SAN FRANCISCO—News that Apple had created a version of its Safari Web browser running on Windows overshadowed the long-anticipated presentations on Mac OS X Leopard and the iPhone at the opening keynote of Apples Worldwide Developers Conference on June 11.
Jobs demonstrated for the first time the Safari Web browser running on Windows, calling it “the fastest browser on Windows.” A free beta of the browser is available today on Apples Web site.
The development of Safari on Windows is an important milestone, since Apples move to Intel processors has given Macintosh users the option of running Windows as well as the Mac OS X operating system.
Jobs also disclosed that the Safari Web browser will be the platform for developing and distributing third-party applications for Apples new iPhone, which is scheduled to be released on June 29.
He acknowledged that Apple had left unclear how developers could create applications for the new device. Apple has been “trying to come up with a solution” that would at once be open yet keep the iPhone “secure and reliable,” he said.
“Theres no SDK you need,” Jobs said, noting that one could develop using Safari on the desktop and be ready to deploy at the iPhones release date.
At WWDC in 2006, Jobs made the first public mention of Leopard, the next version of Mac OS X, due in October 2007. This year, he previewed some new features but left some a mystery, saying that there were 10 “top-secret” new features he could not reveal.
Jobs did reveal 10 Leopard-only new elements, but eight of those 10 were features hed already shown a year ago.
Those eight included Quick Look, which allows users to open file contents in the Mac OS X Finder; full 64-bit support; the Core Animation API; Boot Camp, which will no longer be a beta in Leopard; Spaces, a built-in virtual desktop manager; new Dashboard features such as WebClip, which allows users to make their own widgets from Web pages; new iChat features; and Time Machine, an automated backup and recovery system.
The new features Jobs demonstrated were desktop and Finder improvements, though neither represented a major overhaul of the Mac OS X interface.
Most pronounced in the desktop was the addition of Stacks, which Jobs called “simply folders in the Dock that allow you quick access to content.” Reminiscent of tabbed folders from the days of OS 9, Stacks reside in the Dock but, at a click, spread out their contents onto the desktop for quick access. Jobs demonstrated how a Stack can be used as an application launcher, and noted that Leopard will have one Stack by default for downloads.
The desktop in Leopard will also feature a translucent menu bar and a three-dimensional-perspective Dock.
Reviewing Leopard Features
Next, Jobs said Leopard will feature a “new Finder”—a statement which met with a great deal of applause.
Although it hasnt undergone a radical overhaul, the Leopard Finder will offer a more unified look, doing away with a mix of brushed metal, Aqua and other user interface paradigms in favor of windows that look more like the Mail application in the current version of Mac OS X.
Finder windows in Leopard will also feature what Jobs called a “much cleaner” Sidebar window component. It will gain the ability to open and close groups of items with turn arrows and will support “smart search” folders, he said.
These windows will also add a new view option, called Cover Flow after a similar feature in recent versions of iTunes. With this, users will be able to visually scan the files in a folder, scrolling back and forth between visual representations. Using Quick Look, users will also be able to view each item, full-size, without moving to another application.
The new Finder will also update Spotlight, Mac OS Xs search utility, giving it the ability to search other Macs and servers on a local network, and users will be able to share files with other computers on a network; the public areas of other computers on the network will appear in Finder windows Sidebars, much as shared iTunes libraries do in local versions of iTunes.
Jobs also demonstrated a “Back to My Mac” feature, which uses Apples .Mac online service—which currently costs $99.95 per year—to allow users easy access to their own computers, even remotely.
Jobs poked fun at Microsoft, telling the audience that Apple will offer Home, Business, Ultimate and other versions of Leopard in October—but all will be the same in content and all will be priced at $129.
After the event, developers expressed some concerns and disappointment over the mornings announcements, though all asked that their statements not be attributed.
Many said they were well aware that the “top-secret” Leopard features shown today were far from news. Some had hoped for more news about technical innovations such as the relation of Leopard to the ZFS file system, while others wanted news about Xcode, Apples development environment.
However, they added, such technical features may be addressed in the remaining WWDC sessions, which are for developers only and are under strict nondisclosure agreements.
Overall, the developers who spoke to eWEEK were more upset about how Apple decided to handle development for the iPhone.
One developer said that forcing any applications they create to work solely within a Web browser (Web 2.0 hype aside) gives their work second-class citizenship. This means iPhone users will not see their applications in the devices main menu, but will instead have to open a browser bookmark. And, one developer added, theres still the question of how such Web-based tools will work when a user is not online.
“Were very disappointed,” said the developer.