Boom

Stacks and spinApple’s Worldwide Developer Conference is going on this week, with Steve Jobs’ keynote this morning. Nothing particularly earth-shattering was announced, but the stuff they did show was cool enough.

I was surprised by my own reaction to the new desktop demo. There’s nothing particularly compelling there, and the transparent menubar is unpleasantly Vista-like, but seeing the demo of the new “Stacks” inexplicably filled me with glee. I’ve been looking for something that does exactly that, and the Apple version is plenty slick. Buying OS X upgrades is mandatory in the Spectre Collie household, so I wasn’t looking for anything to convince me to buy Leopard; I was only looking for stuff that made me look forward to it slightly more.

Releasing Safari for Windows was a really welcome announcement. I tried it on my work machine and was amazed that it renders pages exactly the same as it does in OS X. I’d always just assumed ugly font handling was built into Windows and there was no escaping it, but there it is, running in XP and actually looking like I’m using a computer in 2007. The biggest selling point, of course, is that now the entire internet can see Spectre Collie exactly how it was intended to be seen, and the computer world’s long waking nightmare is at last over.

(And yeah, it’s petty, but his whole “Standard Version,” “Ultimate Version” spiel was pretty damn funny. Especially for those of us who’ve been spending time in the Vista trenches).

What’s not cool, though, is the unprecedented level of spin when it comes to the damn iPhone. Sure, Jobs is known across the internets for his “reality distortion field,” but it’s always been in the realm of good-natured criticism. Apple traditionally does a pretty good job with slick new releases that perform pretty well, and then Jobs comes in and then oversells them just a notch. A feature that would’ve just earned a “huh, that’s kind of cool” suddenly gets upgraded to “OMG THAT’S AWESOME WE LOVE YOU STEVE!!!!!!”

But even the reality distortion field can’t turn a turd into a diamond. It’s pretty insulting that they’d even try to. They’ve been roundly criticized for making the iPhone a closed system; it’s simply not a complete smart phone unless third parties can develop applications for it. Jobs held off mentioning the iPhone until the climax of his keynote, and then made the big dramatic announcement: the iPhone has a web browser!

They would’ve been a lot better off not mentioning it at all, because the end result just makes them look silly at best, intentionally deceptive at worst. “No SDK Required” the slide says. “Sweet.” “You can start building your apps today.” “You can run your applications on Safari until the hardware is released.” “An awesome way to write apps for iPhone.” Bull.

Requiring apps to run on a remote server makes distribution simple, they claim. What it does is makes it so you can’t run third-party apps without a network connection. So you’d better be near a WiFi hotspot, or be ready to pay AT&T’s likely exhorbitant data rates (which haven’t been announced yet, as far as I’ve seen). And forget running anything useful while you’re stuck on a plane flight.

Having no access to the local data store gives excellent security, they claim. What it means is that your apps can’t access anything that would be useful to have on a mobile device, like your To-Do list, calendar, notes, tracks on your iPod, or photos. Unless you want to keep them on a remote server and only have access to them when you’re connected to the internet.

They’ve been struggling to figure out how to support outside development without compromising security or network integrity, they claim. Which is total bullshit; they’ve been struggling to figure out how to avoid giving up any of Apple’s opportunities to sell stuff through the iTunes Store, and AT&T’s opportunities to charge users for as much data access as possible.

All for a device that’s already six hundred dollars plus a two-year contract.

I always thought Apple and I had an agreement. I would keep giving them more and more of my money, and they would provide me with fancy stuff that worked well, and not lie about it. That keynote really hurt. Now I just have to see if I can survive my birthday at the end of the month, two days before the release of the iPhone. When they release a new gadget that every rational part of my brain finds repulsive and a ludicrous waste of money, while the rest of me is drawn like a Visa card-carrying moth to flame. Hopefully there’ll be a run on them, and it’ll be impossible to get one, or else I’m going to enter July feeling really, really stupid.

7 thoughts on “Boom”

  1. Windows Safari has been crashing on me on every attempted launch, before even displaying a window. Of course, QuickTime for Windows stopped working last week, saying “Error cannot load QuickTime ActiveX control,” and iTunes for Windows currently, mysteriously, loads its installer/setup utility for 30 seconds with a progress bar saying something along the lines of “installing/configuring” before loading properly, every time I launch it, so something is clearly screwed up with Apple apps and my Windows install. The Internet is not helpful at resolving this problem, and oddly enough, neither is uninstalling and reinstalling all of my Apple-created apps. It’s a bummer.

    Glad Safari displays consistently across Mac and Windows. I am really really curious about this, because shitty browser-to-browser, OS-to-OS font support on the web is the bane of my professional existence, and I hope Apple really getting behind cross-platform browser consistency will maybe twist some arms (at least Mozilla’s arms) in that regard as well.

  2. Funny, I always though the ugly text rendering was built into the Mac; I was shocked to see it looked just as bad, with no way to turn off anti-aliasing. Seriously, the different perspectives are interesting.

    However, I actually think you’re not giving Apple enough credit here … the reason Safari is shipping for Windows, and the reason it renders pages just like the Mac version, is specifically for the iPhone. So they can make sure people who will never, ever buy an iPhone can make their web pages look pretty on it. And make their Javascript actually work on it.

    Okay, I’ve spent most of my day blogging and commenting on this, and I don’t even use my mac or ipod. back to work ….

  3. Funny, I always though the ugly text rendering was built into the Mac; I was shocked to see it looked just as bad, with no way to turn off anti-aliasing. Seriously, the different perspectives are interesting.

    If by “the different perspectives are interesting,” you mean “my opinion is completely in error” then yes, I agree with you. Text rendering on Windows machines looks like hairy, pimply ass. You can turn off the anti-aliasing in Windows Safari, though — in the preferences window there’s a “font smoothing” option. But gads, going from the text rendering in OS X to that of Windows is like going from an illuminated manuscript to an ImageWriter printout. I look at pages in Firefox under Windows and am confused because I didn’t remember traveling to the past.

    However, I actually think you’re not giving Apple enough credit here … the reason Safari is shipping for Windows, and the reason it renders pages just like the Mac version, is specifically for the iPhone.

    Sure, they do everything short of coming right out and saying that during the keynote. That doesn’t change the fact that with the “no SDK required!” development plan for the iPhone, they’re basically selling developers an empty box and then presenting slides bragging about how light the box is.

    …so something is clearly screwed up with Apple apps and my Windows install. The Internet is not helpful at resolving this problem, and oddly enough, neither is uninstalling and reinstalling all of my Apple-created apps.

    I haven’t had any problems with Windows Safari so far, but it doesn’t surprise me at all to hear other people are. The Apple apps for Windows look like they’re doing stuff with the system it just plain doesn’t want to do.

    Usually, I’m pedantic enough that it bugs me irrationally when developers break an OS’s GUI conventions, but I give Apple a pass in this case if it means I get a web browser on Windows that doesn’t make Mosaic look good in comparison.

  4. ” Text rendering on Windows machines looks like hairy, pimply ass.”

    You don’t have to be mean about it.

    I prefer aliased text on body fonts — for headlines and larger text I prefer anti-aliased; and for some reason anti-aliased fonts in Photoshop look great to me — but I have always turned off text anti-aliasing in OS control panels. Call me weird; insult my design aesthetic if you must, but it’s what I perfer. It may be that I have super-human vision, though.

    This is what bugged me about Safari (and IE7, for that matter): My OS has a control that lets me set my text rendering preference. However, Safari goes out of it’s way to ignore that setting, and then go a step further and *not allow me to turn aliasing off*. Safari has three types of blurry: light, strong, and medium, which is condescendingly labeled “best for flat panel”. I bet next that they’re going to tell me that the $1.49 Mega Big Gulp is the “best value”, too.

    Seriously, the anti-aliasing of small fonts on Safari makes the page rendering look blurry and amateurish to me.

    And this is not just me, there’s more on the font issue here: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000884.html

    Disclaimer: All hail Apple; Steve can do no wrong; Macs rule/PCs drool; yadda yadda ….

  5. Of the two examples at that link, I prefer the top one (supposedly the blurry and amateurish one) 1000%.

    And as for disregarding the OS UI conventions, I think the worst offense is that Apple doesn’t put OK buttons in dialogs for their Windows apps; you’re expected to just close it and accept that your changes “took,” like they do on a Mac. On a Windows machine, that just feels weird.

    Disclaimer: All hail Apple; Steve can do no wrong; Macs rule/PCs drool; yadda yadda ….

    Obviously, from the rest of this post, I only agree with 1 of those statements. Macs do rule, and PCs do, indeed, drool.

  6. I don’t know nothin’ ’bout no fonts rendering, but could you put a link to the Spectre Collie homepage in the Spectre Collie logo? Yeah, I know there’s a home link right under it, but I still prefer clicking on big-ass logos instead of medium-ass text.

  7. That’s been on my to-do list, but I never cared enough about it to do anything about it. I guess now that somebody’s mentioned it, I’ll have to fix it though.

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