My Apple WWDC 2006 Thoughts

My Apple WWDC 2006 Thoughts

So it is both over and just starting … the week of WWDC was once again kicked off by Steve Jobs in grand fashion — showing off the most drool-worthy new piece of hardware, the MacPro, I have seen in a long time. I am not sure it is enough to pull out of MacBook Pro land, but it is sweet … It was also great that Steve once again decided to give us a taste of what is to come and promise that there is more to Mac OSX.5 than what they are willing to show. For my dollar it was just as interesting for the features of the forthcoming 10.5 release than what they didn’t show. In an interesting twist, Mr. Jobs decided to not show off some of the more advanced features of the next version of the Mac OS … instead saying it was time to let the ever OS-designing folks from Microsoft think different on their own. Jobs actually said, “we don’t want (Microsoft) to start their photocopiers.” Interesting move — but even Apple let the cat out of the bag that their timeline had sliped to Spring 07.

The few 10.5 features that they did show were interesting to say the least — the new iChat capabilities just blew me away! The ability to deliver a Keynote from anywhere was just off the charts … it did leave me wondering though in the age of podcasting if GarageBand or iMovie would be able to capture all that and compress it down to an iTunes (U) capable version — wishful thinking, but if I had any say all these new features would be recordable so we could deliver amazing opportunities. The Time Machine concept is slick, but it left me wondering how some “pro” Mac folks would feel about the overuse of GUI elements. The new Spaces capability is welcomed and will give us on the little MacBook and MBP the needed real estate to do the crazy things we like with our machines. Of them all, Mail seems to be the most geared towards me — the ability to easily flag and notate items will be wonderful (although I am getting by quite nicely with the MailTags plugin installed). All in all it was a good array of features to show off.

There are other consumer level things, but let me talk briefly about the pro line of things — maybe the backoffice. The xServe has been in need of an upgrade and it got it … the killer things from Apple today (in my estimation) are the Mac OSX Server upgrades coming … if you haven’t seen the list you need to check it out … iCal server, Wiki service, and the killer app, the Podcast Producer. Not a whole lot of detail, but if it is the setup I listened to an engineer discuss months ago then this is a real killer edu app. Take a peek for yourself and think about the possibilities. When we get our hands on that, all bets are off for easy classroom capture. This may be a turning point for Mac OSX Server … time will tell.
So it was a good day … I have staff at WWDC preparing for a week long learning experience. I am hoping we get answers to a few questions and are ready to attack new opportunities upon return. Tim, just remember to pick me up some goodies while you are there and come back with some info! It was a good start to another interesting trip down innovation lane.

10 thoughts on “My Apple WWDC 2006 Thoughts

  1. Jobs went a bit overboard with the MS bashing. Greatness overcomes mediocrity without additional hype. Ok, that ain’t really true (think Betamax video), but great engineering should speak for itself.

    Meanwhile, that was an impressive show. OS X Server is already a beast, the new stuff is icing. The client seems equally impressive, but as you say, the most interesting stuff has to be what was hidden during the keynote. Gotta be some monstrous virtualization stuff. Time Machine is so obvious it’s a wonder it hasn’t appeared sooner. Might replace my iPod RAID array (yes, my old iPods are doing RAID duty).

    The big thing for me was the Mac Pro. I run a dual 2.5GhZ G5 at home, thought she was fast till I got the MacBook Pro. Been running major code on ol’ girl lately, data mining stuff that’d take 6-7 hours to complete. Haven’t seen the benchmarks on the 3GhZ Xeon quads yet, but I’m guessing it’ll be like Hall and Oates said: Watch out boy, she’ll chew you up.

    2-4 weeks to ship. Looking forward to that sucka.

  2. That machine will be sick. I am still not 100% sure I need it — yet. You on the other hand can actually put it to use. Looks like there are some very interesting things in play this time. I never thought of turning iPods into a RAID … I might do that with my original. Looking forward to hearing about the speed of that new machine … lucky.

  3. Hey Cole,

    Speaking of the “killer App” for podcasting, I created a similar program last year that is currently being used by the University of South Carolina that does exactly what Apple is claiming: It records audio and video podcasts using just a mac and an iSight camera. It can be manually controlled like Apple’s product but can also be scheduled to automatically record for a set length of time (for example: your class meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 2-3:15, you can schedule it to record then so the professor never has to think about it). The files are all processed and uploaded to the internet within seconds after the class ends. I submitted it for the ADA’s this year and I suspect it was not selected because they have this product coming out (not to mention the fact I was approached by Apple about the software last November). Here is the informational flyer I put together for it: http://digital.georgetown.edu/private/jss/dotcast/usccast.pdf

    I would be glad to help you with it if you are interested.

    -Joel

  4. Joel … that is slick! I would be interested in striking up a conversation about this. Great PDF and approach, BTW. Would you be interested in talking to myself and members of my team?

  5. Cole,

    I’d be glad to talk with you about it soon. You can e-mail me (shieldss at gmail dot com) and I’ll write back with more info.

    Talk to you soon,

    -Joel

  6. The Lectopia system (formerly called iLectures) http://lectopia.uwa.edu.au/ actually does all Podcast Producer does and far more as well. It is an enterprise-class lecture recording and publishing system that has been around for about 5 years now and is used by Duke University to fill all those iPods they give out free to their students. Lectopia is also used by a third of the universities in Australia and New Zealand. Some universities have 40 to 50 lecture venues equipped with the automatic recording system. One Australian university is planning to equip 150 lecture rooms with the system.

    At the start of semester, lecturers book their lectures for semester and then on the day walk in and turn on the mic. That triggers the system to start recording. At the end of their lecture they just walk out and multi-format versions of their lecture are automatically published to their website (WebCT, Blackboard etc), podcast to students’ iPods, and published to the iTunes U without any human intervention. Very simple from a lecturer’s perspective.

    Here are some of Lectopia’s features:

    – Web-based scheduling of automated recording of lectures in a large number of venues
    – Hi-res Screen capture of whatever is shown on the data projector synchronised with audio from the venue sound system
    – document camera recording support for those lecturers who still like to use an OHP
    – Automatic podcasting
    – Automatic publishing to iTunes U
    – Publishing in multiple formats including Quicktime, Windows media, MP3, 3GP (for mobile phones), MPEG-4 etc, in streaming, downloadable and podcast video and audio formats etc
    – web-based booking, administration and monitoring
    – Powerpoint upload option to display lecture slides alongside audio or video recordings with multiple PDF versions also provided to users.
    – Mac-based back end using a grid of Xserves for Compression, publishing, streaming etc
    – Mac or PC based Digitiser machine located in each lecture theatre (usually in the AV rack) meaning no software needs be installed on the presenter’s computer
    – Next release to allow dual-video recording providing talking head video alongside the screen recording of the presenter’s computer.
    – Portable manual recording option using webcam laptops for those venues that don’t have the system built-in.

    We use it at my institution and find it to be an excellent fully automated system: http://ilectures.curtin.edu.au

    -Mart

  7. Mart … we’ll be giving that a look! I knew Duke had been using something like this and had heard mixed thoughts. I wonder how hard it is to get an evaluation of the technology for a pilot?

  8. Cole,
    The Lectopia guys might be able to set you up with a copy of the Lectopia digitiser software connecting to one of their servers so you can get a feel for it. Bandwidth may make it difficult, but it’s worth asking them. Their email address is: info@lectopia.uwa.edu.au

    Unless you have a VGA capture card, you won’t be able to get a full appreciation of the screen recording power of the system, but it also works well with other inputs such as webcams, DV video cameras or even just plain audio inputs.

    The real power of the system is the web-based scheduling, administration and monitoring which together with the hands-off automated recording in venues allows it to scale to so many venues without overloading support staff or requiring any extra work from academics who generally don’t want yet more things to do in preparing and delivering a lecture series. The system also builds the web pages where the multi-format recordings for each lecture and unit are delivered so the academics don’t even have to do that.

    Another upcoming feature of Lectopia is an option for the digitiser in a venue to be controlled by an AMX touch screen or similar so a lecturer can start and stop and monitor recordings straight from the lecture theatre lectern even though the Digitiser is closeted away in the AV rack.

    -Mart

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