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According to Hoyle...

WWDC 2008 Preview

June 2008

by Jonathan Hoyle




Once again, we are bumping our investigation of retro-computing so as to give a preview of this year's Apple Worldwide Developer's Conference, the annual conference about which the entire Macintosh programming world revolves. Note that this June article is written at the end of May, prior to the start of the conference. Those of you reading this after June 9th will have far more information available about the conference. This is a preview based upon information available to me at the time of this writing. Next month's column will cover more in-depth the actual announcements made at this conference.



Sell-out Crowd


On May 14th, Apple announced that WWDC completely sold out, the first time in this conference's history. With over 5,000 attendees planning to come, the Moscone Center fire and safety regulations require closing out any more ticket sales. Those with spare WWDC e-tickets have been selling them on Ebay, with winning prices much higher than the original purchase price. (One sold his ticket for $3550, more than double the original purchase price.) Those developers with ADC Premiere memberships each get a free WWDC e-ticket with their purchase. Those companies with these free tickets, and who are not planning to attend, may find that selling their unused tickets works out to everyone's advantage.



Here, kitty kitty kitty...


So, assuming the conference does indeed introduce the next version of Mac OS X, what codename will Apple use? Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger and Leopard were the names for versions 10.0 - 10.5, respectively. I doubt very much Apple will break from the big cat tradition with 10.6. The smart money is on Cougar or Lynx, as these are names that Apple has trademarked but not yet used. Cougar seems to be the most likely, but Lynx is a smaller, lighter cat, one which may fit more closely with their iPhone strategy. But what if Apple does not wish to yet broach the topic of 10.6 yet? Perhaps this year will cover smaller Mac changes, a Mac OS X 10.5.5 maybe? If so, it would seem a waste to use up another cat name for a half upgrade. Snow Leopard could be used, as the snow leopard is truly a different species from the leopard, yet the Leopard trademark may still apply. I find this an unlikely scenario, but if it does turn out to be Snow Leopard, remember you heard it here first! :-)


It's also possible that Apple will not address the next version of the operating system at all, as Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard has been out for only a short time. This happened seven years ago at WWDC 2001, as it was essentially a repeat of WWDC 2000 (due to the fact that Mac OS X 10.0 had been released just two months earlier in March 2001). However, I find this scenario unlikely also. Apple always has something on the back burner, and I am sure that it is in Apple's best interest to get developers excited about the future.


Assuming for the moment that Mac OS X 10.6 will indeed be introduced, I think that it is extremely probable that this new operating system will be Intel-only. With Power Macintoshes being resource-stretch just to run 10.5 Leopard, it seems unreasonable to assume that 10.6 will run any better on such hardware. By the time 10.6 ships, it is likely that no PowerPC-based Macintosh will be younger than 5 years old. For this reason alone, Apple will probably do well if they optimize their next OS to be Intel-only.



Just for the Phone of It


Looking at Apple's preliminary schedule for WWDC, and there is no mistaking that the iPhone will be a big deal this year. After having to eat crow from last year's blunder of offering no iPhone SDK, Apple has made a 180-degree turnaround. It appears that the Cocoa API will be extended to include iPhone development, based upon the cross-over sessions listed for both iPhone and Mac. Mobile Computing is the operative phrase this year, and it is pretty exciting to think that with little effort, Mac developers can compile apps that may perhaps run on both iPhone and Mac OS X 10.6.



The Full Deprecation of Carbon


Well, here it finally comes: The Death of Carbon.


It's not like this was unexpected. Apple has been slowly killing the Carbon API for years now. Even when it gave birth to Carbon, it did so begrudgingly. At WWDC 1997, Apple attempted set the future of Mac OS with Rhapsody, a Mac port of the NeXTStep operating system. Rhapsody had Yellow Box (the equivalent of Cocoa) and Blue Box (its equivalent of Classic), but no Carbon. Rhapsody was rejected by the Macintosh development community since it required all Mac applications to be completely rewritten from scratch in Objective-C to be native. The following year, Apple changed direction to Mac OS X, a mixture of Rhapsody and Mac OS which contained Carbon, an API evolved from the standard Mac Toolbox. Carbon allowed developers to transition their Classic applications to Mac OS X. Although Apple continued to push the benefits of c, the vast majority of the Mac community stuck with Carbon. With each passing year, relatively more functionality was added to the Cocoa API, but Carbon continued to be embraced by developers. A major blow came to Carbon Developers at last year's WWDC, when Apple reversed its decision to extend the Carbon API to the 64-bit arena. 64-bit apps must be rewritten in Cocoa. Furthermore, Senior Vice President of Apple Software Engineering Bertrand Serlet made the following ominous statement: "There will come a time when we will stop investing in Carbon". I believe that time is now.


It is also my belief that all new functionality available in Mac OS X 10.6 will be Cocoa-only, and the entire Carbon API will be officially deprecated. Although well behaved Carbon apps ought to continue to run just fine in 10.6, they will be living on leased time. But Mac developers wishing to take full advantage of mobile computing will have no choice but make the jump to Cocoa and Objective-C.



Introducing Xcode 3.1 and gcc 4.2.


Apple has published its preliminary sessions for WWDC 2008, and at Tuesday 3:30 is Session 907: New Compiler Technology and Future Direction, which discusses Xcode 3.1 and its updated compiler gcc 4.2. Version 4.2 is a great improvement over 4.0.1 (the version Apple is currently using in Xcodes 2 & 3), particularly as it includes OpenMP, a compiler API with impressive multiprocessor support. Last November's According to Hoyle... column covered gcc 4.2 in more detail, so I invite those interested to visit that article. In addition, Xcode 3.1 will include LLVM compiler technology as well.


Will Xcode 3.1 be available for Leopard, or will this be a 10.6 and higher development environment? One would imagine that a compiler version for the next big OS would be named Xcode 4, or at least Xcode 3.5. However, such a big underlying change does not seem likely to go into a simple dot upgrade. We should know soon enough, but I am hoping that gcc 4.2 capabilities will be available for the Leopard developer.



Special Events


It seems Apple is still trying to decide how to handle Friday, the last day of the conference. No events are scheduled on that evening of course, since many people are flying back. Friday sessions tend to be lightly attended, especially the afternoon ones. In 2006, Apple decided that Friday attendance was too small to warrant a full day, so it ended the conference midday, not even providing lunch. Well, that simply caused defections to take place earlier, with few Friday morning attendees, and many people leaving Thursday night. (How is it that the geniuses who invented the MacBook and iPod could not see something that obvious coming?) So, in 2007, they returned to a full Friday schedule.


This year, they have done something in between: they've kept Friday lunch and the first afternoon session (2:00PM), but dropped the remaining two (3:30PM and 5:00PM) time slots. I am not sure that this is a smart move, although keeping the Friday lunch was a good idea. I will not be flying back until Saturday, so I would have been happy to stay for two more sessions. We'll have to wait and see how Apple plans WWDC '09's Friday schedule to know how successful this year's strategy went.


Lunchtime speakers are back for Wednesday through Friday, which is very nice. Why not Tuesday? I am not sure. There is no pre-announcement as of yet for the topics of these lunch talks. Perhaps they will be announced during the Stevenote? These lunchtime sessions have been hit and miss in past WWDC's, the finest being the memorable Tim O'Reilly talk back in 2002. I expect to see these and will report back next month.


The evening events remain much same as they were in previous years: ADC Reception for schmoozing on Monday night, the Design Awards, Stump the Experts & the Scientific Poster Session on Wednesday night, and capping off with the Apple Party on Thursday night. Oddly, no events are scheduled for Tuesday evening (the second year in a row with a night off). Why this is the case is a bit of a mystery to me. Why not split up all the Wednesday events across both Tuesday & Wednesday (as they had in 2006)? Tuesday night is too early for rebroadcasts of repeat sessions. Could there be an Apple surprise awaiting that night? That is what many of the attendees suspected last year when we read the intriguing "To Be Announced" as the only event listed for Wednesday evening. Sadly, there was no announcement, and all were left with an anticlimactic disappointment. I am not expecting much better this year, but I hope I am proved wrong here. In any case, Tuesday has no lunchtime nor evening events currently scheduled.


For the second year running, the Apple Party will be held right there in San Francisco, at Yerba Buena Gardens, across the street from the Moscone West Convention Center. Formerly known as the Apple Campus Bash, this event was a party which Apple hosted on its Cupertino campus (usually on Thursday night) with music, food and drink. When WWDC was held in San Jose, buses would run continually all night between the Convention Center and Cupertino, making it very easy for the two to three thousand attendees to come and go as they please. The Apple (Employee) Store on campus was left open after hours so that developers could buy souvenirs of their visit.


Beginning with 2003, WWDC was moved to San Francisco to accommodate the conference's ballooning size. This caused a change in the bussing strategy, as a ride to Cupertino went from 15 minutes to nearly an hour each way. I, for one, stopped going to the party for this reason. With each year's attendance breaking the previous year's record, it finally became a logistically impossible to continue, so beginning in 2007, the party was moved to San Francisco, and I was able to attend (the first time since 2002). Apple also brought a mini version of their store to the Convention Center, so we developers could still get our souvenirs.



"WWDC Plays Your Favorite Hits!"


With the announcement of WWDC's being sold out, the following was also mentioned: "Session videos will be available to purchase oniTunes shortly after the conference. More details will be available soon." This is an interesting turn of events. Since Apple cannot accommodate everyone wishing to physically attend, it can at least make money selling session videos to these missed customers. Would these be $1.99 per session downloads? Or would all sessions become available by buying the "album" at one high price? It's too early to tell, but it could certainly be a great way for Apple to get its developer information out there.


In years past, Apple would sell video and audio tapes of its WWDC sessions at the conclusion of the conference. I recall in the 1990's, prices along the lines of about $30-35 for a video tape and around $10-15 for an audio. Beginning with the 1998 conference (the one which introduced Mac OS X), sessions became available free to view online, through QuickTime streaming. From 2001-2004, Apple provided attendees with DVD sets of the QuickTime movies from conference (you can see these sets crop up on Ebay from time to time). In 2005, Apple stopped shipping the DVD sets and made the videos available to download via iTunes, at no charge to attendees or those with Premiere ADC memberships. This continued for 2006 and 2007.


I assume that WWDC 2008 attendees will continue to have access to these videos, although I have no confirmation to that supposition. But Apple's willingness to sell these videos online to non-attendees shows a change in Apple's focus. Up until now, Apple was concerned that by making these videos available generally, it might potentially risk lowering attendance to the conference itself. Now that Apple has more interested people that it can possibly accommodate, it no longer seems necessary to restrict these videos. It is analogous to NFL blacking out games that didn't sell out. So those of you not attending (but wish you were), you will be able to download and experience many of these sessions as well.



Coming Up Next Month: A full review of WWDC 2008. See you in 30!



To see a list of all the According to Hoyle columns, visit: