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Jun 00 Viewpoint

Volume Number: 16 (2000)
Issue Number: 6
Column Tag: Viewpoint

WWDC Report

by Jordan Dea-Mattson

Steve is in the House...

Flanked by giant posters featuring film great Francis Ford Coppola and Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman, and with Big Band standards playing loudly in the background Steve Jobs entered stage left and came forward to operate his patented "reality distortion field" on the masses of developers gathered for his keynote at this year's WWDC.

The question on everyone's mind as Steve started to speak was two-fold. First, everyone was wondering what Steve would say. Like the Children of Israel gathered before Moses on Mount Sinai as he prepared to read the Ten Commandments, we all wondered what "laws" Steve would be laying down for us in the coming year. What would be in and what would be out? Second, in the back of everyone's mind was the omnipresent question that any sane person asks themselves when dealing with Steve Jobs: how will this story map into reality?

Since the "Return of Steve" I have been present for each and every one of his keynotes. This one appeared to have even less spin and more substance than any of his previous keynotes. While some of his announcements looked to the future, they were backed with solid deliverables in the here and now.

The Master of Substance

Steve's keynote, even more so than his previous ones, was a presentation emphasizing substance over style and hype.

Steve kicked off his focus on substance by giving what I have come to think of as his "State of the Company" address, where he lays out his proof that Apple is financially healthy, that things are getting better with each day, and that Apple isn't going away any time soon.

At WWDC the "State of the Company" address was filled with comparisons of units, revenues, and earnings to the other major players - Compaq, Dell, Gateway - in the PC industry. The clear purpose of these comparisons was to illustrate that Apple is not only financially healthy, but that it is doing better than any other major PC company.

As a reality check on Steve's numbers - following WWDC - I performed an independent financial analysis of Apple comparing it to Compaq, Dell, and Gateway. By almost every measure Apple is besting the competition across the board. The only two things holding back Apple's stock are a — not, given Apple's history, totally unfounded — fear that things might return to the "bad, old ways" and a legitimate concern over how big Apple's business can grow in the face of the WinTel duopoly.

Following the "State of the Company" portion of the keynote, Steve focused in on four areas of obvious importance to him and Apple going forward: iMac, QuickTime, WebObjects, and Mac OS X.

The iMac section of the keynote focused on the twin themes of platform growth and Internet adoption.

<P> First, Steve laid out statistics showing that each quarter the iMac is bringing more first time buyers and WinTel switchers into the Macintosh fold. In the last full quarter prior to WWDC 45% of all iMac buyers where new to the Macintosh. This is important to us as developers, because new users by and large are the source of new software sales.

Second, Steve focused on positioning the iMac as the easiest way to get onto and use the Internet. In support of this position, he trotted out statistics showing that a full 88% of iMac users are up and running on the Internet with 66% having made a purchase via the Internet. My post WWDC research shows that these numbers compare very favorably with what is happening in the WinTel world in terms of Internet usage.

Moving to the QuickTime front, Steve focused on pushing QuickTime as "The Leading" multimedia standard on the Internet. Speaking to this issue he bombarded us with statistics on the number of downloads, adoption in CD-ROMs, lists of standards supported and features available, and a plug for Disney's now "famous" Toy Story 2 CD distribution via Frosted Cheerios boxes. All in all, it is clear that a lot is happening in the world of QuickTime. If QuickTime isn't "The Leading" multimedia standard, it is definitely "A Leading" standard with a strong shot at the Number 1 slot.

It's the Web Stupid!

In my viewpoint that appeared in MacTech the week of WWDC I let you in on Apple's best-kept secret: WebObjects. I am glad that I did it then, because following WWDC the last thing WebObjects is "...is Apple's best kept secret".

Leading up to WWDC Apple promised they were "turbo-charging" and would let us in on the details at WWDC.

Well, Apple has definitely taken the wraps off WebObjects and is letting the world in on the WebObjects secret.

First and foremost, they announced they are cutting the price of WebObjects. In the past to get an unrestricted WebObjects deployment license for a multi-processor system cost a cool $50,000. Despite this price tag, because of the power of WebObjects, it is the Number 1 web application service on the market with over 3,000 high-profile customers. But Apple wants to grow this market and their new price of $699 for a development and single deployment license is going to blow things open.

Second, they announced that WebObjects is going to be a pure Java platform with the advent of WebObjects 5 For Java. As part of this move they will be qualifying WebObjects for a Linux platform (likely Red Hat Pro 6.2) in addition to the already supported Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, Windows NT, Solaris, and HP-UX 11.

Apple backed up its WebObjects rhetoric with 18 WWDC sessions focused on WebObjects. Though they were in the smaller "J" facilities, the space allocated to them on the WWDC schedule and the standing room only crowd of developers at most WebObjects' sessions testified to how serious Apple and its developers are taking WebObjects.

If Apple — in the iMac — has the best Internet client around, they have definitely matched it on the server side with WebObjects. It will be interesting to see how they work to combine the two and continue to move "beyond the box" in the future. In any case, it is clear that Apple gets that "It's the Web Stupid!"

A Little Slip? Or is it?

Steve closed off his keynote by focusing our attention on Mac OS X. The highlight of this section was his announcement of a "developer ready" — "...with 99% of developers finding 100% of the APIs they need..." — Developer Preview 4 (DP 4) of Mac OS X and a "slight" revision to its schedule.

Throughout his overview of Mac OS X and the demos Steve stressed again and again that Mac OS X is "developer ready", and that you can start developing for Mac OS X today. That said, he also made clear that Apple is listening to customer and developer feedback and revising Mac OS X based on our feedback. He gave proof to these words when he showed off the changes in Aqua that has resulted in a much improved user interface that were driven in large part by customer and developer feedback.

Steve also announced a revision to the Mac OS X schedule. Instead of Mac OS X 1.0 shipping this summer as announced as MacWorld SF, we will be treated to a public beta of Mac OS X starting sometime this summer. Mac OS X 1.0 will ship in January of 2001 and will be available, "on some systems", as a "pre-load option".

The real news here isn't the shift to a public beta this summer. The reality is - as I noted in my post-MacWorld SF Viewpoint - that no matter what it is called, the first release of Mac OS X will be treated as a public beta. We won't be seeing wholesale adoption of Mac OS X until well into the year 2001.

Rather, the real news is that Mac OS X 1.0 will not be pre-loaded on all systems starting in January 2001. For me this begs the questions: "When will Mac OS X be pre-loaded on all systems?" and "What does Apple expect the Mac OS X adoption rate to be?"

So, did Apple — as the rest of the press trumpeted — slip the schedule for Mac OS X? In name, I must say yes. But in reality, I would have to say no. That said, they are slowing down what was an extremely aggressive adoption strategy by not pre-loading Mac OS X on all systems starting in January 2001.

The Bottom Line

So, what is the bottom line out of this year's WWDC? Simply put, things are going well. The Macintosh is alive and well, Apple is growing, and we can expect to be able to gather in San Jose for WWDC the foreseeable future.


Jordan Dea-Mattson (jordan_dea-mattson@webappfactory.com) long a fixture at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference and MacHack is a long time member of the Macintosh developer community. He recently joined WebAppFactory, Inc., a WebObjects consultant and application developer, as President and CEO. Prior to joining WebAppFactory, he was engineering manager for ePaper Developer Technologies at Adobe Systems Incorporated. He is probably best known for 13 year long tenure at Apple in various developer-related positions. His two major claims to fame are being the "Metrowerks Man" at Apple from 1992 to early 1999, and the Jordan of "It's all Jordan's fault!" from MacHack.

 
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