WWDC 2010 Wrap-up

I’m leaving San Francisco, and Apple’s WWDC, this year more introspective than inspired. The conference puts us under NDA, so while there was some new stuff shown and talked about there, I can’t pass it all along. Not yet anyway, there should be some interesting new stuff to talk about once iOS 4.0 is out and in the wild.

It’s no secret that most of the conference focused on the iPhone and iPad – what they’re now calling “iOS” (and yeah, I thought “Hey, doesn’t Cisco own that brand name…” when I first heard it). The desktop/laptop Mac OS X didn’t get much play time, the iOS operating system instead getting the red carpet treatment.

The engineers at Apple have managed to build, update, and ship an entire OS for specific platforms once a year for the past 3-4 years. I’ve got imagine that they’re nearly, if not completely, mentally bust at this point. I’m not at all surprised that “iOS 4” won’t be out until Fall for the iPad – I suspect they’ll call it iOS 4.1 or 4.2. Apple’s not growing like mad (at least that I can tell), which means to me that they have been and continue to push at a fevered pitched for the accomplishments they’re making. I hope they don’t push so hard they fry their best and brightest that make up the core of the culture that’s doing all this impressive lifting.

The “other focus” of the conference was around new developer tools – Xcode 4 (developer preview) is quite a bit of engineering and accomplishment. To me it’s centrally a fulfillment of an idea that Chris Lattner presented and posed for possible futures in an LLVM session two years ago. It is more than that, and I’d love to wax a bit more enthusiastic about it, but I’m afraid that runs into NDA covered territory, so I’ll stop here on that topic. I did come away from the conference having submitted more enhancement requests than ever before around that tool chain.

Dr. Michael Johnson (@drwave) gave a talk in the middle of the conference, impressive in display and content, and really talking to the “why” and “how” of making tools. The message I took away this year from his talk was akin to an artist extolling “know your medium”. He didn’t outline the pros/cons of each medium that he works in per se, but just expressed what he could do in each and why knowing that medium was important. I’m still reflecting this year’s talk off the meme that he was touting a year or more ago (and was reflected a bit in this year’s talk too): “using tools to remove the tension in the room”. I guess it was two years ago at WWDC, we talked a bit. He related a viewpoint that “tools shift power” and was being very mindful of wanting to shift it in a way that was ultimately positive, not negative. Being a bit of a tools guy myself, I find myself reflecting on that quite a bit. The real bitch is that it’s often hard to predict which way the “right way” is between organizational politics and getting our jobs done.

For all the cool and amazing stuff that I saw at WWDC, I’m finding that I’m not walking away from this one inspired, scheming, and planning for something new, cool, etc. Oh, there’s the idea for the iPhone or iPad client application to this or that, but really I find myself instead thinking about my day job.

This week has given me some much needed time to step back and away from the office. I deleted my mail accounts from my iPad and iPhone to make sure I wasn’t even tempted to check them (those red badges can be like a red flag to a bull when you’re a somewhat compulsive person). What are we really focusing on and what difference is it going to make? How do we push or pull the whole organization forward to make it better? I have ideas. Some “maybe 60-70% right” ideas but no definitive “I’m 100% sure of it” answers right now.

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