WWDC Delivers the Goods — and a Hot Safari!

by Chris Howard Jun 13, 2007

Much to the disappointment of the eternally optimistic and eternally high-hoped Apple fans, as was really expected, Steve didn’t reveal anything surprisingly new about Leopard in his WWDC keynote. At last count on MacRumors, the positive:negative voting on Leopard was running 1:1 and has been all day. Reading the comments, it seems most people expected more, expected some revolutionary “top secret” feature. Instead, they just got some more eye candy, a few things they already knew about, and a bit of spit and polish on Finder (not the overhaul it needs). As was predicted on Apple Matters a couple of months ago, there were no top secret features worth being top secret. Just a lot of features that weren’t working at the last demo and so couldn’t be shown. Certainly nothing that would have sent Microsoft rushing to the workbench to bolt onto Vista if it had found out.

I can understand the disappointment; however, I’m happy with Leopard because I’ve learned not to get my hopes up. Apple always under delivers on both what we hope for and what we rumor. But it always delivers a good solid OS with some nifty new features. Leopard was on par.

If you want a revolution from Apple, you’ve got to look to hardware. The original Mac, the G4 iMac (a design revolution), the iPod, and now the iPhone: all revolutions that changed the way we think about the devices they represent. OS X on the other hand has never been a revolution. Yes, it’s always been at least one generation ahead of the pack, but how much about it has truly been revolutionary and forced us to do an about-face on our thinking about OSes?

But two lesser announcements during the keynote could have more impact than Leopard and all its 300 improvements, and start their own mini-revolutions.

Game on
The first was EA Games and id Games not deserting the Mac platform now that it runs Windows (as many feared would happen), but in fact ramping up development for the Mac platform. We’ve yet to see how their games will fly in the real world but, with so many PC users saying they couldn’t switch to Mac because of its lack of decent games, this was quite a significant announcement for Apple and I was surprised by the tepid response from the WWDC audience.

Safari goes into the jungle
The biggest news though—especially in terms of surprise—was the announcement of Safari for Windows. Our very own visionary, Hadley Stern, three and a half years ago called for Apple to port Safari to Windows, and that was long before Macintels. Of course he was scoffed at mercilessly. Congratulations Hadley, you were right on the money.

But some of those readers back then asked what would be the point? Now, iPhone is one point. And our old friend “halo effect.” Zillions of iPhone users will use and become familiar with Safari. This will open them up to using Safari on Windows—along with Apple undoubtedly and unashamedly flogging it through iTMS.

However, does it really matter? It doesn’t unless Apple is really serious about increasing its Mac market share. Apple is leveraging off iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and now Safari. Do you get the impression Steve is after double digit market share? And to those who feared the demise of the Mac as Apple dropped the “Computer” from its name and talked of iPhones and iPods, fear not.

It will, however, be interesting to watch the uptake of Safari on Windows. Page compatibility will be its stumbling block to longer term acceptance. And don’t listen to the Windows geeks who say they’ll never use it. It’s the iPhone and iPod users Apple is after.

It will also be interesting to see if the miscreants target it and whether that will have a flow on effect to Safari on the Mac.

Safari 3 SCREAMS!
This article was intended to be all about Safari 3 and a bit of a “First Looks” review of it. I originally titled it “Safari 3—Is this the browser we’ve been waiting for?” (Answer: nearly.) So I hope you can cope with a few more words than usual.

I’ve been running Safari 3 all day and fervently testing it to give you some impressions of it.

My first impression, and one that continues, is “Holy crapoly, this thing is fast!” Most web pages are now loading in a blink. I’ve seen so many browsers claim to be sooo much faster, yet when used, it’s not overly perceptible. With Safari 3, it’s so fast you’ll think Apple has found a shortcut through the web—or at least been able to magically cache your page before you even type in its address.

What’s more, it works more. Not on all pages, but certainly some that Safari 2 doesn’t work on. So you will still need Firefox in your kit. One problem though, of Firefox of late, is it “beachballs” and crashes under heavy load. I’m lucky if it survives more than 20 open pages.

And speaking of beachballs, which were a problem in Safari 2 also, I’ve hardly encountered them in Safari 3. Except for one odd spot: when switching through the menus it lags a bit.

Anyway, I thought I’d push Safari 3 off the cliff of overload doom and see how many open web pages it could cope with. First I threw one window with 30 tabs at it. It barely blinked. Noticeably, it didn’t hit virtual memory much either. I added another window with 60 tabs. You could almost hear it scoffing at me. Virtual memory was still below 1GB. That is significant as Safari 2 sucks virtual memory like Microsoft sucks up small software companies and spits them out as “innovation.” Virtual memory sitting over 1GB in Safari 2 is commonplace on my Mac. And Firefox is just as bad. In fact, I got Firefox up to 6GB yesterday!

I decided to get ruthless and opened seven windows and between them had nearly two hundred tabs open. Okay, finally Safari acknowledged my presence and I got to play with the beachball for a while. Eventually, though, it gave me back a mouse pointer. Unlike Firefox which simply crashes.

Speaking of which, I haven’t had Safari 3 crash yet. Although I did have to force quit it when I tried to close the last window—which happened to have 68 tabs. I’ll allow it that one, as it probably did it just to spite me, and I’ll never put it under that much stress in normal use. After all, it did hit 2.2GB of virtual memory and 600MB of real memory with those 200 pages open.

Other good and the bad of Safari 3
The good news is better memory management; inline searches - which true to Apple form, look pretty good - although it doesn’t search in fields; tabs can be moved around; tabs are on by default; you get prompted before closing multiple tabs (YAYYY!); streaming Flash video is possibly more reliable; and you can reopen the last closed window or all windows from the last session. The biggest plus for me—who types addresses because my bookmarks are overloaded—is when typing in the address bar, it offers you the domain name first! Safari 2 drove me nuts having to type out the whole domain name and press space because it decided I must surely want to see some other obscure page on a site.

Although Safari 3 comes with an uninstaller, it does replace your existing Safari 2 installation, so you can’t run both side by side.

The bad news is that pre-Leopard, it only works on OS X 10.4.9 (yet works on MS’s four-year-old Windows XP…); many sites, including one of my banks, still don’t work and/or render properly but do in Firefox; private browsing still doesn’t offer any controls over what you disable; it’s still brushed metal (surely not in Leopard!); and tabs don’t scroll. That is particularly annoying, as pages off the tab bar have no visible tab—which means, for instance, you can’t drag them around or click their close button.

Reports on MacRumor have identified security issues. We trust Apple will address these promptly; however, this does remind us to be cautious with betas.

The RSS reader is said to be improved but I’ve always used NetNewsWire. However, I’m going to give it a go because I am so over RSS saturation. I’ll check NetNewsWire every day or two, but from now on use Safari’s RSS for the two or three feeds I do want to monitor constantly. I suspect this is what Safari’s RSS reader is best suited for, and Apple may have accidentally been ahead of the pack on this.

Safari 3, once it improves its web page compatibility, will be the best browser. It’s certainly now the fastest. It is beta and does have those security issues, so approach it with the same caution you would any beta.

And some laughs
Well, there were two huge announcements at WWDC that dwarfed everything else, albeit made in jest. First “Steve Job” aka “PC Guy” saying he’s shutting down Apple and “Steve Ballmer” aka Phil Schiller saying he loves his Mac. I nearly fell off my chair laughing at both of those.

Lastly, congratulations Apple. For the first time ever the keynote streamed flawlessly—no stutters and no scrambled picture. And I was able to pause it without having to restart it…multiple times!

This WWDC keynote was a lot of fun, showed us the next generation OS with some excellent advances, and—with games and Safari—launched a serious assault on Windows. I suspect we’ll have a lot more to talk about in the next six months than the last six.


  • Although Safari 3 comes with an uninstaller, it does replace your existing Safari 2 installation, so you can run both side by side.


    If you want a revolution from Apple, you’ve got to look to hardware.

    I disagree. I’ve been following the developer-level changes in Leopard with keen interest, and I do think that some of the things we’re seeing there are actually revolutionary, most notably Core Animation, but also some other stuff. The evolution of UI we’re going to see over the course of Leopard’s life is going to take us somewhere really quite new and exciting by the time that Lion swings around.

    I enjoyed this keynote, it was highly appropriate to the Developers’ Conference. Not so flashy and as Gruber said, “a bit like WWDC 2006 2.0”, and some of the stuff demoed in Leopard was a bit daft (reflective 3D table Dock thingy!), but still some really good stuff there. The Core Anim demo has got to have been the most stunning yet!

    Great review of Safari 3, all really useful to know. Bit surprised it actually is as much faster as Steve said it was.

    Benji had this to say on Jun 13, 2007 Posts: 927
  • Oops, thanks, Ben. Fixed that.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jun 13, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • I must be getting over RDFed! I’m so used to Apple giving us stunning eye-candy. Maybe that’s why I didn’t spot the revolution under the hood with CA.

    But the question is, is it just going to give us more eye-candy? Or is it going to truly redefine the GUI, adding real-world physics to interaction with interface elements? Like Cover Flow sorta does, and iPhone does in spades.

    3D Dock? Shudder! I’m glad Steve didn’t try to RDF us with that one! That would have really shot his credibility. I hope you can turn it off.

    PS So your money’s on Lion then? It does seem the obvious choice but it would have to almost be XI to live up to that moniker.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jun 13, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • I hope you can turn it off.

    I doubt it. I think it was Gruber who realised how crappy it would look when you move it to the side of the screen, too. The lighting’ll be all wrong. Maybe it’s be revised by release though.

    This interview with Wil Shipley has some interesting stuff re Core Animation.

    Shipley predicts that Core Animation will kick-start a new era of interface experimentation, and may lead to an entirely new visual language for designing desktop interfaces.
    Our customers are going to have to upgrade their OS if they want to upgrade our program,” Shipley says.

    Then this which says it all, really:
    “We realized any app we released based on Tiger was going to look really pathetic when Leopard came out.

    I think the real advantage of the type of GPU accelerated 3D animation Core Anim provides is to produce behaviours of GUI elements that correspond better to a wider variety of physical metaphors. Which in my view is really the end-game of UI design. It’s the difference between Finder’s two “modes”, toggled with the notorious Pill button. All the novice Mac switchers I’ve been involved with have had difficult grasping the default Finder, but switch to the simple (“spatial”) mode and they have no problem whatsoever. There is literally nothing to understand: the physical metaphor is perfect.

    I think Core Animation has the potential to make many applications far more intuitive by providing physical metaphors that require pretty much no more than the natural human ability to manipulate a physical object.

    Benji had this to say on Jun 13, 2007 Posts: 927
  • The funniest joke to me was the different versions of Leopard.  Leopard Basic thru Leopard Ultimate, all for $129.

    The most revolutionary announcement to me was Core Animation.  That was a real “wow” demo even though it’s really about the potential.  The rest is up to the developers.

    I think the announcement that “3rd party apps” on the iPhone would be relegated to Safari had to be a disappointment to developers.  Indeed through much of the keynote the audience seemed like they had to be prompted for applause.

    The other interesting thing, now that you mention EA, is that it turns out the games will not run natively in OS X but will instead be standard Windows files that run in a Wine-like wrapper called Cider.  That’s according to Extremetech.  If that’s true, I wonder how the crowd would have reacted if they knew.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jun 13, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • Personally I liked “this is odd” when demoing on windows.



    Don’t believe that.

    Benji had this to say on Jun 13, 2007 Posts: 927
  • Regarding this iphone developer malarky, read this.


    Benji had this to say on Jun 13, 2007 Posts: 927
  • Haha!  That was an even faster reversal than “video just doesn’t belong on the iPod.”

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jun 13, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • Don’t believe that.

    I now do believe it, have thought it over and am seriously, seriously happy about it. If this liscenced wrapper provides only a modest performance penalty, this will be the best thing that could possibly have happened to Mac gaming.


    Benji had this to say on Jun 13, 2007 Posts: 927
  • Note in the comments on that link, developers are mostly miffed at being fobbed off. General developer view seems to that an SDK would be unfeasible to have ready in the short term, but they were hoping that there would be something long term. We haven’t heard there won’t be, but saying “we have this great [sweet] solution for you…” is a touch cowardly.

    Benji had this to say on Jun 13, 2007 Posts: 927
  • “If this liscenced wrapper provides only a modest performance penalty”

    Fingers crossed

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jun 13, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • Did anyone get how Stacks really work? Steve didn’t demo how they organize you.

    To me they just seem like an eye-candy folder. And it stll depends on the user to put things in stacks to tidy up.

    No different to putting things in folders to tidy up.

    So if you don’t do it, your desktop will still be messy.

    The Downlaods stack is irrelvant as you can easily create a downloads folder and have Safari stick everything there.

    However, a screen captures stack/folder would be useful for keeping a tidy desktop. (I use Onyx on Tiget to change the default locationfor Screen captures.)

    So, yeah, Steve’s RDF on Stacks didn’t get thru to me.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jun 13, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • Did anyone get how Stacks really work? Steve didn’t demo how they organize

    In Leopard, Stacks organise you!

    I don’t care too much about stacks. One thing demoed was the use of them as an app launcher, which could be quite cool - effectively taking us into 2D Dock territory.

    The question to me is, how do you manipulate the items in the stack (how do you remove them, trash them), and for stacks like “Downloads”, do they replace a downloads folder, or have they just moved the folder to some unknown location and added a stack for that folder. Probably the latter.

    We need to be able to remove items from stacks as easily as we can add them. I’d assume Apple’s engineers have thought of that, though.

    Benji had this to say on Jun 14, 2007 Posts: 927
  • “One thing demoed was the use of them as an app launcher, which could be quite cool “

    Which looked exactly like Overflow. I always said if Apple did an application launcher it would look like Overflow. smile

    If Stacks have a bit of magic behind them (eg automatically tidying your desktop or folders) they could be quite useful.

    As it is though, they do give us an extra element in the filing metaphor, which I think is useful, as we will be able to bundle related files without having to stick them in their own sub-folder. It’ll also be interesting to see how transportable those stacks are to older versions of OS X. Will they automatically convert to folders?

    Also, can you have stacks inside stacks? Or folders inside stacks? Can you order the items in stacks independent of the ordering of their containing folder?

    Really - I can’t wait to get my hands on Leopard!

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jun 14, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • Do you guys think there will be more on offer from Leopard come launch? I dare say there will be a special event at time of launch to show off a few more features.

    I just can’t see that what Leopard has to offer is it, there’s gotta be more to it. I’m starting to like what I’m seeing though.

    Stacks, Spaces and Quicklook are things I would certainly use with a huge smile on my face.

    The best moment for me was the Steve Ballmer/Schiller iChat thing - I didn’t expect that at all. Apple has humour, I give them that.

    Aaron Wright had this to say on Jun 17, 2007 Posts: 104
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