WWDC 2013

After half a year of almost total radio silence, Apple came out swinging this week with a two hour keynote that had a lot to prove.  The bullet point recaps are everywhere online, so instead let’s look at a few major themes from the presentation.

Design

Mobile and desktop technology have evolved in the mainstream to the point where the term “fashion” can be used with a straight face.  Apple’s message this week was that the current version of iOS looks dated, inconsistent and, well, out of fashion.  What’s interesting here is that Apple also seem to acknowledge that they may not always be the trendsetter in this regard.  There’s a lot of the Google+ aesthetic throughout the new mobile OS, and certain navigation elements have a Windows Phone feel to it.  Functionally iOS 7 borrows some tricks from all the competitors (not to mention iPhone jailbreak hacks and WebOS) and tries to refine and redefine them into a cohesive experience.  It will be interesting to see how this new iOS evolves by the time it ships.

On the hardware side, Apple released the long awaited Mac Pro.  Say what you will about its lack of expandability or the trash can/R2-D2/Pringles can look- this machine is unlike anything anyone else has ever released.  It represents everything Apple stands for- it’s bolder in design than the 2000 Cube as it breaks with the past more than the original 1998 iMac.  This is a machine that virtually anyone would recognize from 20 yards away.

Secrecy

Seriously, how did Apple manage to keep the lid on the Mac Pro considering how long it’s been in development?  Last year Tim Cook claimed that Apple was going to “double down” on secrecy, and it looks like he was successful in that regard.  Across the board Apple was able to keep a lid on things like no keynote since the original iPhone.

Apple after Jobs

Not to dwell too much on the Mac Pro, but it struck me that this could very well be the first major piece of new hardware to emerge in an Apple after Jobs.  It’s possible that the iPad mini beat it to the punch, but this is more than just a shrunken-down version of an existing product.  If anyone was wondering whether Apple still had the ability to push the norms than this box puts that to rest.

In many ways I feel like this was truly the first post-Jobs keynote, even though technically it was not.  There was a confidence in the presenters that seemed to stem from new ideas and new creations, ones that originated after the company’s founder was gone.

Tim Cook

Speaking of confidence, Tim Cook has come into his own as Apple’s leading persona to the world.  I think back to the iPhone event in the fall of 2011, just before Jobs died.  I thought his performance was admirable under the circumstances, but it took him a while to really own it the way he did this past Monday- he was comfortable in the role and you could tell he was ready to swing back at the “Apple has lost its mojo” press stories swirling around his company.

Cook has also forged a new path that his predecessor might have disagreed with.  The firing of Scott Forstall and promoting Jony Ive to head up both software and hardware design is a clear break from the past.  Forstall was a brilliant but caustic personality that Jobs admired, and he was a strong proponent of the skeuomorphic touches of green felt and leather stitching that have been scrubbed from the new versions of OS X and iOS 7.

 

Apple has kicked off the second half of 2013 with what looks like an accelerated schedule of new releases and updates across most of their major projects, both hardware and software.  But perhaps more importantly we are starting to see signs of Apple transitioning into a post Steve Jobs existence.