In the grand scheme of things, nothing really very surprising was announced at the WWDC 09 keynote; sure, we got a few hardware revisions and some more specific details on the next version of OS X, but there wasn’t anything singularly shattering about it. And yet, when taken as a whole, I think it was one of the most important WWDC’s yet.
A speed increase, more memory, better battery life, better camera, addition of a compass so it can know which direction you’re facing as well as where you are. All fairly minor but no doubt welcome changes. But, in my view perhaps the more important fact is that following the release, the previous standard 3G revisions are being sold off for $99; I think that’s going to make a big difference in the number of people taking up the iPhone. I didn’t pick one up because of the price (especially because we get screwed on it over here, since we have no O2 to subsidise it), but had it been a $99 base price - well, that’s a lot easier. Being able to offer an iPhone to a wider range of buyers is certain to give more steam to the iPhone popularity train.
More speed & RAM, FireWire 800 is back (no use to me, but some people missed it), SD card slots are in, and perhaps more importantly, Lithium-polymer battery tech is in, for up to 7 hours on the go. Sweet. Interestingly, the entry-level MacBook is now replaced by the 13-inch MacBook Pro, with the same overall design but just lower specs. This allowed Apple to claim that the MacBook Pros now start cheaper, but really they don’t - the 15 inch (the one you’d really want to start at as a power user) is exactly the same price as before. Actually, it has dropped in price, but back to the same price as the 15″ MBP was in 2007, when I last bought one. 2008’s unibody design came with a price increase, so this decrease puts it back to how it was, hence my confusion.[/edit] But still, a faster chip, double the memory and bigger HD are welcome for the same price; I’m glad I didn’t buy a unibody yet, but I’ll definitely be tempted by the new ones.
The MacBook Air however did get a set of serious price cuts; they’re impractical for me still, despite being sexy as hell, but I’m sure people that don’t need so much local power and who desire sleek looks will be very happy.
We already knew that Snow Leopard would be basically a leaner, meaner version of Leopard with go-faster stripes and a few feature tweaks. The big announcement was that Apple would be releasing the upgrade for a mere $29 (or $49 for the multi-machine family pack), which was very well received. That basically makes it a no-brainer for all users, I know I’ll be upgrading soon after launch.
Most importantly, it’s a big contrast to the price that Microsoft want to charge for the Windows 7 upgrade, which contains roughly the same degree of change over Vista as Snow Leopard has over Leopard (although Leopard is a more efficient base than Vista is - does that make W7 worth more as an upgrade?). It’s rumoured that a Home Premium upgrade for W7 will be around $50, and a Professional upgrade about $100. Of course, OS X has no ‘graduations’ like Windows has, where you don’t get everything in the OS unless you buy an expensive ‘Ultimate’ version - OS X is just OS X (personally, that lack of fannying about with variable feature sets is attractive to me as a customer). This is an obvious attempt to undermine Microsoft’s claim to be the ‘value’ player in the OS market, and frankly, it’s a good argument. Of course, you still can’t buy cheap-and-cheerful hardware to run OS X on like you can with Windows, but when I shell out $100 per machine for my Windows 7 Pro upgrade but only $29, or $49 for up to 5 Snow Leopard upgrades, hell yeah I’m going to notice the difference.
So, I think despite the lack of shattering announcements, this was an important WWDC for Apple, a consolidation move which in many ways is more important. Despite the often fiercely held opinions of people who haven’t even used them, Apple products are generally pretty damn good, and earn brand loyalty for a reason. Making them more accessible can only lead to more people trying them, and perhaps coming to conclusions for themselves, rather than just writing them off based on what they’ve heard from other people who haven’t used them either. 😉