Initial WWDC Keynote Thoughts

Some random and incomplete intial thoughts about the WWDC keynote. It always takes a while for the full impact of these announcements to sink in, so these are my initial knee jerk reactions.

OSX Mavericks – Looks like they have little low hanging fruit left to gather so have focused on many under the hood improvements. The power management seems to have been a priority. Of the new features they did announce, happy to see improvements in the Finder with tabs and the use of tags. The big one for me was the multiple monitor support – some great new changes. Pity I’ve just split my two 27″ Thunderbolts across my sitting and walking desks! iCloud Keychain might hurt one of my favourite apps – 1Password – although the 1Password guys are very astute and are bound to keep one step ahead with additional functionality and cross platform support.

iBooks and Safari – meh!

New MacBook Airs – No Retina displays as expected but good spec bumps, especially in power management. I’m assuming the stats were based on OSX Mountain Lion, so performance may be even better with OSX Mavericks. The whole MacBook Air section seemed rushed, and no wonder with what was comimg next. A look at the spectacular new Mac Pro.

Mac Pro Sneak Peak – Easily my favourite keynote quote from Phil Schiller EVER!! – “Can’t innovate anymore, my ass,”

As I anticipated, the new Mac Pro was much smaller, with a total reliance on Thunderbolt 2 for expansion. I could live with that. The tube form factor was a huge surprise, and it was good to see it arose out of a design principle and not fashion. Everything centered around a huge central core for heat management. Such a tiny thing too. Specs to die for and a masterstroke by Apple. Support for 3 x 4K displays – wow. Can’t wait to see the 4K Thunderbolt Retina Displays. They even had Muse as the accompaniment.

I’ll reserve my full judgement until the sticker price of this baby is revealed, but it ain’t going to be cheap!

iOS7 – Well Apple didn’t disappoint, and gave us what we’ve been asking for – a refresh of the iOS UI. Not sure if they’ve gone far enough in some aspects, and too far in others. Glad to see they’ve addressed some of the functional aspects of iOS that were sorely in need of update. Control Center is something thats been needed foreever, and the multitasking looks great, both in function and appearance.

The Photos app seems to have taken a few hints from EverPix and the Weather app a few design traits from the Yahoo Weather app.

But overall, I quite liked the aesthetic of the new iOS7, but it may take a bit of getting used to. The parallax effects and elegance of the new design was quite refreshing. The design community have gone banannas over the new icons for the major apps, with Safari taking the brunt of the critisism. Hate to say it, but I have to agree, the new icons look shocking!

I’ll download iOS7 and install it on my iPod touch to try it out.


As far as the keynote overall is concerned, I felt Tim Cook was more natural and relaxed than in previous events, and Craig Federighi showed almost no signs of nerves – a very polished and competent performance. I doubt we’ll ever see Jony Ive on stage, I think he needs the control and crafted delivery that can only be given in a video.

A solid two hours of information delivered at a good pace and with a few gems.

They could have done without the 3rd party devs and the slighly botched demo at the beginning, what where they thinking?

Notable ommission was anything to do with the Apple TV or an Apple TV SDK – obviously, now is still not the time to elevate Apple TV out of hobby status.

Time for a rethink…

After struggling last week with the encoding process on my Mac Pro,  I think I will take the plunge and look at “ring fencing” my Mac Pro as just a video editing and encoding machine and do most of my general computing on the MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro is just fine for virtually all computing tasks, especially with the SSD drive installed. 

The Mac Pro would benefit tremendously from a lean and mean build with the minimum of additional third party apps installed. I’ll be adding the Mac mini server into the mix soon and I’m hoping that will take a lot of the tasks away from both the MacPro and MacBook Pro.  It seems criminal to use the Mac Pro just for video editing and encoding, but it really is a critical production machine and should be left as stable as possible.

So I’ve no issues with doing a rebuild on the Mac Pro I’m going to have to re-consider my monitor arrangement on my desktop.

Currently, I have three monitors on my desk. 

On the left, I have a 20″ Dell in landscape mode. This is connected to the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Pro runs this as its primary monitor when on the desk.

In the center is a 30″ Dell connected to the Mac Pro along with a second 20″ Dell on the right hand side in Portrait mode, also connected to the Mac Pro as a secondary monitor. 

The issue is that I feel more comfortable with having my primary machine on the central monitor. The problem is the primary machine will change dependent on the task at hand.

I could just connected the MacBook Pro to the 30″ Dell, but when editing, I like to have Final Cut Pro on the big display. I’ve tried a monitor switcher before but that didn’t work for me – too distracting having to switch between both machines.

One option might be to revert to a two monitor setup of equal size, and dispense with the central monitor. But then I’m not sure how ergonomicaly distruptive it would be to have no central monitor? The mouse and keyboard isn’t a problem as Teleport handles having a single mouse and keyboard. 

So the options would be:

  • I could sell the two 20″ dells and get another 30″ Dell. The current 30″ Dell is a couple of years old now so they wouldn’t match as far as brilliance and contrast, etc. I’m also wondering if the 30″ is just a bit too big, never mind two if them. You can get a refurbished Dell 30″ for £900 plus VAT.
  • Or I could sell all three of my existing monitors and look at getting two newer 27″ Dells. The 27″ Dells work out at about £465 each plus VAT.
  • Or I could sell all three and look at getting two new Apple 24″ Cinema displays. The Apple tax means these work out at £552 each plus VAT, although they are stunning monitors. I’d also need to buy an displayport adapter for the Mac Pro. 

And before anyone suggests it, I’m not going to sell all three and get two 27″ iMacs just to use as monitors, that would be just silly! At £1200 each plus VAT this isn’t an option.

Now if Apple did Apple Cinema Displays based on the new 27″ monitors as used on the iMac, I might consider paying the Apple tax as they are truly magnificent monitors. The 2560×1440 resolution would be perfect as well as the true 16:9 aspect ratio. One has to wonder why they haven’t launched this configuration as a separate Apple Cinema Display?

Could it be they have stock of the older 30″ ACD they have to move before bringing this to market?

Surely they can’t be selling many of these older model? They are only £200 cheaper than the 27″ iMac for goodness sake?

I really can’t understand Apples policy on external displays.

Of course, the problem is (as always) do you act now or wait to see if Apple release the iMac 27″ display as a separate monitor.

Talk about first world problems!

Magic Mouse Musings…

Typical, I start off my new daily bog posting regime and state that I’m not going to do long essays and look what happens!

So I’ll keep this one brief.

I used to be a big fan of the Mighty Mouse, except for the constant jamming up of the ball and those ridiculous buttons on the side. What a strange place to put buttons? I switched them off after a days use. However, after seeing rave reviews for the Logitech MX Revolution mouse, I decided to jump ship and go with a non Apple mouse.

I’ve been using the Logitech MX Revolution for quite a while and I’ve been very pleased with it. It’s sculptured to fit the hand, has a brilliant “weighted” scroll wheel and is bristling with buttons. I particularly liked the scroll wheel as it enabled you to move quickly through a long document just by spinning the wheel. It also has a tilt function which I used extensively when scrolling horizontal timelines, especially in Final Cut Pro. Even so, although the tilting scroll wheel my extremely useful, it was the most awkward part of the MX in use, as it seemed to require a considerable amount of effort.  Confession time – I hardly used any of the buttons. I set them up several times and each time I’f forget what I’d set up. I did use the middle mouse button occasionally when I remembered I’d setup up Deja Menu.

Even without taking advantage of all the buttons, I was pretty happy with the MX, probably my best mouse to date.

Then along came the Magic Mouse with it’s sleek lines and multitouch. As a service to my viewers and readers, I was duty bound to get one!

After reading about its capabilities, I was a little concerned at how well I’d be able to get by without the “weighted” scroll wheel and the much needed tilt function. The absence of extra buttons wasn’t really a deal breaker for me as you might imagine.

As soon as the new iMacs were available, I nipped into my local Apple store and tried one out.


The scrolling via touch is effortless and very smooth. What’s even better, is that you can set up scrolling with momentum that mimics exactly the behaviour of the “weighted” scroll wheel of my MX. It’s almost like Apple went out and examined the features of the best mouse on the market and emulated it via multitouch :-)

Both vertical and horizontal scrolling are supported, in fact full 360 scrolling is available.

Unfortunately, the Magic Mouse was not on sale at this time but as soon as it was, I returned and bought one. The acid test was using it with Final Cut Pro and how well it enabled scrolling when navigating the horizontal timeline.

Well, I have to say, it works a treat!

Much, much better than horizontal scrolling with the MX. The timeline flies left and right with a feather touch on the surface of the Magic Mouse. Superb! After a weeks use, there is no danger of me returning to the MX

Some other points of note:

  • The two finger swipe works but I don’t really use it that much, don’t really need it.
  • Scrolling can be one or two finger – useful if your swapping between a laptop and desktop.
  • The travel and noise of the mouse click buttons is a bit excessive at first but you soon get used to it.
  • The absence of extra buttons really hasn’t been a problem for me. I use a combination of the new Expose in the Dock feature of Snow Leopard a lot and have just set up some hot corners. No big deal.
  • The low profile of the mouse seems to match the Alu keyboard exceptionally well. I was a bit concerned about the low profile of the mouse after the sculptured feel of the MX but in use it’s been fine.
  • Seen a few posts about battery life. After full week of constant use – baring in mind I’m a heavy full time Mac user – my mouse is showing 79% battery life.

On reflection, the Magic Mouse has been a pleasure to use. I’m still in awe of just how well the touch surface feels and operates. 

Well recommended!

PS OK, so I’ll keep the next blog post brief…sheesh!

Something for under the tree…

So I missed the Apple earnings report live but it received plenty of coverage.

Best quarter ever,  tons of Macs sold, tons of iPhones sold – Kudos Apple!

You have to hand it to Apple at the way they strategise their product launches to receive maximum effect. Amazing quarterly results one day which boosts stock price, followed through the very next day with significant product releases that ensure the next quarter builds on the previous.

Truly remarkable.

However, there was one comment made during the earnings call by Tim Cook, Apples COO, which has kicked off the rumour mill and that related to forewarning of an abnormal increase in air freight charges for the coming quarter….

 “The air freight is not related to the iPhone so these are unrelated topics. But, generally speaking the air freight is planned to get enough units in to the channel in time for the holidays and is necessary for that reason.”

 “It’s more than normal so you’re correct that in general we spend more in freight in Q1. However, this increase is larger than usual. I’m sorry I can’t be specific on the product but it’s an abnormal sequential increase.”


A company the size of Apple having to warn about abnormal air freight charges? They must be expecting some huge costs.

The issue is that I would doubt it’s for any existing product that they need to ship for the holidays. Apples fulfilment operation is tuned to perfection and runs like a well oiled machine. They’ve known well in advance the forecasts for how many Macs, iPods and iPhones they need for the Christmas period (hate calling it “the holiday season”) and these units have already been ordered. manufactured and shipped from China on huge cargo ships. The cheapest way to distribute, but the slowest. Shipping by sea is the only way to distribute existing product lines.

No, Airfreight is only needed on new products, just manufactured and dispatched directly from the factories in China. If a new MacBook Pro is developed and released and you buy one of the first models of the production line, it’s air freighted direct from China to your door at considerable expense.

So this reference must be to a new, as yet unannounced product.

But the question is what?

I think there are two options….

1 – Apple is just about to announce the new Apple tablet device and is expecting huge demand. The tablet itself is most likely relatively small, so the only way it would rack up huge airfreight costs would be if they shipped large volumes of the device. With the pent up demand, I can well envision this scenario.

However, option 2 is more intriguing!

2 – For Apple to be worried about air freight costs, I have to speculate that the new product has intrinsic high shipping costs associated with it, probably due to its size and weight, or to special handling requirements. My speculation is that we’re looking at something potentially extremely large and heavy. Something much bigger that even the biggest 27″ iMacs or even 30″ Cinema Displays.  

I’m figuring a 42″ flat panel LCD Apple TV in time for Christmas.

OK, I’m hoping for a 42″ or even a 50″ flat panel LCD Apple TV in time for Christmas.

Can you imagine how expensive it would be to air freight these things over from China? If they are ready to start full scale production, it would take months to bring them to market on a slow boat from China, they really would have to take the cost hit to ship them by air to hit the Christmas market. 

Fall back position is that they miss Christmas but there’s another event quite soon after where the full Apple TV panel would make a considerable splash. After all, Apple is a consumer electronics company now, so when better to launch a full Apple TV but around the 7th January – the date of the 2010 International CES show. I’m not saying Apple would launch it there, Apple being Apple would probably launch it the same week and still grab all the attention away from CES – how very Apple like.

Just one final thing that I saw a couple of days ago that’s been gnawing at me and that’s a tweet posted by Kevin Rose before the comment on the air freight at the earnings call…

Omg just met a drunk girl from apple “no apple tablet coming… well, we wouldn’t call it a tablet” haha leak!!

Obviously, no way of validating that comment but it makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck!

Oh, and the Apple iTablet….

I’d expect to see it announced the day following the next stellar earnings call from Apple :-)

Why no special event…

So Apple did release a ton of new and improved products today, two days before the Windows 7 launch.

I won’t regurgitate all the details as I’m sure you’re fully aware, but in summary:


  • A brand new advanced Mouse with multitouch
  • A spectacular update to the iMac with larger 16:9 displays
  • An updated Macbook with a new unibody enclosure
  • Revisions to the Mac mini including a new Server option with in effect, a free, unlimited licence copy of Snow Leopard Server (of potentially huge significance)
  • A new Apple remote  
  • An updated Airport Express
  • Two updated Time Capsules

Excuse me?

As @patmahon said on Twitter:

When you think about it Apple have released more today than at some past Macworld events with nothing more than fanboy tweets. Clever stuff

My sentiments exactly! (well except for the references to fanboys but I’ll excuse Pat, as I know he’s a big a fan as the rest of us)

Seriously, Apple could have announced a “Special Event” for these announcements quite easily and I’ve no doubt that they could have filled an hour easily and it would have been very well received.

The “Magic Mouse” is crying out to be demo’d, the gorgeous new iMacs prime to be drooled over, an examination of the new Macbook unibody easily shown off, along with an opportunity for the new Mac mini server with it’s amazing value proposition to be spelt out to all the Small and Medium sized businesses (SMBs).

But no announcements, no special event, just a Tuesday store take down and back up again?

So why no event?

I’ve no idea!

I don’t think Apple have ever launched such a wide ranging update to their range without a live demo. Was it due to timing? Too late to organise something before the holiday season? I don’t think so, all these changes would have been planned ages ago, so the decision for the low key launch was most definitely deliberate.

A change of strategy from Apple perhaps?

Perhaps they want to elevate the “Special Event” type of product announcements to radically new products, products that warrant a truly “Special” event. Perhaps there’s another product launch coming soon that they wanted to distance from these announcements. A really “Special” product.

Can’t think of what that might cover though.