For myself, I’m not particularly unhappy, because what we got instead wasn’t half bad: extremely fast new professional desktops, and a first peek at some very impressive new features in Apple’s upcoming revision to Mac OS X, Leopard. In particular, I’m really looking forward to Leopard’s Time Machine backup software, or at least I’m looking forward to seeing if it will complement my current, SuperDuper!-powered backup solution.
I’m also optimistic about Leopard’s Spaces, which in spite of the name, has nothing to do with social networking at all but is rather Apple’s slick implementation of the geek-popular virtual desktop concept. Though it’s bad news for the worthy virtual desktop contenders currently on the market — like Virtue and Desktop Manager — I’ve always preferred these kinds of major user interface enhancements being built right into the operating system (like Exposé or Dashboard). That is, provided Apple᾿s bakes in these features in a sufficiently developer-friendly way, allowing third party software publishers to integrate their applications smoothly with Spaces and even borrow functionality as appropriate. We’ll see.
On Their Calendar
But really, what I’m most excited about wasn’t announced during Steve Jobs᾿s keynote at all: Apple has decided to join the Calendaring and Scheduling Consortium, an organization devoted to “ interoperable exchange of calendaring and scheduling information between dissimilar programs, platforms, and technologies.” At the same time, Apple has already or will soon release an open source version of its iCal server technology, a WebDAV-based application that synchronizes calendar data kept in its iCal program. Read the Consortium’s press release.
This is boring stuff for most people, surely. But as I’ve said in the past, the pathetic current state of data synchronization is a constant thorn in my side. Apple’s newfound civic interest in this area shows that at least some people working in Cupertino are serious about improving this situation, and to me, that’s a cause for excitement. Also, without getting ahead of myself, I’m also going to hope out loud that this new effort will ultimately lead to improved synchronization of iCal data in Apple’s otherwise unimpressive .Mac service, which ostensibly keeps your personal data in sync across multiple Macintoshes. Once again, it’s giving me problems and refusing to sync easily. Excuse me while I go pull my hair out.
Desktop, Not Webtop
Speaking of .Mac, there’s something funny going on with the planned improvements to Apple’s Mail and iCal applications: they’re becoming more and more like Outlook. With Leopard, these programs will add notes, to do reminders and apparently more readily available synchronization of group calendars. Can a direct grab of some share of Microsoft’s horrifically popular Exchange server market be far behind?
What’s more intriguing to me is the idea that, in a time when personal information management features like these are steadily trending towards Web-based forms, Apple remains committed to the desktop. They could almost as easily have built these features into .Mac’s offerings instead, but they’ve integrated them into software that runs only on your local computer — in fact, they’re bundling the improvements to Mail and iCal directly into an operating system upgrade that will largely be popularized by hardware sales.
To be honest, I’m an old fogey in that I much prefer the speed and reliability of desktop applications over Web applications, so Apple’s resistance of this trend pleases me. But I think Apple is missing an opportunity here; just as they’re making the most of the fact that the operating system is so closely tied to their hardware, they could similarly make the most of that hardware/software combination tying in closely with a Web offering. More than a few people, I’m sure, would be ecstatic to see Mail and iCal working seamlessly off the desktop with Web-based counterparts that can be accessed from any browser. Call it .Mac 2.0 or whatever you like, but this is still untapped territory for Apple; there’s a killer set of hardware/software/Web features that only Apple can make happen, and it seems just out of reach. I suppose though, that it’ll all have to wait until after that Apple phone, the Apple TiVo and the large-screen video iPod are finally released.