WWDC: Slim Pickings for Web Workers

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?

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