WWDC 2008 impressions
I am now back home in Wisconsin after attending the 2008 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. As a first-time attendee, I wasn't sure what to expect, but this ended up being a great experience. From the things I learned, to the people I met, I consider it well worth the price of admission.
Personally, I didn't want to wait in line for hours, so I skipped out on Steve Jobs' keynote and watched the video of it later. I also missed the State of the Union talks in the afternoon on Monday, due to flight delays (they said that Air Force Two had been passing through the Minneapolis airport, which I've got to admit is an interesting excuse).
I didn't mind missing the media circus around the keynote because I was there to actually learn something as a developer. I would love to give a detailed breakdown of the session contents and all the new stuff we were shown, but I, like all the other developers in the audience, am under a nondisclosure agreement. I can tell you that Apple appears to be serious about their commitment to performance in Snow Leopard, the next iteration of Mac OS X. I am anxious to see just how fast they can get this next version of the operating system running by the time it ships sometime next year. A great analysis of this can be found at Mac Daddy World and at MacResearch.
Of the new additions to the operating system, OpenCL was very exciting to me and to the other scientific attendees. Unfortunately, I can't say much more about that than has been posted elsewhere, but I think that they're on the verge of unleashing a tremendous amount of processing power for high-end applications. Apple is aiming this to be an open standard, and I hope it finds its way into Linux and other server-side Unix implementations so that a wide range of people can start using it for massively parallel computations.
The star of the conference was the iPhone. From the iPhone 3G announcement that everyone knew was coming to the first glimpses at upcoming third-party applications, the keynote clearly set the tone for the rest of the week. The iPhone seminars were located in the largest rooms and were packed. Lines formed for the sessions a half hour before they each began and stretched all the way back to the escalators. I had a chance to see and hear about a number of great applications from both individual developers and more established cell phone application providers. OmniFocus for the iPhone is a day one purchase for me and its syncing features will finally cause me to get a .Mac (sorry, MobileMe) account.
As important as the developer sessions were, what makes this conference great are the people you meet. I got Aaron Hillegass to sign my copy of the third edition of Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X (I'll do a post later on Cocoa development resources, but this is a must-have). I ran into Wil Shipley of Delicious Monster and talked about his new Golden % Braeburn all-in-one ecommerce solution for Mac applications, which is very attractive for indie developers. When I had a detailed question about thread safety, I stopped by the labs and Scott Stevenson (of Theocacao, another outstanding Cocoa resource) spent a good chunk of time working with me on my code. Every one of the people I met that I'd only known through their work or their online postings turned out to be very friendly and talkative, and I'd like to thank them for taking the time to speak with me. The lines outside sessions didn't seem so long because of conversations I had with many very outgoing indie developers.
As I indicated earlier, I presented a poster on SonoPlot's fluid dispensers and their use of Apple technologies as part of the Scientific Development Poster Session. Even though the scheduling for the session placed it opposite the Apple Design Awards, there was a good turnout and I found it to be well worth the time and effort. I was interviewed by Daniel Steinberg, an author and editor at the Pragmatic Programmers and the producer of their podcast. I have no doubt he'll do a slick editing job with my rambling remarks, and I'll be sure to post when the poster and podcast are available at Apple's site.
Apple had a hangout for scientific and medical developers set aside at WWDC and had a series of feedback forums on scientific issues where they seemed to be very receptive to our comments. This seems to be in line with the sudden increase in attention that Apple is paying to nontraditional markets for them, such as the enterprise.
Overall, I can tell you that I'm already planning for my trip back next year.