Mac OS X developers and Apple enthusiasts are anxiously awaiting the June 11 opening of Apples Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco to find out whether there will be any changes or surprises in the companys product plans.
During his keynote, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is expected at the very least to show a feature-complete version of Leopard, the upcoming revision of Mac OS X, including the “top secret” elements that Jobs mentioned at his first Leopard announcement at the 2006 WWDC.
Apple has already reported that Leopard will be delayed until October and developers and enthusiasts will be looking for confirmation that the company will hold to that schedule.
Another open question is whether the Apple iPhone, due to go on sale June 29, will be open to third-party developers.
During past WWDC keynotes Jobs has made surprise disclosures of new Apple hardware and software, though this annual event, unlike the companys Macworld Expo, is targeted to developers, not consumers.
Known new features for Leopard include Time Machine, an automatic data backup and restore feature; Core Animation, an API that allows developers to easily create advanced graphics effects in their applications; Spotlight searches over a network; Spaces, a user-configurable virtual desktop feature; updated iChat and Mail capabilities; Dashcode, a tool for creating Dashboard widgets; and full 64-bit support.
Apple security has been tight on the “top secret” new features for Leopard. Though some have speculated that the new operating system will include built-in virtualization features, enabling Macs to run Windows applications (as Intel-based Mac users can now do by using third-party applications such as SWsofts Parallels), no evidence has surfaced to bump this up above the rumor classification.
Recent remarks by Sun Microsystems executives have also raised the question whether Leopard will also use, by default or as an option, the ZFS file system. To date Apple has not commented on these reports.
Unlike the rest of its product line, the iPhone requires Apple to work with a partner—cellular service provider AT&T—and meet FCC approval for both hardware and software features. This could prove an impediment to allowing free rein to developers with the device.
Developers said they want to hear confirmation that Leopard is on schedule and expect that Apple will spring a few surprises on them, as it usually does.
“Id like to see that Leopard is well on its way to meeting its ship date,” said Brent Simmons, the creator of the NetNewsWire RSS application, in Seattle.
“Id like to learn—and expect to learn—that the new APIs are stable and safe to build on,” said Simmons. “The thing is, we learned about Leopard last year, but it was still early days for Leopard and a bunch of stuff could change. At this point it should definitely be ready for developers to do their thing.”
Simmons added that he has not yet started to develop for Leopard. “Ive looked at some of the new APIs, but not that much yet,” he said. “I personally dont like working with stuff thats still changing a lot, because I end up like the Red Queen, running as hard as I can to stay in place. Thats just way these things go: Its the same for Apple as for everybody else.”
What Developers Want
Simmons added: “Im aware of the new APIs, though, so I have a good idea of which ones I want to work with. Im certainly interested in Core Animation, which is public knowledge, but Im not sure that other APIs Im interested in are public knowledge.”
Jeff Ganyard, an engineer at Salem, N.H.-based MacSpeech, said that hes looking forward to learning more about Scripting Bridge, a new-for-Leopard developers tool.
“Scripting Bridge makes it much easier for developers to generate and send Apple Events,” said Ganyard, who noted that MacSpeechs iListen voice recognition products use “a lot” of automation.
“As a developer, Id like to see continued enhancement and extension of Mac OS Xs Accessibility APIs,” Ganyard said. These allow access to many of the operating systems and applications enhanced display and other accessibility features.
“Were all looking forward to those secret features,” he added, “but honestly, were pretty happy with whats in there right now.”
Gus Mueller, of Seattle-based Mac software company Flying Meat, said he has been developing for Leopard but not exclusively.
“Realistically,” he said,” Id love to have a 10.5 [Leopard] build where everything is nice and stable so I can work with Leopard full-time. [The10.5 version] is alpha and theres a reason why it was pushed back a couple of months.”
“Some of the stuff thats new (that I can talk about) that I really, really want to use are new features in Xcode, and the new profiling app “Xray” (along with dtrace). That thing is a dream,” Mueller said.
He added: “The new ribbon in Xcode is going to help out a lot, and inline error messages as well. Xray is awesome because it lets you use different performance instruments at the same time (disk usage, memory, cpu load, etc.), and then you can scroll through it in a GarageBand-like UI. Its very slick.”
Mueller also said that hed also ultimately like to see “some innovation” in Mac OS Xs Finder. “Its pretty much the same Finder weve had since System 7, isnt it? Theres got to be some innovation in that area.”
William Jon Shipley, who develops the cataloging application Delicious Library for Delicious Monster, also of Seattle, seemed more sanguine than his colleagues.
“Apples publicly announced theyll show a feature-complete Leopard at WWDC, which is pretty much all I want at this point, honestly,” he said. “I sure dont want them to rush it and announce that its shipping, or anything.”
“I guess my biggest pie-in-the-sky dream,” he added, “would be if Jobs gives all the attendees iPhones. Thatd be, like, pretty damn cool.”