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Summary:

The Steve Jobs keynote at WWDC 2008 ended a few minutes ago, and now it’s time to reflect on what it means to web workers. In truth, what it means is – not much. While WWDC is a developer conference, the usual runaway rumors had many people hoping that there would be revolutionary announcements from Apple that would make our lives better. Even the legendary Apple “reality distortion field” couldn’t keep many people happy, to judge by the grumblings I heard from many of my Twitter contacts.

The Steve Jobs keynote at WWDC 2008 ended a few minutes ago, and now it’s time to reflect on what it means to web workers. In truth, what it means is – not much. While WWDC is a developer conference, the usual runaway rumors had many people hoping that there would be revolutionary announcements from Apple that would make our lives better. Even the legendary Apple “reality distortion field” couldn’t keep many people happy, to judge by the grumblings I heard from many of my Twitter contacts.

To be sure, a couple of little bits of news from today are of mild interest to web workers: Apple’s new “MobileMe” synchronization service, and (of course) the iPhone 3G. But as neither of these is immediately available, their announcement leaves almost as many questions as answers.MobileMe is essentially an upgrade of the existing .Mac service – at the same $99 per year price point. At that price, you get synchronization of mail, contacts, and calendar items between Macs, PCs, and iPhones, as well as access to the data “in the cloud” through a new web application. The web application is very, very pretty, with an Apple desktop feel – though there was no mention of whether it would run in any browser other than Safari. (Update: Apple’s press release on MobileMe says it’s compatible with Safari, IE7, or Firefox 2+). There’s a 60-day free trial, and you get 20GB of storage with your account. Given the amount of competition there is for email and storage and synchronization from other providers, free and paid, I don’t foresee immediate overwhelming adoption here.

Much of the keynote was taken up by lackluster demos of iPhone applications that will be available through the AppStore (which will launch in early July when the new iPhone is released). The new iPhone 2.0 software itself is due out in early July, and will be a free upgrade for current users. New software capabilities include better Asian language support, full support for iWork and Office documents, and contact searching. Of these, the most significant win for web workers will be the document support; that should make it much more practical to review work or read large documents on the go.

The new iPhone – dubbed iPhone 3G because it does have the widely-leaked 3G capabilities – represents an incremental advance over the current models. The new phone is thinner, comes in black or white, has double the battery life of the first-generation models, and has built-in GPS. Most significant is a price drop: $199 for 8GB or $299 for 16GB (but remember, much of the cost of an iPhone is the 2-year commitment to an AT&T plan to go with it).

The new phones are due July 11 in 22 countries, rolling out to 70 countries over the next few months. That means there will be about a month when you can’t buy an iPhone at all – which is a good thing. That should be ample time to let the enthusiasm from another Jobs keynote settle, and decide whether you really need one. So far, we haven’t seen enthusiastic iPhone uptake from our readers – do these improvements change you mind?

  1. MobileMe is a big deal for my scenario, which often involves lugging the macbook to meetings at client offices just so I can pop it open for a quick look at calendars and emails. I think for web workers who make on-site visits regularly, it’s a big deal.

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  2. If you look at the MobileMe guided tour, you will see that they are demoing it on both Internet Explorer and Firefox on Vista. So, I would think that they would work with any modern browser.

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  3. @Todd: Most any good smartphone these days has built-in email, contacts, and calendar sync (both ways.) There’s no real exciting stuff here…except the introduction of yet another monthly fee for something that can be done for free right now.

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  4. Nitin – Thanks, the press release came out and we updated the browser coverage above.

    Todd – One big reason I’m holding any possible enthusiasm about MobileMe back is that any service can look good in controlled demos. Sync services – including the existing .Mac service – have been plagued by outages, incompatibilities, and bugs. I hope they’ve got it right this time, but I want to wait till I can kick the tires.

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  5. @ericabiz I have to disagree. Mac stuff already syncs quite well, but what I get out of Mobile Me is the immediate updating. The 20gb of file space is also nice, though not as important among the numerous project sites that I work with. I don’t personally mind paying a fee for something that works with everything I already use. Moreover, I already use dot-mac, so there’s no price change for me.

    @Mike That is true – isync is less than wonderful sometimes, but except for some non-Apple cellphone contact syncing issues I’ve had a pretty good experience. I know that’s far from what a lot of people see, admittedly.

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  6. Although they aren’t immediately available I think that in one months time (when all of it is actually available) it is going to be a really big deal for web workers. The fact that you will be easily connected to the web all the time and (potentially) able to manage your blog with a native application on your phone, wherever you are, that’s a pretty big deal.

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  7. For me, I can’t get past the keyboard. I can already log in to my blog with my BlackBerry and approve comments and do basic maintenance. The thought of doing any longer typing on the iPhone sounds like torture to me.

    I don’t see anything introduced today as being truly innovative. More like Apple catching up to some of the same functionality already available on BlackBerry or Windows Mobile, but with Apple panache.

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  8. This post surprises me, actually. The first generation iPhone has been crazy-helpful for me in both my day job, freelancing, and all around life. It’s had some serious drawbacks – speed, lack of certain enterprise features, and the missing ability to build my own programs for it. I’m really excited for the new generation because it’s answering a lot of the gaps in the technology I need to do make my work much easier.

    I’ve been doing a lot of traveling and had both my corporate Blackberry and my iPhone. The ONLY thing the Blackberry was any good for was grabbing my work email. But the iPhone put the info I needed right then and there at my finger tips – from finding the nearest Best Buy in MiddleOfNowhere, Texas to looking up Adobe APIs when I didn’t have connectivity to my notebook. Having all that at viable speeds, connecting the thing to Exchange, real GPS and the ability to write my own applications to match MY workflow needs (I’m a programmer web worker, clearly), is exactly what I’ve been needing to very much capitalize my web-working life.

    Not sure about Mobile Me, yet. But then I keep my day job stuff separate from my iPhone/personal/freelance systems, and rely mainly on the iPhone’s calendar and address book, syncing about once a week to my MacBook. Gmail IMAP keeps mail in sync for me already on all my computers. But once I go entirely independent, I’ll probably take a much closer look at it.

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  9. MobileMe looks very slick, especially when compared to paying for a hosted Exchange service for email/contacts/cal wireless sync. The only problem with MobileMe for the web worker would be that it doesn’t appear to support custom domain names (unless I’m missing something). I don’t want my clients seeing name@me.com. I want them using my domain name and brand. If Apple can’t support custom domain names, that’s a dealbreaker for me, as well as many web workers, I suspect.

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  10. I’m actually pretty excited about the WWDC news.

    I’m an Exchange user, and the ability to connect to the Exchange server is huge.

    I also use a host of sites like twitter, facebook and others, plus update my blog and approve comments frequently with my iPhone. A faster connection will make my life easier.

    I’ll upgrade to 3G as soon as the lines die down and I can get one at the Apple store or AT&T.

    Oh, I also think the toned-down WWDC was good thing, if you could call it toned-down.

    Patrick Byers
    The Responsible Marketing Blog
    http://responsiblemarketing.com

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