!
How can you have a Mac conference and ignore the Mac!?! Then
someone challenged me on this very point: What part of "Apple
Worldwide Developer Conference" do you find the word "Mac"?
Ouch. But a very valid point. It's an Apple
conference, not Macintosh conference. And Apple is not just
the Mac anymore. There are iPods, iPhones and now iPads.
Now even before all this, WWDC had in the past included sessions on
other Apple technologies that were outside the Mac, from the Apple IIGS
to the Newton and even the Pippin. (How many of you even
remember what a Pippin is?) But still, a few sessions here or
there never changed the fact that the Mac was still Apple's primary
But that has changed. It's not a Mac-centric world for Apple
anymore. It's not even close.
Apple By the Numbers
To see my point, let's take a look at Apple's most successful Mac
quarter ever: 3.36 million Macs sold in Q1 2010. This
averages to over a million Macs per month going out the door during the
quarter. A million. That's more than 35,000 Macs
per day being sold, or one every two and a half seconds.
That's a lot. The best ever in the history of the company.
But it's dwarfed by the sales of iPhones and iPods. Q1 2010
saw 8.7 million iPhones and 21 million iPods get sold. That's
nearly ten million iPods and iPhones per month. Ten
million. But really, numbers are secondary to
dollars. In Q2 2010, iPhone sales were triple Mac
sales. And even though Macs are much more expensive, the most
recent quarter still saw the iPhone's $5.4 Billion revenue dominating
the Mac's $1.9 Billion. Money talks, even at Apple.
And as well as Macs are selling, every time one got sold, 2.5 iPhones
and 6.25 iPods got sold. With respect to iPods, Apple doesn't
tell us how many of those iPods are iPod Touches (which can run iPhone
apps), and how many are not, but it's safe to say that at least 3 times
as many iPhone app-capable devices get sold. Maybe 4 times.
With triple to quadruple the Mac consumer base, it does makes
sense that Apple should focus this conference on iPhone development,
especially given that Mac OS X 10.7 is only in its infancy at this
stage. Mac users, even developers, are not interested in
rushing in to something just now, as 10.6 Snow Leopard is still just
taking hold now. There was a 2.5 year delta between 10.4 and
10.5, and about a 2 year delta between 10.5 and 10.6 (with this latter
one being a much smaller change). if 10.7 ends up being a
major upgrade (as 10.4 and 10.5 were), I can't imagine it being
finalized much before 2012. Even if the change is a smaller
10.6-ish upgrade, a 2011 release date would still be
aggressive. 10.7 has a while of cooking left to do.
The App store is less than two years old, and already there are more
than 200,000 applications available for the iPhone/iPod touch
devices. 200,000. If you add up all the Macintosh
applications ever written over the past 25 years, including shareware
and freeware utilities, how many would that be? Would it be
more than 200,000? Possibly. I wouldn't bet on it
though. And even if so, remember that the iPhone reached that
number in less than 2 years. And as for total downloads: more
than 4 Billion. The last Billion just since the start of the
year 2010. Software development for personal computers
(including the Mac) had exploded in the 1980's but has since cooled
off. We are now seeing a similarly explosion for mobile
computing (including the iPhone).
So this year does make sense to focus the Apple development community
exclusively on iPhone development, at least for this year.
(Even if it does break my heart to say so.)
Apple Developers: Who are
There are essentially two avenues for Apple developers today: Mac OS X
and iPhone/iPod Touch. Both use Cocoa and Objective-C, and
most API's are the same across both platforms. The iPhone SDK
has some features specific to it (touch screen, etc.) as does the Mac
(built-in garbage collection). But on balance, a developer
can go between Mac & iPhone with minor effort. So
Apple developers overlap pretty heavily between both domains.
But if you attended the last couple of WWDC's, you'll notice something
remarkable. All the Mac-only sessions are stocked with the
usual types: aging males who have been Mac users for a long, long
time. Most of us in our 40's. Many even
older. Walk into an iPhone session (particularly an intro
one), and there are a large number of young (under 30) types.
Both men and women. And they don't carry around bulky
portable computers … they do everything on their mobile
devices. And they are as stoked about the iPhone as much as
we were about the Mac more than 20 years ago.
And despite the lack of Mac OS X information, this year's
conference sold out once again in record time. But this was
obscenely fast: sold out in just 8 days. And looking on Ebay,
I am seeing tickets being scalped for up to $3000. (That's
almost double the original starting price!) It's clear what
people want, and we can't blame Apple for fulfilling their
demands. It seems everyone wants in.
What's a Mac Guy to
In the end, we must acknowledge the realities of development, and right
now, the demand is on the iPhone. I hate that the Mac is
taking a back seat this year. I understand that Apple really
wanted to make it clear that this year's focus is the iPhone, but
that's a tough pill to swallow. Granted, most of the
development specifics (Xcode, Cocoa, Objective-C) applies to both Mac
& iPhone, so the Mac is being excluded in focus only.
But still, that's a tough pill to swallow.
And we Mac developers do have some legitimate grievances. For
example, was it really necessary for Apple to remove Mac OS X
applications from consideration in this year's Apple Design
Awards? Only iPhone apps get a Design Award now???
Really? Come on, guys. That's not just a focus
change, that's a slap in the face.
Is this a permanent change of direction for WWDC? Will all
future WWDC's be iPhone-specific? Is that the message Apple
wants to send? I don't think so, but the answer will not be
seen this year, but rather at WWDC 2011. I expect to see Mac
OS X 10.7 prominently exposed there. If not, then I'll worry.
But having said that, we Mac developers should not see the iPhone as
competition, but rather as an extension. Think of it as Mac
OS X going mobile. Let's look forward, not
backward. It is an exciting time. Let's not look
like the pathetic sour-faced Apple IIGS programmer from 15 years ago,
bemoaning how Apple is focusing the future on the Mac. Yes,
it happened that way, but the IIGS programmer should have viewed the
Mac as the future of the IIGS. 68K moved to
PowerPC. Classic moved to Mac OS X. PowerPC moved
to Intel. Now OS X is essentially on cell phones.
Well, time to recalibrate all my WWDC ratings. It's no longer
fair to compare WWDC's with ones from a decade ago. Even last
year, I gave a bad grade to WWDC '09, using the same standard I did for
the outstanding WWDC '99. In the latter conference, there was
a PowerBook given away every hour, we had trips to museums, there was a
movie night, guest celebrities, gaming stations, vendor booths, ADC
reception, Birds of a Feather, Feedback Forums, and on and
on. There were none of those things last year, nor are they
expected to be back ever again. The 1999 and 2009 conferences
were as different as night and day. Sure, it's easy to say
that WWDC '99 was a great conference, but Apple will never be holding
those kind again. It's not a fair comparison
anymore. It's like comparing apples and iPhones.
So okay, I take it all back. The purpose of the conference is
for Apple to disseminate information to the Apple development
community. Let's now look at it from this perspective moving
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