So after a week of letting the WWDC Keynote sink in, I think I’m pretty excited about what’s coming over the next few months. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, my trusty Rev A MacBook Pro has seen its last major OS release with Snow Leopard but all good things must come to an end. Some of the changes with respect to iCloud make me worry about a couple things, but there’s more on that in a bit.
I think it’s a little early for everyone to start completely hyperventilating over everything that was announced. It’s certainly not too early for everyone’s favorite troll to dismiss lion as the latest in "a decade’s worth of minor, purely evolutionary updates."
Let’s break this down…
OS X Lion
As a heavy user of Spaces, Mission Control looks like a nice improvement. Gestures will be welcomed, although there’s bound to be some confusion with the inverted scrolling. Airdrop will be nice for sharing things between my wife and I when we’re both working on something, but its reliance on zero-config (aka bonjour) networking will make sure that none of that will work at a big company office.
Launchpad isn’t something that interests me, but for people like my mother who kind of struggled with OS X but loves her iPad it will be great. Full screen apps (as well as resizing a window from anywhere) justifiably gets some eye-rolls from anyone who’s used Windows for the past 20 years but there’s a difference. Full screen means full screen. There isn’t some janky 3 pixel bright blue border around the edge, nor is there a task bar or menu bar at the top. It’s a subtle, but important distinction which is much nicer on the eyes for the user than the traditional maximized window. Oh…seeing the terminal in full screen was pretty badass. Full screen takes care of the kids running laptops, but those of us with giant displays still have to turn to third party tools like Better Snap Tool to help tile windows neatly.[^windowsnap] Now to the two big ones..
Mail on Snow Leopard and prior really kind of sucks. Not in the same way that Outlook sucks, but it’s certainly not one of the things that I cite to people who are interested in OS X. There is even something that seems lacking about Mail on iOS. The new version looks really slick, bringing in things like message threading, and therefore the ability to wipe out an overloaded mailbox in no time at all. Even bigger is search.
First a brief sidenote. I’ve spent hundreds of hours working with folks in all kinds of jobs sort through and search for mail. I’ve seen just about every kind of folder structure and scheme that you can think of. Even the most type-a engineer type still fails in some area, whether it be in sent items or deleted items you always end up turning to search in some way. 99% of the time, this means turning to the built in search in Outlook. I could write a thousand words just about the number of ways in which Outlook (2003, 2007 and 2010) utterly fail at this incredibly important task. In short, I would really like to be an email searching snob if there was any desktop email client that was well done.
When I was watching the keynote, I was one of those people that was making noises like a 4 year old on Christmas morning when they demonstrated search. It’s not just the fact that Boolean searching is there for nerds who know that syntax. It’s the fact that they made building the query easy and flexible. My goodness it even suggests similar terms based on messages in the database. Are you kidding me? iCal can continue to suck as hard as it does now, and OS X still would be possibly the best OS for people who do a lot of email…Exchange or IMAP.
At this point, things are looking great from the perspective of an attorney working in e-discovery. Then the other stuff happened.
Auto Save and Versioning
Auto Save is going to be a little more difficult for users to adjust to. Since the days of Windows 3.1, we’ve all been conditioned to save your work all the time. Some of the early screenshots had even removed the Command+S shortcut and option in the file menu. Whoa there. That’s a bit of a jump. Much like my perspective on iCloud, I’m conflicted about automatic versioning.
As an individual user, this is going to be nice. Not earth shattering, just nice. As someone who works in e-discovey this makes me want to crawl into the corner and weep. Even though “tracked changes” in Word are grossly misunderstood and feared in the legal community, their actual prevalence in data sets is relatively small. Now, tracked changes aren’t even an option. Sure, there’s no way to accidentally send your revision history to a professor, thereby proving that you didn’t do anything in that honors English class until the last day of final exams. The problem is that now lawyers have to figure out how to deal with all these revisions. Since they’re stored as deltas instead of full documents, can we open the prior versions on their own? Is there a duty to produce all of the revisions under a regular document request? It just makes my head hurt.
I can’t tell yet whether I’m excited about iCloud or not. On one hand, it will be nice to have some seamless communication between iOS and OS X. On the other, I understand the file system and approach things in terms of projects instead of contexts. iCloud document storage will be great for people who open documents from the list of recently opened files, but for nerds who like to woller around in their perfect little file system it’s really going to mess with people’s heads.
The impact on e-discovery is unknown. Obviously the file has to live somewhere, it’s just a matter of poking around with Lion once it comes out to find them. Security should be interesting, although I have as much confidence in Apple’s security in transit as I do Dropbox.
I’ll admit that I’ve been a MobleMe user since the iPhone was released. Essentially I’ve been paying $99 a year to sync my contacts, which is way too much. It also gives me some perspective on how well Apple has done with internet based services. The short version is that they completely suck. iDisc sounded nice, but somehow ended up being worse than carrying around a thumb drive. Back to my Mac didn’t even work for the first 6 months or so after it was released and it’s still pretty spotty. Calendar syncing hasn’t ever really worked well, but I’ll blame that on iCal as much as the servers trying to glue all of these crappy calendars together.
The iTunes store, on the other hand, seems to work without a hitch. This makes me pretty darn optimistic about iTunes in the cloud. As someone who has to share a wireless circuit with over a hundred people going through a 3Mb pipe when I’m at the office, streaming isn’t really a good option so being able to grab albums from my library a-la-carte on my laptop is going to be just fine.
iTunes Match is huge and as I’ve been browsing through the iTunes store, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how little I’ll have to upload myself. Almost all the Dick’s Picks and a ton of Widespread Panic shows are up there and ready to go. Negotiating what is in effect amnesty for the millions of people out there who have acquired music through ripping CDs against the record industry’s wishes is great. There are some people who are concerned that this is some kind of trap for the RIAA to identify pirated music, but if that was going to happen it would have happened when iTunes added album artwork or the whole Genius concept. That said, a clear privacy statement from Apple before the thing goes live will be nice.
Overall, there are some really neat things coming out soon for those of us living in the Apple ecosystem.
The Big Picture
What Apple is doing is really making corporate IT departments look bad. People are starting to realize that using a computer doesn’t have to be the hell on earth experience that is working in the Windows/Office environment at work. Legacy “enterprise” software packages unfortunately mean that for most organizations Windows will continue to linger for quite some time, but if you’re a user who spends most of their time working with a connection to Exchange and writing documents, OS X is probably a better OS than Windows. If the new Mail doesn’t completely destroy the Exchange server, then why not run OS X as the desktop operating system with virtual machines for those Windows tools that we just can’t shed?
Really…I love you guys but wow. You did use MobileMe, right?↩
It amazes me how wrong someone can be, no matter how clear their bias is. None of the people I know who have dumped Windows in favor of OS X did so because of what the hardware looks like. That includes nerds like myself and my parents alike. As is usual, great use of the straw-man though.↩
In one of the funniest moments of the keynote, Phil Shiller was interrupted by excited nerds in the crowd. His reaction was classic: “Boolean searches! Yes…it’s okay to be excited about that.” I suppose that’s when you know that you’re talking to a bunch of nerds.↩
No…that’s not really that much confidence but everything’s a trade off.↩