After the WWDC keynote on Monday night we fired off some emails to developers to gauge their reaction to the announcements.
[Read our other developer reaction stories: iOS 7 developers discuss Android/Windows similarities and redesign challenges and Mac Pro 'Astounding', MacBook Air 'Awesome' - WWDC developers react]
Generally feedback was very positive to both OS X Mavericks and iOS 7, and reaction to the new Mac Pro was particularly complementary, although there were some concerns.
Here we focus on the reaction to Mac OS X Mavericks, with developers sharing their reaction to the new naming convention, relief that Apple is finally addressing power users again, concerns about security issues surrounding iCloud keychain, and relief that it doesn’t look like developers will have a big job implementing the changes required to play with Mavericks.
What sort of a name is Mavericks?
Apple’s choice of name for the new OS X drew a few comments and one particularly interesting observation from Keith Blount developer of Scrivener at Literature & Latte. He said: “One of the most significant announcements of the keynote was something that seems superficial: the change of OS X code names from cats to California place names. When Apple reached Lion, it seemed to imply that OS X was nearing its end: here was the ultimate version of OS X, the king of cats - how much further did they plan on taking the OS?
“The switch to a naming convention with plenty of life left in it is a welcome sign from Apple that they think there is likewise plenty of life left in OS X. As a Mac lover and developer, that makes me very happy.”
Still, the new name was greeted with a few raised eyebrows, and for some it was the only disappointment to come out of the WWDC keynote. “The only thing we don't particularly like is the name,” said Karen MacLean of Open Planet Software.
On the other hand: "Thank god they didn't go with the sea lion name!" said Marketcircle CEO Alykhan Jetha.
Name aside, everyone we spoke to is mostly positive about the new features that Apple previewed in OS X Mavericks. Jetha said: "I think the tweaks and changes they've made make a lot of sense. You can see that Apple is constantly iterating on the basics and fine tuning things. I'm happy with what I saw."
One developer told us that he thinks it would have been unwise for Apple to implement too much change in the new OS. Kevin Hamilton from Binary Formations explained: "OS X is a very mature at this point and that makes radical, revolutionary changes difficult and possibly even unwise (just take a look at Windows 8).”
Grant Cowie from Cognito echoed this sentiment. “It seems that Apple hasn't made a lot of gratuitous changes (as they did in Lion and Mountain Lion) which made things unnecessarily difficult for developers. Time will tell, but so far looking good.”
Finally a power OS for power users
What many developers picked up on is the fact that a significant number of changes in OS X are geared towards power users.
Public Space's developer of A Better Finder Frank Reiff spoke about how previous launches have left power users feeling left out: "Power users, developers amongst them, in particular have felt a bit left out with the Lion and Snow Lion releases and will be very happy with the new focus. It was also positive to see so much emphasis on the Mac at the beginning of the show," he said.
This new focus on power users comes after years of an apparent focus on the consumer and specifically iOS. CEO of Boinx Software Oliver Breindenbach suggested: “It looks like a solid release and to my relief it seems that it will keep catering to the power user and not being dumbed down to follow the consumer lead of iOS.”
Bare Bones Software CEO Rich Siegel echoed that sentiment: "It's great to see that Apple's commitment to power computing for professionals is stronger than ever."
"I like very much what I have seen so far. It's great to see that Apple has been investing heavily in improving the OS in ways that empower our customers, and especially in ways that benefit power users," he added noting that "as a developer I appreciate the low-level performance and power efficiency tuning that has taken place."
Karen MacLean from Open Planet Software also suggested that while not packed with new features it’s the work that “has gone into solidifying what was there before” that should be noted. She added: “It's good to finally see OpenGL 4 support on the Mac.”
Literature & Latte’s Keith Blount also pinpointed the focus on performance and power: “It wasn't the new features in Mavericks that excited me so much as the effort they have put in to increasing its efficiency under the hood and thus extending battery life,” he said.
As did MacAce CEO Gary Hall, who told us: "Extra battery power from all of he clever under-the-hood features are also a welcome addition."
IGG Software founder and president Ian Gillespie noted the economic impact of Apple’s efforts to address battery life. He said: “I'm happy to see Apple putting resources into changing software so that it uses battery life more efficiently. We will want to be a good citizen and ensure iBank for Mac helps keep people's batteries lasting to their maximum potential.”
Favourite new features in OS X Mavericks
While the work under the covers was what appeared to impress our developers the most, many of the new features also have been given the thumbs up.
MacAce's Gary Hall suggested that the tabbed finder will become “one of those features that we'll all be wondering how we worked without it in a few months."
Igor Zhadanov from Readdle also noted the new filing system. “It’s interesting how Apple tries to build up an extra layer between user and files stored on disk (tags, tabs). Once users are relying on the visual, layer and metadata like tags, actual file locations will matter less. I would say this is a strategic step into introducing system-wide cloud storage for all data in several years,” he predicted.
Also popular were the improvements in multi-screen support. This was even better than Hall’s expectations: "The much-improved multi-screen support has gone beyond my expectations - really looking forward to trying this out," he said.
Open Planet Software MacLean agreed:“For us the best news is that Apple have sorted out multi-display support. Finally being able to run Xcode in full-screen and any App we're working on on a second monitor will make a huge difference,” emphasising the fact that many have been crying out for this particular feature.
However, there were some concerns about one new feature in particular. Security concerns about iCloud Keychain
Readdle’s Zhadanov noted: “With iCloud keychain Apple made a strong move to managing your digital identity via iCloud. Once you have your passwords generated and saved for you by Apple, at some point you no longer know the credentials to the services you use. Instead, you will rely on iCloud ID to access your secure data. Apple takes a huge responsibility of managing users identity properly, and some users may be not comfortable with that news.” SecureMac rang some warning bells, noting that: "There are some great new features in OS X Mavericks that are very exciting and should make a lot of developers happy, however with the recent revelations concerning the NSA and the PRISM data collection system, some features may give users pause - such as entrusting all of your passwords to the cloud.”
How to get Mavericks ready
Developers are now studying the beta software and assessing just how much work they will need to do to bring their software into the Mavericks era. The initial reaction is that, compared to previous updates to the Mac OS, this will require a lot less effort.
MacLean from Open Planet Software explained: “It's still early days, but so far our Apps appear to run well on Mavericks and shouldn't need much in the way of OS specific updates. There are obviously some changes under the hood and it may be that there are things that we should change in order to be good Mac citizens. However, after the last few updates, having to deal with Sandboxing, Gatekeeper, Full-screen support, Retina support etc, from a developer viewpoint Mavericks looks blessedly free of major change.”
Quark’s Gavin Drake told us: “We're not anticipating a large effort to support QuarkXPress 10 running on OS X Mavericks and expect support within 90 days of the new OS's availability. We've done a lot of work modernising QuarkXPress 10 inside and out, which will enable us to more immediately take advantage of new Mac OS X features. It's a little early to talk specifics but as an example it's likely we'll get to leverage the multi-display support through our new full screen functionality and our ePub export will be certified for iBooks on OS X.”
It appears that it won’t be an easy ride for everyone though. One of Apple's new Developer Tools uses Automatic Reference Counting (ARC) for Objective-C – this lets the compiler take care of memory management. It should lead to a simplified development process while reducing crashes and memory leaks, according to Apple's documentation. One developer referred to this technology, explaining that they had migrated applications to 'garbage collected memory management' in OS X 10.6, and expects to have to do a similar migration to ARC.
However, this isn't a bad thing, according to Public Space's Frank Reiff. He noted that: "ARC is clearly better technology, so it will be a benefit to both me and my users anyway. I should really have done this already and Apple have supplied a lot of tool support for migrating, so I don't anticipate much of a problem."
There are still some features missing, as far as some developers are concerned. MacAce's Gary Hall said: "I’m still waiting for native FTP / SFTP and better WebDav support - something that consumes a huge amount of resources overcoming Mac OS's current limitations in our MacMate product."
Where next for Mac OS X
Hall had an interesting insight about where OS X is headed: "I always see a "point-nine" release as an indication of where the next major release is going. Tim Cook and his team on stage mentioned ‘the next ten years’a few times so I think both iOS7 and Mavericks are a stepping stone to something very very big next year: Mac OS XI.”
He added: “Apple have shown that they are not afraid to completely redesign everything - which I'm sure is Jony Ive's next job starting next week.”
Thanks to the following Mac developers for their help with this article: