WWDC 2010 Review

Still one session to attend about closures in Objective-C, and I’ll call it a week. A little bit of shopping this afternoon in order to spend my last dollars and I’ll be ready for take-off tomorrow afternoon. So it’s time for a little summary of this week.

Overall, it was my first WWDC and I’m very glad I did it, but I probably won’t do it again. San Francisco is definitely a very nice city, and seeing Steve in live, even from very far away in the audience was an interesting experience. I also learnt a few very interesting things and psychologically a conference like this always has the same side-effect on me: first I’m depressed and humbled by all the ambient intelligence, but then it motivates me a lot to move forward, learn and do something about it. So it has definitely been a very positive experience.

Now was it worth the budget I put in it? Not sure. The shape of the event itself was very disappointing. Everything was way too corporate, slick and contained for my taste. I never had a feeling of being part of an open and curious community like I get every year at Devoxx. And then there are all those little very annoying details, like the fact that all 900+ Apple engineers seemed to have a gun pointed at their head all the time in fear of saying something they shouldn’t about something they are working on or talking about competitors. Or the fact that security agents regularly removed all flyers from other companies from the tables in lounge and open space, as if nothing except Apple brand could be promoted. I’m sure most people (including me) come to these events looking for pragmatic solutions. If I need some framework or library that Apple doesn’t provide, I want to be aware that some third party company provides it. And Apple should really understand that their position will remain very fragile on the market if they don’t root it down into a rich and sane ecosystem of businesses.

For example, yesterday, there was a talk about client-server development for the iPhone and the session was packed to the gills (yet another thing I learnt from Steve, this expression), so much so that they had to repeat it today. So obviously it is a very common concern. And still, all the session was about generic principles and the fact that you could use binary property lists as a message format, and how it was easy to do it with WebObjects on the server. Come on! Who uses WebObjects beside Apple themselves? You can bash all you want about Adobe and Flash, but they do provide AMF, BlazeDS and LCDS with very powerful features and productive integration into developer tools, in addition to support for third parties developing integration with other server-side technologies. Now that’s what I call listening to the needs of developers. We’re still waiting for some high-level remoting API for the iPhone with official implementation for major server technologies (Java first of course).

Plus this NDA thing is just silly. Before every session we had a message saying that the content was confidential and that we were not allowed to blog about it or take pictures. By the way, it’s the first conference I attend in the last year that doesn’t have some kind of Twitter wall. This is just so nineties! All of this makes me feel like I’ve spent the last few days inside a bubble, like a nice dream that has nothing to do with the real world and you are aware of that fact, and you know that when you wake up, you’ll have to rebuild it all by yourself. Weird feeling.

Now of course, because of this fricking NDA, I cannot talk about the content of the sessions themselves. But I can still talk about some of the things I will remember:

  • I’ve never been for advertising in apps, as I think that display real estate is way too precious on the iphone and I don’t want users to leave my app when they click on the ad. But this iAd thing is very well executed, very simple to integrate and very well integrated in the overall user experience. So I will seriously consider integrating it in the future.
  • Objective-C now brings closures to iOS development in the form of blocks, and this will make a lot of things much easier
  • XCode 4 is a huge improvement in terms of developer productivity and we finally get a real IDE… or at least we will when it’s ready. Because this developer preview is really not ready for prime-time yet. So it will be very frustrating to start a new project in XCode 3 knowing that there are all those amazing features coming in XCode 4.
  • Multi-tasking: huge stuff. For all those who thought that everything had already been done in terms of apps on the App Store, expect unprecedented kinds of apps in the near future.
  • The version gap between iOS 3.2 for the iPad and iOS 4 for iPhone is going to be very painful to deal with. This  has the potential to bring us back to the old times of JavaME fragmentation and this kind of worries me for some reason…
  • There’s huge room for improvement in the agenda app that Apple provided to us on the iPad and iPhone, so there’s a huge opportunity for ConferenceGuide. Now it’s up to me to meet that challenge.
  • Some very nice improvements in Push Notifications which means that I’ll have to update my Grails APNs plugin very soon to take advantage of all this.
  • Core Location and UIKit also benefit some nice improvements that will enable new kinds of apps.
  • Most people were overall pretty accessible, which made it possible to talk with very interesting people, even for a socially-uncomfortable geek like me.

All in all, I think that next year, I’ll just follow the keynote on Engadget or Gizmodo, and then I’ll spare 1K to access the whole video content of the conference on iTunes U. One of the main reasons that motivate me to build ConferenceGuide is because I’m convinced that conferences are undergoing a very important transition from a repeatable one-to-many form to a more peer-to-peer unique experience, and I believe that conference organizers should embrace that change and they will need some important tools to do so (tools that ConferenceGuide is meant to provide of course). Obviously, Apple doesn’t embrace those changes and still does conferences in the same way as they were done 20 years ago. Some “old” mac developers even told me that this WWDC was very similar to what it was 20 years ago, only that the excitement around MacOS had been replaced with excitement around iOS. So if someone at Apple is reading this… just my 2 cents. Or maybe we should organize a European community counterpart in the same way as Devoxx is the alter-ego of JavaOne. Hmmm… some food for thoughts…

PS: Sorry for not putting more pictures in this post, but after looking for some suitable pictures… I have none. It happens that I left with a camcorder so every time I found something interested, I filmed it. And I don’t feel like processing all my videos now so… no pics!

3 responses to “WWDC 2010 Review”

  1. Thank you Seb,

    As usual, very pleasant, enriching, fun, in a word very interesting to read


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