Apple’s annual developers conference usually focuses on the future. But as far as Steve Jobs is concerned, the future for the Mac platform is now.
“I’ve stood before you for the past three years at these conferences telling you about the future,” the Apple CEO said during the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote in San Jose, California. “I’m pleased not to be telling you about the future again today, because we have OS X. I came to Apple almost four years ago, and one of the big reasons I came was because I didn’t want to use Windows for the rest of my life. That involved making some better hardware and software.”
Jobs was speaking to a sympathetic house. As soon as the doors opened 15 minutes before the keynote started, the crowd rushed in — stampeded, actually — obviously anxious to be as close to the stage as possible to get the latest news.
Jobs didn’t disappoint. Flanked by posters of artist Pablo Picasso and physicist Richard Feynman, he unveiled several new products — including a new 17-inch Cinema Display, updated versions of Mac OS X Server and WebObjects, and Macs with OS X preinstalled — and talked up Apple’s fortunes. But OS X made up the bulk of his presentation Monday.
“It’s so great to stand up in front of you and not talk about futures,” Jobs said. “In 58 days [since OS X’s release], we now have over 600 Mac OS X-native applications.”
X in Demand
It’s clear that Mac users are clamoring for the new operating system, said Jobs, citing a Macworld subscriber survey that found:
More important for the developers in attendance, the survey found that more than half of the respondents said they would switch from one product to another if it meant getting an OS X-native application sooner. In other words, Jobs said, the desire for OS X compatibility will overtake brand loyalty.
“This presents a problem for some people and an opportunity for others,” said Jobs, sending a clear message to developers that they should push ahead with plans to update their products for the new OS.
Apple has received 40,000 feedback suggestions since OS X’s March 24 release. The company has 1,000 employees now who are dedicated to improving the OS. “Your criticisms and feedback help us a lot,” Jobs said. “[But] we have a mountain to climb. The mountain is the number of OS X apps that will ship.”
Most applications will ship in the months between July 2001 and January 2002, said Jobs, adding that developers are an integral part of making that happen.
Jobs handed over the stage to two developers that have already shipped OS X-native applications. Tom Hale, senior vice president of marketing for Macromedia, showed off FreeHand 10. FileMaker president Dominique Goupil demonstrated FileMaker Pro 5.5 running on the new OS.
A Lesson in Cocoa
Jobs also brought out members of Apple’s own development team to show developers the ease with which they could build native Cocoa programs with OS X’s application builder.
“Cocoa is here to help you bring that next killer app to OS,” said Scott Forstall, director of application framework for Apple. “It allows you to develop applications faster.”
And indeed, Forstall did just that. By dragging and dropping preset buttons and functions into the application builder window and adding some custom code, he built a simple video-editing application in minutes. Forstall then dropped in video clips, added sound, and showed off a new QuickTime movie of his daughter’s vacation to Disneyland. Naturally, the crowd loved it.
“Interface Builder together with Cocoa allows you to go from very simple to very complex applications,” Forstall said. “If I can make this app and this movie in ten minutes, plus under 1,000 lines of custom code, imagine what you can do in 90 days.”
Jobs credited OS X’s support for Java and its Unix core for attracting new developers to the platform.
“We’re getting calls from people who wouldn’t talk to us a year ago,” said Jobs, noting that developers in biotech, education, and other industries are now interested in Apple. “They see a whole new way to use Unix with Mac OS X. A really interesting thing is that Apple, because of our volume, will become the largest Unix supplier in the world by the end of the year.”
Besides ongoing improvements to the new OS and continued development of OS X-native applications, the success of OS X hinges on preinstalling the operating system on all Macs, Jobs said. Apple had planned to start doing that in July; Jobs announced Monday that preinstallation would begin immediately.
“In addition to Mac OS 9 shipping on every system, we’re going to ship X,” Jobs said. “We’re going to leave the default on 9, but it’s so easy to flip, we think many will.
“This is a total commitment on Apple’s part, and we ask the same of you,” Jobs added. “The train has left the station.”
Jobs also used his keynote to trumpet the successful opening weekend at Apple’s new retail outlets. The company plans to open 25 stores this year; the first two opened Saturday in Glendale, California, and McLean, Virginia.
Apple estimates that 7,700 customers visited the stores over the weekend. The two stores rang up a little less than $600,000 in sales — three times as much as what Apple was hoping for from a successful launch.
The Apple Stores give developers even more motivation to come out with new products, Jobs said.
“We can’t wait to put your software product in that store,” he added. “We can’t wait to do product demos on our 10-foot diagonal screen in our store.”