Seriously, it’s just a laptop.
Thousands of attendees crowd around the newly unveiled Macbook Air as cameras snap away at every angle. Apple has made the Kool Aid and people are drinking it. Here is a great review of the WWDC and Macbook Pro announcement:
Drawn to San Francisco by the lure of a pumped-up Apple (AAPL) operating system and other product-line surprises, software developers from across the country and around the globe descended on the Moscone West conference center Monday morning for the Worldwide Developers Conference 2012.
At 10 a.m. Pacific time Monday, CEO Tim Cook took the stage for his first keynote speech at the event since the death last October of Apple co-founder and perennial emcee Steve Jobs.
After Apple’s voice-recognition system, Siri, told a few jokes to get the crowd warmed up — “It’s hard for me to get emotional, because my emotions haven’t been coded yet” — Cook kicked off his speech with some of the current numbers representing Apple’s strong develop base. The conference, which allows 5,000 attendees and costs $1,600 for five days of action, sold out in one hour and 43 minutes, Cook said. That broke the previous year’s record by 10 hours.
The sellout may have been helped by a nod to the youthful community of developers and entrepreneurs behind the tech renaissance sweeping Silicon Valley: Apple reduced the age requirement this year from 18 years old to 13, as long as the young developers bring along a parent chaperon.
Cook also noted that there are now 650,000 apps available in the Cupertino company’s App Store, as well as 400,000 App Store accounts, which have helped developers earn more than $5 billion from sales of Apple products.
After a video showed off some of Apple’s notable mobile applications, Cook began the heavily anticipated product updates portion of his presentation, announcing “major changes” to the lineup of Apple laptops, as well as updates to the iOS mobile operating system and MacOS.
Cook brought out Apple marketing guru Philip Schiller to discuss the changes to Apple’s core MacBook line of laptops. The MacBook Air will include third-generationIntel (INTC) core processors that Schiller said would speed up graphics by 60 percent, and will be $100 cheaper at $1,000 to $1,100. The MacBook Pro will also receive chips from Santa Clara-based Intel’s Ivy Bridge series, with prices ranging from $1,200 to $2,200.
Schiller’s biggest announcement, however, was the addition of a new MacBook, which he said was Apple’s attempt at a “next-generation” MacBook Pro. The super-thin laptop is “the most beautiful computer we’ve ever made,” Schiller said in showing it off to the crowd, which reacted warmly to the thinness of the new laptop. “It’s thinner than my finger,” Schiller proclaimed of the device, which measures .7 inches thick.
The new line of MacBook Pro models will include the “retina display,” a high-definition screen technology originally used on the most recent generation of iPads and hailed by critics. Schiller called it the “world’s highest resolution notebook display.” The new laptop is the first Apple notebook to have an HDMI port and will be called the “MacBook Pro with Retina Display.” Prices will start at $2,200 and orders will begin shipping immediately, Schiller announced.
Schiller then ceded the stage to Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, for announcements about the newest version of the Mac’s operating system, Mountain Lion.
The operating system will feature deeper integration with iCloud, Apple’s remote storage offering, including iCloud-optimized apps, notification center and iCloud tabs on the Safari Web browser. Other updates: A new app called PowerNap will allow Macs to update while they’re asleep; Airplay Mirroring will more easily transfer the display from a Mac to a user’s television screen through Apple TV; and the popular iOS offering GameCenter will transition to the Mac line, allowing cross-platform gaming from mobile devices such as the iPad to Apple’s personal computers.
Mountain Lion will be available next month for download for $20, a steep discount from earlier versions of the Mac operating system.
Next on stage was another Apple senior vice president, Scott Forstall, who oversees the company’s mobile operating system, iOS. Forstall introduced the newest version of that software, iOS 6, which will feature more enhanced integration with Siri. The voice-recognition system will allow users to open apps and access more information, and will be integrated into some cars for what Forstall called “eyes-free” use. Siri, which was previously only available on the newest Apple smartphone, the iPhone 4S, will also now be available on Apple’s market-dominating tablet, the iPad.
IOS will also receive greater integration with Facebook, the world’s most popular social network, as well as Twitter. Siri users will be able to post to Twitter or Facebook through voice dictation, and users’ Facebook logins will be at a system level, meaning users will not have to log in through the Menlo Park company’s website. Forstall said that Apple and Facebook have been working closely to produce the best Facebook integration on any mobile device, and also announced Facebook integration with Mountain Lion.
After announcing updates to several features in iOS — including a change to video-chat feature Facetime, which will work on cellular networks instead of solely wireless Internet networks — Forstall arrived at the most anticipated announcement of his stage time: a new Apple maps application to challenge Google (GOOG) Maps.
Apple’s maps software will feature turn-by-turn navigation, use traffic information to reroute users around heavy congestion, offer listings for businesses that include integration with San Francisco online-reviews site Yelp, and three-dimensional photographic renderings with a service called Flyover.
The announcement of a new Maps feature for Apple escalates a battle with Google, the Mountain View search giant whose mapping software is dominant on mobile devices. Last week, Google announced new three-dimensional city views and other features in an attempt to get ahead of Apple’s enhancements, which are expected to end with the native Apple app replacing Google Maps as the default application on iPhones and iPads.
After Forstall’s presentation, Cook returned to the stage to praise the presenters and other Apple employees for their hard work, wrapping up the two-hour keynote presentation without the “one more thing” addition Jobs made famous.
Earlier Monday morning, a long line snaked around the center at Howard and 4th streets, in the shadow of a four-story-tall logo set up for the conference. The line, which began forming Sunday night, was the focus of reams of television crews backed by satellite trucks, as well as 29-year-old San Franciscan Carlos Parrilla.
Parrilla, who works at the downtown Apple store in San Francisco, stood across the street, watching the line and waiting for it to dwindle before he entered. While he is an Apple employee, he still had to pay his own way to get into the conference, which he considered essential.
“Even though I work for Apple, we have no idea what to expect. But it’s a really important conference. It’s the place to see all the latest advancements in technology,” Parrilla said.
In contrast to years past, when Apple would participate in fan and developer powwows, the June get-together now serves as the major opportunity for the Cupertino-based software brain trust to build on its partnership with the far-flung developer community.
“This event is special because you get the best Apple engineers and developers together in one place,” Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry said. “Apple can then completely lay out the road map for the next 12 months so that the developer community knows what’s coming and how to improve on it.”
Besides the Monday morning keynote, the developer-focused event features more than 100 sessions on iOS and OS X platforms, as well as demonstrations of app services, developer tools, and breakthrough technologies in graphics, media and games.
Expectations for the keynote speech were high from analysts and spectators.
“We are expecting some significant developments around the Apple Ecosystem — the ‘glue’ that sustains its momentum,” wrote Ben Reitzes, an analyst with Barclays Capital, in a note.
He said new software innovation “and more attractive pricing could catalyze sales — with the potential to double the run-rate sales of portables at Apple within a few quarters.”
Chowdry, however, was unimpressed with Apple’s announcements Monday morning, saying in an email that the company offered a “nice refresh, but no breakthroughs.”
“Is this the best we can get from Apple, post-Steve Jobs,” he asked.