The big splash at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference this week was iOS 7, the next-generation mobile OS that will ship this fall. The other new operating system announced at WWDC-OS X Mavericks-made significantly fewer waves (despite its being named after one of the biggest surfing meccas in California). But you can't judge the size or significance of an update solely by the number of features that were previewed.
In the shadow of iOS
One reason we got fewer details about the Mac operating system than about its iPhone counterpart is the audience: iOS has attracted thousands of young developers who don't program for OS X, and many of them are at WWDC. As such, the iOS 7 presentation was all about pomp and flash: a new look and new physics, along with several under-the-hood updates that aren't yet fully baked. (Notice, for instance, that we never saw a live demonstration of the new Siri features-only pre-recorded slides.) By contrast, Mavericks's debut was all about its underlying power, with only a small nod to design improvements in a solitary app.
But for iOS developers, design and physics changes are what they need to focus on if their apps are going to be ready when the operating system ships in the fall. That those things also catch the public's eye is a pleasant side effect, but developers are WWDC's first and foremost concern. Likewise, while the under-the-hood OS X Mavericks features may not be visually striking, they're important tools for our developer community to learn how to use.
Mavericks may not seem as flashy to the public, but then again, neither was OS X Mountain Lion in February 2012. Then, we got a quick preview to introduce the next version of OS X, but no major drill-down for its features. Sure, we knew iChat would become Messages and Reminders would get a few more features, but we didn't really hear about Mountain Lion's unifying vision. Same with Mavericks this past Monday.
Hints of the future
In the iBooks app, notes mode sees a new title bar with different colorations than OS X's traditional aluminum bar.
If you watched Apple's keynote and browsed through the OS X website, OS X 10.9 seems far less visually polished than its younger sibling. We saw only one flagship OS X app that adapts to Jony Ive's skeuomorphic-less future: Calendar. Other apps, like Safari, have flattened button styling in its new Reading List and Shared Links areas, but still retain bubbly gradients for its top bar. New apps Maps and iBooks (brought over from iOS) contain more of Ive's new look; iBooks even has a title bar that eschews the traditional OS X aluminum gradient for a lighter, flatter version. But that title bar isn't app-wide-go into the iBookstore, and you'll return to the aluminum siding of old.
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