Apple WWDC: The Steve Jobs keynote, live blogging

Photo: Jon Fortt

I’m taking notes as the events unfold, and the Apple (AAPL) keynote has begun. [UPDATE: It’s ended. Read through this for a full account.] Refresh this page during the keynote for updates.

The WWDC keynote opens with a joke: In a video, PC guy from the Mac vs. PC commercials is claiming to be Steve Jobs, announcing that he’s quitting and shutting down Apple. Why? Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows Vista is doing so well that Apple has to give up, and the Zune is poised to kill the iPod. Of course, neither is true, Mac guy comes in to chastise PC guy for telling fibs, and the crowd serves up the expected laughter.

Steve Jobs comes out on stage. He says good morning, thanks for coming. Jobs notes that there are more than 5,000 attendees, making this the biggest WWDC ever (and there are 950,000 Apple Developer Connection members, up by 200,000).

Looking back a year to the last WWDC, Apple was talking about the switch to Intel (INTC). Jobs hails it as a successful transition. He congratulates developers for working really hard at creating universal apps. Jobs thanks Intel for working closely with Apple, and for being so dedicated. “They have come through every single time for us,” he says.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini joins Jobs on stage.

Jobs: “Paul, I’ve got something for you.” Jony Ive made an award for Otellini, a custom-made plaque of polished stainless steel, shaped like a disc or a large hockey puck.

Otellini is clearly surprised at the gesture, and says: “Working with Apple has been one of the best things that’s happened in my career …. I think we have the best still to come.”

Jobs signals that Electronic Arts (ERTS) is coming back to the Mac with games in a big way. Bing Gordon, co-founder and chief creative officer of EA, is talking about people moving to the Mac. “Starting in July we are going to bring four of our biggest titles to run on OS X.” They are Command and Conquer 3, Battlefield 2142, Need for Speed Carbon, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

They’re showing a demo of the Harry Potter game. It looks really smooth, and the graphics as sharp as you’d expect. The lighting effects are pretty incredible inside Hogwarts, actually. Beginning in August, Madden and Tiger Woods ’08 will show up simultaneously on the Mac.

John Carmack, owner and chief technical officer of Id is on stage, continuing the gaming theme. He’s showing off a next-generation technology they’ve been developing. Amazing textures are covering this video game world, with realistic rock cliffs, metal objects, asphalt and fabrics. This looks truly amazing.

Jobs is back on stage, saying “Let’s move on to our big cats.” He reports 22 million active Mac OS X users. Two-thirds (15 million) of them are running Tiger. Twenty-three percent are running Panther, and 10 percent (2 million) are running something older. “We think Leopard is going to set an even higher bar,” Jobs says. Leopard will ship 21 months after Tiger did.

Jobs says he’s going to show 10 key features.

1. New desktop. The new desktop is green grass rather than the blue background. (Is this a nod to the environmental sensitivity of this age?) There’s a new menu bar and a new dock, and tools to clean up the desktop – something called Stacks. (The new dock sort of sits on a translucent pane that’s got 3D perspective.) There will be a consistent window look in Leopard. The most whiz-bang new feature, though, is Stacks; Stacks are folders in the dock that allow rapid access to their contents. The contents either fan out or pop up in a grid. One of the folders will be “downloads,” a folder that will be a stack in the dock. (This is going to cure my desktop clutter problem.)

2. New Finder. The new Finder comes with a new and cleaner sidebar in the Finder window, the ability to search other Macs and servers, a feature that makes it easier to deal with shared computers, and a feature called “Back to my Mac” that allows you to browse your computer remotely.

You can now look at things in “cover flow view” as well as list and column views within the Finder. Cover flow view is a feature borrowed from iTunes. In the sidebar there’s a new way to search for things: by time. You can search for things you’ve worked on today, yesterday, or in the past week. There’s a “Shared” pane that lets you look into the networked computers easily. Jobs is now demonstrating “Back to my Mac,” a .Mac feature that always knows the IP addresses of your computers and allows you to remotely peek into those computers.

Jobs is now demonstrating cover flow view more extensively. It turns out you can preview .pdfs, Keynote presentations, and videos within cover flow view. This also works as a way to browse the contents of other computers over a network.

He’s now demonstrating “Back to my Mac.” He got an error message. Recovering quickly, he’s instead looking at a presentation on a remote computer. He’s able to drag the presentation out onto the desktop, moving the file from the remote computer onto his local desktop. One of the more thrilling demos he’s showing is how Spotlight in Leopard searches other computers on a network, making you feel as though they’re all part of one big computing environment. This is pretty nifty, and will be a popular feature in homes that have multiple computers, I think.

3. Quick look. This feature lets you preview files without opening them. (There’s a plug-in model that lets developers add document types that aren’t supported.) This is really powerful – it lets you view documents without launching an app. He’s showing a preview of the Disney film Ratatouille (Jobs is now Disney’s largest individual investor since it purchased his Pixar Animation Studios), and the movie clip plays without Jobs having to launch a QuickTime app. This is a really great time saver, I think, and a great way to use the powerful chips and abundant memory that come with the latest computers.

4. Leopard is 64-bit, top-to-bottom. The operating system’s underpinning goes all the way up through Cocoa, Apple’s programming environment. The one version of Leopard runs both 32-bit and 64-bit apps natively, which puts it ahead of competitors, Jobs notes. He’s now demonstrating it. Jobs is using a home-grown app to show the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit performance. The demo involves a photo of the Library of Congress that’s so dense that you can zoom from a full view of the inside of the building into the title of an individual book. Jobs runs an effect cleaning up the photo, and the 64-bit version completes it 28 seconds where the 32-bit version takes 81 seconds.

5. Core animation. Jobs is calling it automatic animation. He’s showing an application that’s running hundreds of videos at once, and allowing him to sift through them by clicking on a video for a closer look, or searching by typing in tags like “water,” “fish,” or “Amazon” (the river, not the store). Really powerful. This shows capabilities that just weren’t possible in the 32-bit world of off-the-shelf computers.

6. Boot Camp. There have been more than 2.5 million downloads of the Boot Camp beta, which lets people boot their Macs into either Windows (XP or Vista) or OS X. Jobs is going through the stuff we knew already – it runs XP and Vista, runs everything natively, etc. He’s also giving a plug for Parallels and VMware, which run Windows on the Mac without forcing users to reboot. Jobs seems to be making the point that he’s not going to eat the lunch of those developers by introducing software that runs Windows natively within OS X. (At least, not anytime soon.)

7. Spaces. This is something Apple has announced before as well. Spaces is a concept that has existed on Linux before – you can basically have four different screen environments operating simultaneously, making it easier to manage things when you’re doing a lot of stuff at once – think of it as a version of the tabbed browsing feature in Firefox, Safari and other browsers, only it works for your entire computing experience.

8. Dashboard. This already exists in Tiger. There are more than 3,000 widgets in Dashboard, Jobs says (and that’s a number that seems sort of low compared to what we would hope to be out there after almost two years). Apple is adding a widget that allows people to search for movies by movie or by theater. Now Jobs is talking about “Webclip,” a feature that allows people to make a widget out of any web page. (It’s not clear to me exactly how this works, but I assume Jobs is about to demonstrate it.) First he shows off the movies widget by playing the trailer for Knocked Up.

Okay. So Jobs shows that using Webclip, he can clip out pieces of a web page and turn them into widgets really simply. He demos it by showing that you can clip out pieces of a site and they’ll automatically update. (Advertisers and publishers are going to hate this – it basically allows users to take content out of its context on a page and view it as it updates, bypassing the ads themselves.) Jobs also makes widgets out of the current movies list on Rotten Tomatoes, a Dilbert comic strip, and more I’ll definitely use this as a consumer, but it complicates my life as a publisher. (Webclip will also be great for the iPhone’s small screen; the interface reminds me of the way the iPhone zooms in on portions of a page.)

9. iChat. This instant messaging app will now have better audio quality with AAC-LD (LD stands for low delay), and other features such as tabbed chat, Photobooth effects and iChat theater which allows you to show other people apps you’re working on).

Jobs is now using iChat to chat with Phil Schiller, senior vp of worldwide product marketing. Phil is showing Steve slideshow photos that Steve can then view full screen. Phil can click on pictures and transition through Keynote slides and Steve sees it in real time. (Phil does the same with a movie, but the movie does seem to have a few bandwidth issues – I wonder how well this will work outside of a high-bandwidth LAN.)

The new “Background” feature in iChat is also cool – you can put just about any scene behind you while you chat. You can also change your own appearance using Photobooth features. Phil makes himself look radioactive, flips himself upside down and then does the Star Wars hologram translucent effect. (The crowd goes wild for this.) For the last Photobooth effect, Phil shows that you can put your moving mouth behind a picture of someone else’s face. (Phil puts up a picture of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and says, “I love my Mac!” Funny bit of school-boy-type humor.)

10. Time Machine. “We are just walking time bombs waiting to happen” in terms of the danger of losing data, since so few of us back stuff up, Jobs says. Time Machine backs up everything you do to a local hard drive, networked server, or wirelessly to an external hard drive. (This is great! Seagate (STX) and Western Digital (WDC) should love this.) Jobs is now demonstrating it. Look back using Spotlight search, he clicks the “restore” button to bring back a document he “lost.” “The goal here is to build this in and make it so simple and so automatic that people actually use it,” Jobs says. That’s the end of the ten features.

Jobs about Leopard: “You’re getting a copy today.” (developers only, unfortunately.)

Jobs says the basic version of Leopard will cost $129. Premium version, $129. Business version, $129. Ultimate version, $129. (This dig on Microsoft Windows Vista elicits hoots from the crowd. Unlike Microsoft, Apple will have just one version of its new OS, for one price.)

One more thing ….

Safari, the web browser. Jobs says market share in browsers breaks down like this: Internet Explorer has 78 percent, Firefox 15 percent, Safari 5 percent. There will now be a Windows version of Safari, Jobs says. Safari 3 will run on Leopard, XP, and Vista.

Jobs is now displaying a chart that shows the speed of the three browsers. Using iBench data, he shows that Safari runs the HTML test in 2.2 seconds, Firefox in 3.7 seconds, Internet Explorer in 4.6 seconds. For the Javascript test, Safari takes .9 seconds, Firefox 1.6 seconds, IE 2.4 seconds.

Now Jobs is talking Safari distribution.

Jobs notes that there have been more than half a billion iTunes downloads, so Apple knows how to reach the broader Windows audience. Safari 3 is coming out today for Tiger and Leopard, and developers are getting Windows XP and Vista versions as well.

One last thing ….

Jobs is talking about the iPhone. It ships 18 days from today, and goes on sale at 6 p.m. on June 29, he says. “What about developers?” Jobs says. He says Apple has come up with a sweet solution for letting developers make apps for the iPhone while keeping the iPhone secure.

Jobs announces that the development environment will be based on Safari – Web 2.0 and AJAX apps. Developers will be able to build apps that make calls, send e-mails, etc. And they’ll have instant distribution – developers can just put the apps on their Internet servers and anyone will be able to get to them. The apps also will be secure, and will be “sandboxed” on the iPhone, Jobs points out, so they won’t be able to harm the phone outside of its browser. There’s no SDK – developers can go live with their web-based iPhone apps on June 29.

Scott Forstall, vp of iPhone software, comes up to demo an iPhone app that uses web technologies. (This should cause some shivers at Adobe Systems (ADBE), since this approach sort of undermines its Apollo effort. On the other hand, I assume Adobe Flex will help people develop such iPhone apps, so maybe it’s not all bad.)

Forstall is demoing “Apple Directory,” an internal address book app Apple built that lets Apple employees sift through Apple’s corporate directory. (It seems to me that this is a somewhat limiting approach to developing iPhone apps; there will be bandwidth and coverage issues, and I wonder whether this stuff will work well when the iPhone’s signal is weak.)

Forstall points out that web-based iPhone apps can interact with the built-in Google (GOOG) Maps application. This (perhaps unintentionally) underlines the fact that Google is a first-class iPhone developer, and other developers are not. If this web-based app development strategy is so great, then why didn’t Google build Google Maps that way? Why is Google Maps a built-in iPhone application instead? Maybe there are answers to that question, and I’m sure developers will be asking during the conference this week.

Jobs is now wrapping up the keynote. He mentions again that there are 1,200 Apple engineers on site, almost four for every developer.

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