Apple's Developers Conference: The View from Bangkok

By Graham K. Rogers


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The dust has settled a bit after the Keynote presentations at the recent Apple WorldWide Developers Conference. With the extra information released in the following days, we now have a better idea of what Apple's announcements will mean for users. The outlook for Thai users, I am afraid, is not that rosy.

The most publicised news concerned the new 3G iPhone and its increased capabilities: for example it now has two proximity sensors as well as GPS and a major software update. It will not be coming to Thailand. Indeed the whole of South-east Asia is poorly served as far as this device is concerned.

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The iPhone will of course be available in places like Mahboonkrong and it will continue to be unlocked. To me this is a waste of time and money as the device will be unable to take full advantage of developments.

One of the developments concerns the applications that will soon become available. Those I have seen demonstrated thus far suggest that the iPhone, and the iPod touch, do have an exciting life ahead. The software update to the iPhone will be free; the update to the touch will cost $9.99 online.

iPhone app iPhone app

Rather than updating and buying via the iTunes Music Store, Apple is moving the software facilities to a new App Shop and we are told that this will be available in some 62 countries (although the iPhone list is 70). We are told that applications will range between $0.99 and $999.99, or will be free. Most are expected to be around $10 - $20. There will be no "adult rated" content.

As the App Shop will not be running until some time in July (a date of 11 July has been suggested), and there is no word from the local Apple office, the question of Thailand-based users having access is still not confirmed. As the shops are specific to countries that will have the iPhone officially, I am doubtful. I hope I am wrong.

iPhone iPod touch

It is one thing not to have the Phone here officially: until the local providers come up with a proper 3G service, it is a waste of time. It is another thing entirely for those who have bought the iPod touch, which is on sale here officially, to be denied features allowed in other countries.

Along with the new applications, there is an evolution to the current .Mac service to a powerful, cloud computing facility called Mobile Me, from Mid-July. This synchronises several machines, including PCs, with swift updating of data from device to device, including the iPod touch. It includes push email (presuming the connection is good enough).

Mobile Me will also have a version of "Back to my Mac": a remote connection feature that has also proved useful by allowing people to connect to their stolen laptops and identify the criminals.

Brief mention was made during the Keynote of the next update to OS X, which is to be named Snow Leopard. Perhaps the small name change from Leopard, reflects the apparent small changes to the OS, which is also now just OS X and not Mac OSX: the system, not the computer, is the key. If we go back to Steve Jobs' original iPhone introduction, he emphasised that Software makes it all possible.

There do not appear to be new features, so those who usually only examine the surface can hold this up as an "Aha" moment, particularly when they realise that developer (and probably the release) versions require Intel processors: the PowerPC will not be supported. There will be other hardware specification changes.

Apple is not in the habit of pulling rabbits out of hats, so what is under the surface is worth examining: there is a teaser on the Apple website.

There is extended support for 64-bit computing and OpenCL (computer language) which will improve the efficiency of task handling processes and allow support for (theoretically) up to 16 Terabytes of RAM.

A major benefit is a stripping out of inessential code and the inclusion of thread management architecture to get the most out of multi-core processors: the OS will be leaner and faster. Also being built in is its own Exchange Server support for both Mac OS X and the iPhone and the updated iPod touch. That other essential component of OS X, QuickTime, will benefit from some of the development done for the iPhone in the way it handles video codecs.

Seeded to developers was 10.5.4, the next update to OS X, Leopard, that will resolve some ongoing problems. There was also a seed of Safari 4, which has an number of changes under the hood, including the way it handles Javascript.

During the conference, QuickTime was updated to version 7.5. Also updates to iMovie, iDVD and Airport Utility (for Windows users this was Airport Utility setup 5.3.2) were released.



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