WWDC signage on the Metreon building.
Photo: PED

Color commentary from a cranky old curmudgeon.

By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
June 7, 2015

Apple WWDC wrapped up shortly after my MacBook died. The highlights:

  • A new package of music services to bring Apple into the age of streaming music, for Android too
  • An Apple Watch SDK to give developers the tools they’ve been crying for
  • A Proactive Assistant to compete with Google Now
  • Transit directions for selected cities in Maps
  • A News app that could spell trouble for Flipboard
  • Apple Pay coming to the U.K. and now open to vendor coupons (so much for privacy)
  • An Open Source version of the Swift programming language (with support for Linux too)
  • Incremental improvements in OS X 10, dubbed El Capitan
  • A new OS 9 for the iPhone and iPad, with multitasking, split screens and a lot of two-finger swipes

.

No big surprises. No major disappointments, once people accepted as fact multiple reports that the new Apple TV stuff — hardware, SDK and video streaming service — was going to be delayed.

The biggest announcement — the music service — raises the biggest questions for me. The price ($9.99) seems high for a generation raised on free Pandora. We’ll have to wait and see if the tools in Connect have enough reach to enable new artists to break out. And I have a hard time seeing Beats One — Apple’s 24/7 Worldwide radio station — take off in the developing world if you have to pay $9.99 a month to hear it. Apple confirms that Beats 1 will be free for both iOS and Android. No ads to interrupt music, but programs may be “sponsored.”

12:06 a.m. Cue’s demo of Apple Music is racing my battery, which is down to 1%. Apologies if this comes to an abrupt end in a moment. I’ll be back later today to add photos and put a summary on top.

Photo: Jason Cipriani

12:04 a.m. Cue says now you can search and stream — which Spotify already does. Human curated playlists is new. Zane Lowe (sp.) does the radio bit. The proof will be in the pudding here. NY, LA and London. Connect is where artists can upload stuff to fans. I can see how this works with established musicians. Like and comment. Ho hum. Drake is in the house. Nice touch giving the developers a shout out. He represents the new artists getting their body of work on one, very simple place: Connect. In this too, we’ll have to see if this works. The pitch is that this simplifies things for the musicians and the audience.

11:55 a.m. Apple Music, as predicted. Cook introduces Jimmy Iovine. Here’s a guy who really knows music. Paints the streaming music ecosystem as a disorganized mess. Cues another video. “Support the artists who make the music” Trent Reznor does the voice over. Beats One pitched as a 24-hour world wide radio station. Tools to grow careers. A lot of stress on up and coming artists. “All the ways you love music. All in one place.” 3 things is a homage to Jobs. 1. Music service. 2. 24/7 global radio 3. Connect fans with artists

Iovine is using the “What song comes next” line he used before. Attacks algorithms. Pushing the human touch. He’s energetic and passionate, but I’m not sure what he’s saying. Invites Eddy Cue to explain.

11:44 a.m. Cook is back. One more thing… Music streaming, I bet. Cue the video.

Photo: Jason Cipriani

11:43 a.m. Cook thanking the developer community is a nice touch. Transition into the new version watchOS — the Watch SDK for native apps that so many developers came here to hear about. Kevin Lynch takes the stage. New photos face will be popular. 5 time lapse cities to choose from. What about the rest of us? Making your own complications gets a big applause. Time travel makes the calendar app more useful. (Flux capacity sold separately, ho ho.) Night stand mode makes a nice bedside clock. Add more friends is smart. Multiple colors is silly. Reply to e-mail should have been there from the start. Face-time audio is very Dick Tracy. Siri to start workouts. “Go for a 5 mile run.” The new achievement rewards suggest to me that someone at Apple has too much time on his or her hands. That’s OS 2.

Photo: Jason Cipriani

For developers, moving logic to the watch. Not much detail here. Wi-fi network seems to be improved. Oh, here come the details. Access to mic, speaker, heart rate, video, etc. Available today to developers. Fall launch to the rest of us. Free.

11:24 a.m. Cook is back on stage, telling people — in good college essay form — what they just heard. The 100 billion app downloads and $30 billion to developers are those nice big numbers Apple loves. I hope they hold up better under scrutiny than the Apple Pay numbers did. Cue the app store video. Nice video, Comparisons to the discovery of the telescope and the industrial revolution feel a little overheated to me, however. The app store is built on top of a lot of equally powerful innovations.

11:15 a.m. Swift 2 is for developers only. That it’s Open Source is getting a stand-up ovation. This is big, I gather. That seems to be the end of Federighi’s section.

11:13 a.m. All this talk about extending battery life for an additional hour, and 3 hours, is just making me mad. Wrapping up iOS 9 with a bunch of APIs and kits. Health kit gets hydration and menstruation (he whipped fast through that one.) He does HomeKit without mentioning Apple TV. In future cars CarPlay apparently works without cord.

11:06 a.m. iPad being “elevated” to a “whole new level.” Turn keyboard into a trackpad. Cut and paste much improved. App switching. Multitasking (big applause). Split screen, as predicted. Demo involves a lot of swipes from the side and top. More power user stuff. Picture on picture is great. That is all available for the iPhone is added at the end.

11:00 a.m. Uh oh. We’re halfway through and I’m down to 32% power. Damned MacBook Air.

10:58 a.m. The new News app got my attention. Susan Prescott — another woman, another new name — to demo. Daring Fireball is on her list. Fortune.com is not. This looks a lot like Flipboard. “I read ESPN for the articles” gets a laugh, Is this audience old enough to remember the old Playboy joke? More than a million topics you can follow. I’m already getting info overload from this. “Powerful machine learning algorithms” sounds like a homage to Google. This was not a feature 9to5Mac predicted.

10:51 a.m. Maps getting public transit, as predicted. This is all catch-up to Google Maps. But the underground map of Columbus Circle is excellent improvement. 10 cities in the U.S. is way less than Google. China is something Google can’t touch. Could be huge.

Photo: Jason Cipriani

10:48 a.m. Federighi on enhancements to Notes, adding photos, checklists, drawings, links. Is this stuff 3rd party apps already do? I actually use this app a lot.

10:46 a.m. A woman! Jennifer Bailey to talk about Apple Pay. She’s a new name to me. She’s a little wooden, especially after Federighi. Too bad we can’t ask her about the fact-checking Reuters did on Tim Cook’s claims about the biggest 100 merchants. She stepped on her own punch line about bringing Apple Pay to the U.K. London transport is cool. Why not San Francisco? New York? Chicago? Rewards cards starting at selected retailers this fall. This is a big deal. Passbook rebranded as Wallet a smart move.

Photo: Jason Cipriani
Photo: Jason Cipriani

10:40 a.m. Now Federighi is following the company line of privacy. “We do it in a way that doesn’t invade your privacy.” Big applause from the true believes.

10:37 a.m. Back here from a kernel panic, right in the middle of WWDC. How perfect. Can’t wait for those El Cap performance enhancements. Federaghi is doing a demo of the intelligent search in OS 9.

10:30 a.m. El Cap wrap up. Next: iOS 9. iOS 8 was a huge update, says Federighi, not exaggerating. The 83% adoption rate is a big advantage over Android. Extending battery life, improve performance, security and intelligence. So far, just as Gurman predicted.

10:27 a.m. Performance enhancements in Mac got no reaction. “That brings us to Metal” actually got laughs (but I didn’t get the joke). Demo of what Metal can do on the mac from Epic. This is for developers who build 3-D worlds where “you can destroy anything you want.” That tells you everything you need to know about today’s gamers. Polite applause.

10:20 a.m. Windows management stuff is getting applause mostly from the front of the room (where the Apple staffers sit). Will most Mac users remember these things? The fact that I’m getting lost doesn’t bode well.

10:16 a.m. Craig Federighi goes straight into the Mac OS update. He’s cracking wise about the name. Mark Gurman nailed it: El Capitan. The improvements, as expected, are incremental. A big curser when you shake. Swipe left or right on e-mail. Pin sites with a swipe. Find out where that music is coming from. These are power user features. He’s playing this for laughs.

Photo: Jason Cipriani

10:10 a.m. The anecdote about the ransom note for the homerun ball is cute. Funny way to launch the show, however. Moves right into native apps for the “Watch that will change the world.” That gets big applause, despite the hyperbole.

10:06 a.m. Now we know what the “epicenter of change” was meant to be. WWDC itself. Do you feel let down? I do.

10:00 a.m. Opening with a backstage at WWDC that has high production value, comedy value a little less so. Getting a some laughs, not from the belly. Ends with a bottle of water and a laptop. After that, Tim Cook walks on to big applause, not a standup.

Photo: Jason Cipriani

9:57 a.m. The TV cameras are ready. The phones are in silent mode. The show is about to start. The gods of Wi-Fi willing, I’ll try to capture the highlights. Photos are iffier from now on.

Photo: PED

9:50 a.m. According to #AppleLive, the live stream is up and running. I encourage you to get your news straight from the source.

9:47 a.m. Once again, I have not been invited for an off-the-record briefing with Apple execs after the event. I don’t know whether to be offended or relieved.

9:40 a.m. Wondering what women or woman Tim Cook plans to bring on stage, per his promise yesterday. Could this be the event where Angela Ahrendts makes her first keynote appearance? My seat mate, a developer from Orange County, points out that I was wrong last night when I suggested this would be a first; Christy Turlington showed up at the Apple Watch event.

9:30 a.m. The hall is nearly full. Stragglers are wandering around looking for open seats. Given the discomfort they went through to get in here, the developers are remarkably forgiving of Apple’s management of these events. The press, less so.

9:15 a.m. Doors open. The press and VIPs stream in at a fast walk. The developers at a full-out run. Reminder: You can follow the keynote live on Apple TV or at Apple’s event page here.

8:10 a.m. I’m in. A few photos:

Apple staffers whooping and clapping.
Photo: PED
Reporters queuing up for their credentials.
Photo: PED

7:00 a.m. Headed to Moscone for my media credentials. There’s a lot of standing around making small talk during this phase of the operation. Expecting some down time.

6:30 a.m. Shortly after 6 a.m. Apple staffers emerged from Moscone and started tightening up the line. I shot a stop-action video, which I’ve posted on YouTube. It took 20 minutes to walk the line. The video lasts 37 seconds. It’s super-fast (I blame the iPhone), but it will give you a feel for the thing.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJ3ewcmQyqE&w=640&h=390]

6:00 a.m. Based on my sat-truck count (7) the media attention is lighter than in year’s past, although there do seem to be a lot of talking heads doing standups. The developer line, however, is as long as I’ve ever seen it. By 5:45 it had wrapped around 4th, Minna, 5th and down Howard to the entrance to the Intercontinental Hotel. These people already have tickets to WWDC. They’re going to see the keynote, one way or the other. They waited in line — many of them overnight — hoping for a good seat in the main hall.

Local TV reporter, shivering in the cold.
Photo: PED
The line wrapped around the block
Photo: PED

5:30 a.m. Ran in to Jon Fortt, my old buddy from Business 2.0. He’s now the guy on CNBC who knows what he’s talking about when they talk about tech. He’s scheduled to do a one-on-one with young Mark Gurman before the event and then quick updates on the air during the keynote based on Apple’s webcast and tweets from his inside man.

I’m headed to Peets for my fix.

5:00 a.m. Walked the queue, counting heads and asking developers what they hoped to learn today. Number 200 was Johan Jensen from Denmark, who’s most eager to hear about the Watch software developers kit. Australian Andrew Burlay was number 400. He wants to know when MDNS responder is coming back, whatever that is. At the 500 spot was a New Yorker, Rob Huebner, who’s also here for the Watch SDK. No. 600 is a guy from Orlando who insists his parents named him Xeon Xai. He thinks the iconography of the invitation might mean more watch band colors. Or Apple TV. Or different color Apple TVs. The line wrapped around Minna Street and ended halfway down 5th. The count at 5:51 a.m. was 672. The guy I misstook for number 673 turned out to be homeless.

4:45 a.m. More than two hours before doors open, the line of developers wraps around the block and out of sight. First in line is Brian Kieffer, who’s been here since noon on Sunday. “I’m just a big Apple fanboy.”

No. 1 in line: Brian Kieffer
Photo: PED

4:35 a.m. Heading for Moscone in the dark, ran into a surprising number of guys in WWDC 15 sweatshirts walking the wrong way. Coffee junkies, looking for a caffeine fix. The line in front of the 4th St. Starbucks was 40 nerds long.

Monday 3:25 a.m. Still on East Coast time, I’m up before the sun. Nothing new in the New York Times. Techmeme is still leading with yesterday’s news: Sony CEO Doug Morris’ loose lips and 9to5Mac’s pre-game round-up. Tim Cook hinted to Mashable’s Christina Warren that there might be women on stage today. That, shockingly, would be a first.

Sunday 7:00 p.m. Doors don’t open at Moscone West’s cavernous convention center until tomorrow at 7, 8 or 9 a.m. (depending which Apple staffer you ask), but I’m starting my live WWDC coverage early because I have a small bit of news and a correction to make.

The news is that John Siracusa, who devoted 15 summers of his life writing OS 10 reviews for ArsTechnica but whom fate (and Apple’s lottery system) cruelly denied a ticket, is coming to WWDC 15 after all! I have this on the good authority of Jonathan Mann who pleaded in his April 27 song-of-the-day for Apple to “give him a ticket, give him a ticket, give him a ticket…” Mann says Apple did the right thing, but that it’s supposed to be a secret.

The correction is that the rounded square at the center of the invitation that I thought was an Apple TV (and which I bloviated about at some length three weeks ago) is almost certainly not. Now that I see the blue (not black) shape in the context of the signage on the Metreon center, across 4th Street from Moscone, I see that it’s probably an app icon, as Mark Gurman suggests, not a set-top box.

More tomorrow, early, new items on top. All times PDT.

See also: Meet Mark Gurman, Apple PR’s worst nightmare

Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple AAPL coverage at fortune.com/ped or subscribe via his RSS feed.

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