WWDC 2009: Apple gets serious

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Apple's 3G S tour now live UPDATED

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So we got the big reveal: a new iPhone, some hidden tricks in Snow Leopard and the iPhone OS, a lot of rumor run-up and, most importantly, a Jobs-less keynote. In the end we saw another incremental keynote, a session of chest-beating (Palm’s “18 Pre apps in its app store” slide got quite a chuckle and I heard a man audibly orgasm when he heard about the compass app) and announcements that rehashed what we already know and confirmed rumors.

The takeaway here is that the old Apple way of doing business is unchanged under the current regime although, as evidenced by a few extemporaneous remarks by the presenters and some technical failure, Jobs’ absence made everyone let down their guard a little. Again, these guys were preaching to the converted. Everyone in the room clapped to almost everything, something you rarely hear at other events of this nature. They goofed a little during a few presentations and goofed off a little between slides, but on the whole it was a well-oiled machine.

As for the products, none of the announcements were groundbreaking. Snow Leopard does not change Leopard cosmetically (the big changes aren’t plainly visible, unlike Leopard) but adds a few features including Exchange support and a more powerful search and processing engine to Leopard, making it a contender for the business desktop. This flows directly into iPhone 3.0 which adds search, voice commands, and video (when applicable) to the iPhone package. We saw the certification of both platforms – the iPhone and the Mac laptop/desktop line – as mature business environments. Encryption, for example, on the iPhone will convince the folks in IT allow the CEO to carry his iPhone around the world with him.

What is extremely clear is that this WWDC was about business. Games were well-represented but all of the upgrades to each platform are a move to head Windows 7 off at the pass. At $29 the upgrade is basically free when compared to similar upgrade paths between Tiger and Leopard and XP to Win7 or Vista.

The 3G S is harder to place in a business context, but it fits. It’s faster and has better battery life and the business and medical apps we saw were quite impressive. By creating an iPhone that promises encryption and turn-by-turn directions – a phone that can get you to the bar and then remotely self-destruct when you leave it in the booth.

So this was the business show. It might not have been as exciting as we would have liked but this time around Apple aimed squarely at the cubicle and, more importantly, Windows 7.

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