AMITIAE - Wednesday 12 June 2013
Cassandra - WWDC Keynote (2): Schiller Comes out Fighting
By Graham K. Rogers
The confidence was continued by Phil Schiller who was raring to go as he came on to the stage. His job was to introduce new Macs, but like Cook and Federighi he was able to take a couple of swipes at critics, including a spectacular one-liner that had everyone in the audience cheering except Steve Wozniak. Perhaps the barb hit home.
With this introduction there was a subtle statement about Apple's new directions: "In the age of the iPad, what is the future of the notebook?" I must admit I was concerned when I heard that but other comments about power users alleviated this somewhat. Nonetheless Apple does appear to be evolving in new directions. Schiller called this "everyone's ultimate everyday notebook": not for all of us, perhaps.
He began with the improved battery life of the two MacBook Air models which has increased from 5 hours to 9 hours on the 11" and from 7 hours up to an impressive 12 hours for the 13" models. The new 4th generation Intel processor - Haswell - allows a number of valuable features including a wake-up time of under a second and 30 days standby as well as the improved battery life because of the lower power used by Haswell. Another new feature of the MacBook Air is the inclusion of WiFi to the 802.11ac standard.
Because of this, Schiller took a slight detour and introduced the new Airport Extreme Router that handles 802.11ac (and the related updated Time Capsule)
A CISCO document describes the new standard in great detail beginning with the observations that it "couples the freedom of wireless with the capabilities of Gigabit Ethernet".
In particular, the CISCO document notes that 802.11ac will provide,
These two devices (Airport, MacBook Air) joins some of the dots to what had been explained about Mavericks. The move towards a greater connectivity, providing instant synchronisation between devices is becoming clearer. Apple has already dropped disk drives in favour of application and video downloads and here is evidence of the increased convergence of devices so that content can be available on all. With what is called "beamforming" (not an Apple buzzword), devices online that are recognised by the router can be favoured and have signals better focused for enhanced performance.
Options in the Thai online store include bringing the flash drive up to 512 GB for 9,840 baht; increase from the standard 4 GB RAM (all models) to 8 GB for 3280 baht; and a change from the standard 1.3 GHz i5 processor to the 1.7 i7 Dual-Core for 4,920 baht. Availability is shown as 1 - 7 business days here. I also notice that iStudio are showing discounts for the obsoleted MacBook Air models.
Apple had considered the desktop format, he told the audience and decided to go for a radical rethinking of the product. The video met with much applause, then Schiller delivered one of the best lines I have ever heard at a product introduction, which also sent another clear message to some of the harping critics: "Can't innovate any more, my ass."
This stopped the show with a great roar of approval. As the cameras panned the audience they settled on Steve Wozniak for a few seconds. He was biting his thumb and seemed decidedly unamused. Had the quip hit home?
Memory is new too with 1866 MHz DDR3 RAM modules that have 60 GBps bandwidth. The storage is PCIe flash which reads at 1.25 GBps and writes at 1.0 GBps: 10 times faster than any hard drive that Apple has put in the Mac Pro before.
One point that may not please everyone is that all expansion is external, using 6 Thunderbolt 2 ports (20 GBps), with 6 devices supported for each port. Thunderbolt 2 is backward-compatible with Thunderbolt 1 and Firewire. There are four USB 3.0 ports too. Also installed are dual workstation GPUs: the AMD FirePro Graphics card was shown. This is fast. There is support for three simultaneous 4K displays. The developers in attendance were enthusiastic and this increased when Schiller announced that a new version of Final Cut Pro was in development.
One of the biggest surprises was when a slide showed the new Mac Pro alongside the previous generation: it reaches up to the ON/Off button. A major scoring point concerned the manufacture, which will be in the USA.
There has been much comment on the new Mac Pro since it was pre-announced at the WWDC by Phil Schiller. There have been a number of joke images, including one I saw that had sand and joss sticks: perfect for that job it seems. It is clear that it is a radical rethink and that some professional users may have to rethink their own ways of working. Few people these days work the same way they did, say, 10 years ago, so this may be a natural evolution and expandability via external sources may give users a greater flexibility.
Also writing on the Mac Pro is David Girard on Ars Technica who has a long look at the new computer. His article has a good analysis of what is good and not so good about the Mac Pro. Many have complained about the apparent inability to upgrade the CPU. Perhaps with pressure that may change.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.
For further information, e-mail to