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WWDC07: Bust or Boon?

Dan Pourhadi

It's not often I agree with Paul "Argue Cuz I Can" Thurrott, but sometimes he hits the proverbial nail on the head: In one sentence on his blog, Internet-Nexus, Thurrott sums up the WWDC keynote snooze-fest that wedgied some of the Mac community: "And now we know," say Thurrott, "that OS X is as mature an OS as is Windows and, in the end, there's really just not much you can do beyond the evolutionary stuff." If you ignore the "as mature as Windows" bit, you see the inarguable logic: OS X is a beautiful, powerful, and mature operating system. It's feature-rich, stable, and could easily be considered the best operating system on the market today. So why mess with a good thing?

WWDC keynotes are no longer about announcing revolutionary new features of Mac OS X, for the simple fact that we're all revolutioned out. OS X has reached its prime: it does what needs to do, plenty more, and any major revisions could wind up doing more harm than good. So now it's all about the tweaks, the "evolutionary stuff," as Thurrott calls it: refining the Finder, cleaning up the interface, fixing the tedious quirks that have plagued the OS from day one, etc. Jobs can't get on stage anymore and wow the audience with drool-y features like Exposé.

One could easily argue that the keynote was fudged. Jobs may have the power to take even the most mundane and make it sound world-changing: but when (most of) the material is genuinely bland, and uninteresting, and expected, even His Jobness himself can't save it. Maybe the problem here is that Apple doesn't realize it can't wow the general public with the minor OS X tweaks anymore -- that instead, if it wants to publicize the hell out of its WWDC keynotes, it should focus on pro hardware upgrades, on maybe a few new software features that might turn heads, on the new markets Apple's posed to commandeer: mobile, web, etc.; on only the stuff worthy of a Jobsian appearance.

From what I'm hearing, with few exceptions, developers loved WWDC. It's all about the sessions, the learning experience, the dev networking. The keynote, on the other hand, is for the public, for the tech-ignorant media: and this year's WWDC failed to recognize that.

[Update:] Already a reader, theodorelee, makes a point I should've mentioned: I'm referring to the end-user perspective, not the dev perspective. Leopard (like Tiger) is full of drool-worthy developer features. Would be remiss to not mention that.

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