WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent

WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent

Summary: WWDC 2011 lacked innovation and exemplified a monoculture that casts the closing of Apple's Jobs-era legacy in a light of exclusivity, hostility, and heartfelt angst among those who felt that Apple's core strength was in its embrace of outsiders.


WWDC 2011 lacked innovation and exemplified a monoculture that casts the closing of Apple's Jobs-era legacy in a light of exclusivity, hostility, and heartfelt angst among those who felt that Apple's core strength was in its elevation of outsider thought.

In my experience of speaking at, attending and covering tech conferences around the world, I think there are three ways to do it. You have to pick one.

It's called: hallways, parties, or sessions.

This technique provides a terrific overview, one way or another, as to what it's worth, no matter your angle.

For this round of WWDC I decided to pick "parties."

Top Party: Ars Technica and Idea Flight (With Speck Products)

So, I'm standing with my PA at San Francisco's W Hotel in the exclusive VIP for the truly fantastic Ars Technica and Idea Flight party, chatting about what a great party it is.

This was, by the way, the best and sauciest and most comfortable all-levels-co-mingling party of WWDC.

We'd been paparazzi'd by Wired, had great conversations with the amazing, amazing Speck Products, and are admiring how over-the-top, yet comfortable, the retro-future-airline theme has been pulled off on the rooftop garden.

There was a terrific balance of all kinds of everyone. It's just what you'd hope from a developer conference party. And a very, very fun one.

How To Tell The Difference Between A Developer And A Hooker

Drinks in hand, Juliette and I are comparing thoughts on what happened to SF's Bar Camp culture, and I'm passionately pushing our conversation toward comparing Amazon's Android Appstore dev UI as compared to the others.

A tall guy with glasses pushed in over my shoulder.

"So, what are you girls doing here?"

I'm speechless. Juliette replies, "We're just here on vacation, we're, like, guests at the hotel. It's so nice here. We just came up from Orange County."

He asks me, "What do you girls do?"

Juliette replies, "We're models." I add, "That's actually how we met!"

My PA answers his questions about what kind of modeling we do - we are apparently not with an agency. Mind you, my PA actually is a model, one that flies out of town for shoots more than I'd like to have her away from me.

She is also an Objective-C programmer that can code circles around most of them - with her outrageous fingernails somehow always intact. I am also an app dev. But right then, we we're just meeting one WWDC attendee's expectations. Make that two: his buddy joined us just as I asked what Mr. "you girls"  t-shirt logo meant.

His shirt read Bottlerocket; he explained that it was his company and he made major Apple applications for a list of companies, which he rattled off in succession, beginning with Spin and ending with Disney.

"So," I pointed to his buddy's Daring Fireball shirt and said, "is that your company?"

No, he said. Unprompted, he mansplained who John Gruber is to Juliette and I, a full-on name drop on meeting Wil Shipley at this very party, (this apparently required more mansplains), and then I was told that Bottlerocket boy was from Dallas where it is much hotter than San Francisco.

At which point Juliette cut in saying, "Wait. Don't computers... Need to be kept cool or something?"

He agreed in seriousness, while I spilled my drink - out of my mouth with an uncontrolled laugh.

No, they never got it. And no, we were not dressed they way you probably think we were.

I attended the SmileOnMyMac/Smile Software party, and that was another fun one. Really great people, gracious host. A much more typical WWDC tech party: three or four women, around 40-50 men. It was just fine, I didn't feel too out of place. Until I went to call up an Uber Cab.

Phone in my hand, a gentleman named Jim Dalrymple turned to me and says loudly, "Hey, what phone is that?"

I respond, It's an Android, Samsung-

Before I finish he shouts at me, "Sucks for you!" Laughing, he turns, and then walks away as I'm saying to the men looking embarrassed in his stead, "Yes, but I have reception."

Girl, humiliated.

Ed note: Dalrymple has a different account. He said that his laugh was in relation to another comment---about hockey---and he didn't walk out first. His comments regarding Android at WWDC had nothing to do with Blue being female.

Innovation Stops When No One "Thinks Different"

Nearly every party I legitimately attended and gracefully crashed was mostly men, and the Dallas Mansplainers were the exception - not the rule.

I met so many awesome developers with exciting apps, pre-app legacies and ideas that I'm relying on my pal Victor Agreda Jr.'s series of interviews over the coming weeks to get a handle on what's coming up with individual innovators and companies around software, apps, Lion and what the announcements might mean - or not.

The "or not" is a big part of this post.

Most I spoke with felt like every year, Apple was giving them less and less - and they meant substance to work with, not shiny hardware toys, which is one of Google I/O's legends and successes.

This year, discontent among developers was especially acute.

The discontent was also loudly about the monoculture. I never brought it up, but the guys that were not rich and drunk and celebrating their deals with Apple, certainly were. Most were shaking their heads about the lack of outsiders - not just gender diversity, either.

Look: if you're a guy, you are only ever going to truly see things like a guy. You can have your dominatrix dress you in lipstick and heels (which I fully endorse), or talk to women you love and care about, but you'll never know how any "other" will use and experience your product.

In all of the conversations, pretty much everyone said that there would never be any "thinking different" when you're in rooms full of people who all think the world looks same.

And, most opined that the attendance cost must be instantly pricing indie female businesswomen out of the opportunity space.

Why Do All Old Rich Dudes Want To Build Spaceships?

It's a generalization, but I've noticed that once certain men become wealthy, they either want to figure out how to live forever (Walt Disney, Michael Jackson) or they want to go to outer space (Richard Branson, Elon Musk). Sometimes both.

The highlight of WWDC 2011 was not WWDC. It was the announcement of Apple's Spaceship Office 2015. And hell yes, it looks amazing.

But as "that girl" in the MacHeads documentary about Apple cult/ure, a life-long fangirl, "that girl" Steve Jobs called rude when asking for a fan photo, and still an Air-loving, Apple app dev - I'm an angry little bird.

ZDNet commenter Justa Notherguy put it perfectly in my last post, saying O/T Am I the only one shocked by a WWDC with little or no "innovation"?:

Except for Jobs' usual showmanship, this was more like a classic Microsoft press event where Ballmer proudly announces how their platform has finally copied a handful of popular features that were previously available on competing products.

Apple even managed to screw over a bunch of their developers by stealing their ideas (in at least one case, an idea that had previously been banned from their App Store as unsuitable!). I understand that they did nothing illegal, but still it's very reminiscent of how Microsoft does business.

Overall it was very disappointing and not just because there were no new hardware announcements. I kept waiting for a real home run app or a totally off the wall shift for the iOS platforms. Instead, I watched a loooong parade of "me too" apps that we've all seen before. Jobs can call them "great" or "amazing" all he likes, but it doesn't change the fact that Apple was playing catch up...

Hey You: Get Off Of My Cloud

Don't tell me iTunes Match ("iTunes on the cloud" aka iCloud) is an iTunesgasm waiting to happen.

iCloud Music, from this girl's pro-privacy, pro-portability angle, appears to have been created more for the benefit of the music labels than us lowly customers - or the music artists.

It is $24.99 a year, and no one knows what happens yet if you decide to stop "subscribing." I guess if you love your music, it "sucks for you."

iTunes in the Cloud does not stream to your devices. You still have to download those files, because there is no temporary caching as with Google Music.

Here's the real problem: it's just not clear what else the music industry gets. iTunes will scan your MP3 files to identify them in order to make them available in the cloud.

I'm wagering that half of the money goes to the labels to make up for their losses. It's impossible to ignore the implication with "matching" that users are file-sharing criminals - when actually your collection could be 100% legally acquired music through a variety of means.

Apple's Match will be looking at "pirated" files and replacing them.

But is that information - your Apple ID, ID3 tags (the fingerprint) - also traded with the record industry?

Think about that for a minute. Let me add that just because you're doing nothing wrong, it does not make it okay to give up your privacy rights.

We must ask, if our files are perceived to be of dubious origin, and the RIAA, the BPI (British Recorded Music Industry) and IFPI (International Federation for the Phonographic Industry) do as they do, characteristically going after people with few resources to fight back - are we signing on to effectively bear witness against ourselves?

And no, it's not just a question for Apple, but also Google Music, and Amazon.

Apple said they won't share your scanned data with third parties - well, sorta.

"[Apple] does share aggregate information about which tracks are being added to iCloud via iTunes Match" - but it may remain to be seen what happens between Terms agreements, user data anonymization, and the power of the American subpoena.

And One More Thing

The spaceship is Steve Jobs' legacy to his staff. The cloud and the monoculture are - right now - his legacy to his fans, customers, and the world.

Sure, Jobs is legally required to provide maximum return for his shareholders, but when he dies it will be his customers - not his shareholders, or the music and film corporations - that will remember him most.

Let me ask you this, dear readers: If your net worth was around two billion dollars, and you had about six months to live -

...what would you do?

Top post photo by Erik Pitti under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic license, via Flickr.

Topics: Apple, Emerging Tech, Hardware, Mobility

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  • RE: WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent

    Well, here in Asia (Seoul & Beijing) Apple appears to be anything but a monoculture and is creating a vibrant and diverse set of users and developers. And I suspect the same is true in other parts of the world. That $2.5 billion didn't all go just to the usual suspects. Check out the large number of foreign language apps.
    • Just the usual venom from those

      Who believe the Hollywood chick action movies are real.
      Richard Flude
  • RE: WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent

    This is really a great post and it looks at WWDC from a perspective that I hadn't previously thought about but I do have to say that I'm seeing a trend among post-WWDC write-ups that I find really small minded. Why is everyone so convinced that the iCloud and iTunes Match features that were announced are final? First of all, it's a beta. Secondly, it's a beta of a 1.0 product. The beginning of the beginning. Did I miss a part of the keynote where Jobs said ?And this is all iCloud will ever be?? I don't think so. Sure, you can't stream songs from iTunes in the cloud yet, but that doesn't mean it will never happen. I have over 10,000 songs in my library and although it would be nice to be able to stream them, right now I'll gladly take iTunes match over having to upload all of it to Google or Amazon for over twice the price per year.
    Also, since when is a single one-week conference enough to judge the demise of innovation across an entire company? Every tech company plays catch-up every once in a while. Google and Microsoft do it on the regular basis. I was a little put off by the "me-too" attitude Apple displayed in the keynote but I think I'll wait to see if it persists for more than a single keynote before I write them off as non-innovative.
    I realize this comment is probably a little hostile and long, neither of which is intended. I just wanted to remind you that this was one conference with only 5200 attendees. A very small fraction of the entire Mac and iOS development community. Don't write off the innovation of a platform and a company based on such a small sample.
  • RE: WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent

    One more thing, do you really think that a company as big and popular and successful as Apple would be stupid enough to trade user info with record companies in the way you've described? I'm not saying that they'll be 100% private with user info, but if I read this post right, you're cautioning your readers against iTunes Match because of the possibility that their pirated music library might be exposed and they could be prosecuted by the big, bad record companies as a result. Come on. If that we're the case, Apple would quickly be blacklisted by half their customer base and run the risk of burning the entire empire they've spent the last decade building up. I'm all for being cautious on the web, but if you really think Apple would risk of destroying their customer friendly reputation in such an extreme way just to appease some record executives, you obviously have no respect for their business savvy or general intelligence as a company. Again, I don't mean to be hostile and this really is a good article. I just couldnt let that part go.
    • RE: WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent

      I do.
      Let see, song AAAAA by artist BBBBB is screaming but not selling as forecasted but appears to be getting pirated a lot. Apple is doing a lot of "legitimizing" of this song....
      Hmmm, wonder where my next potential subpoena target just may be.. And don't think just US.

      Same could be said for Google and Amazon and ?...

      The lady is right. ;)
      • RE: WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent

        @rhonin That really does nothing to prove anything. The minute a subpoena is issued due to involvement with iTunes Match the press will be all over it. Anyone who follows Apple knows that the smallest thing gets blown up in the press, and this would be anything but small. News of a subpoena would scare away thousands if not hundreds of thousands of current and potential customers and Apple knows it. That's why they won't risk it. Apple doesn't make a significant enough profit (if they profit at all) from music sales so they could care less if song AAAA is selling. They just care that iCloud and iTunes Match is resulting in better hardware sales. They won't sell any hardware if they start selling their customers out to the Feds.
  • RE: WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent

    The real problem is that MS is light years ahead with its development environment and Apple is stuck with Objective C (no matter how good your PA is ;-) ). The only good thing is - it's not an Android mess.

    Apple needs to at least behave like a software development company and start improving the development tools. They also might rethink their pathetic effort to prevent web apps by not implementing autoplay in HTML 5.

    I would like to develop for the iPad/phone but I'm not going to go backwards in tools or build stuff that only runs in that environment. Apple can be innovative in marketing and packaging, I just wish it extended to development.
    • RE: WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent


      "I would like to develop for the iPad/phone but I'm not going to go backwards in tools or build stuff that only runs in that environment. Apple can be innovative in marketing and packaging, I just wish it extended to development."

      While I'm no developer I've heard Xcode is quite good and excellent even. But then again if you're a Visual Studio head I guess anything not MS is foreign to you.

      And when was the last time Visual Studio ran on a non Windows platform. Oh that's right, never.

      About the only true cross-platform IDE is Eclipse.
    • RE: WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent

      I think it is pretty obvious by now that you?re a card carrying Microsoft supporter, and Apple hater. For a platform that you claim is so inferior and insignificant, you sure spend a lot of time trying to convince people it is nothing serious. Or are you a paid astroturfer?
      • Well said

        You know, it could be worse. He could be Steve Ballmer himself, or even an Australian!

        Note this probably deserves to be flagged far more than Rick_K's comment.
      • RE: WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent

        The fear that the truth will get out, is strong in the weak minded. I honestly do not know who is worse tomymcs, or Will Pharaoh. They both have a nasty habit of flagging posts that do not agree with their point of view.
  • RE: WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent

    This has to be one of the most odious little stories to appear on zdnet. As a "web celeb" maybe its a story better suited to the Enquirer.
  • RE: WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent

    Looks like you didn't get your free drink and because they didn't have a "pretty shiny" booth you dissed them (Apple). You make women in tech look like vapid crones. Do some digging and use your noggin. I'm hardly a fangirl, but what I see is the future (something you've seemingly glossed over).......buh bye ZD, you've been fun.....
    • I gotta agree

      I'm wondering if Violet was still drunk when she wrote this bewildering gossipy tiresome gunk.
      • RE: WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent


        Surely it takes more than alcohol for her to write this twaddle. Then I made the mistake of reading her CV. I laughed and laughed.
  • RE: WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent

    I very much like the Emperor's Got No Clothes approach and I also like how snobbery and elitism gets called out for being so unapologetic. At the same time, this article carries a huge chip on its shoulder and a considerable amount of paranoia (as well as a "guilty till proven innocent" attitude with regard to people's intentions). I don't want to go through it point by point, but I think the strongest articles are the ones where you can tell the writer reports the negative because they observe it, not because they seek it. As I read through this, it seemed as though the author had made up her mind what WWDC is all about before she arrived.

    Oh, and this: "if you?re a guy, you are only ever going to truly see things like a guy" underlines how the point of this article was never really WWDC.
  • RE: WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent

    About your closing question, I guess my answer would be what I most wanted to do using as much time as circumstances provide. All that heaven allows, to quote the song title from, perhaps, your Dad's favorite Jersey rocker, pre-Bon-Jovi. Flying high in April, shot down in May - to quote your grandmother's favorite Hoboken crooner - that's life. Who can say what hypothetical billionaires in that situation aren't doing exactly what they want within the constraints of crisis management?

    So that's what mansplaining means. I've been guilty. In mitigation, I explain the obvious to guys as well. I prefer that people let me know that we are, if not on the same page, both deep into the book, but as I've also been the receiver of mansplanations, and sometimes from the women, and sometimes I did require the full orientation to get a bit clued-in, I just take this as the inconvenient consequence of underdeveloped mind-reading facilities.

    Throw in alcohol-impairment and reality distortion fields and, well, it leads me to avoid parties. Well, that and how rarely one meets women who know what C, let alone Objective-C, means. (flipped-out '('me 'for 'them)) were they to talk with me about Dr. McCarthy's language.

    Slamming on Apple, of course, the calls for your head will be par for the course. That is not a mixed metaphor: there were Scottish golfers among the Jacobins in the French Revolution. Really, just - back from Wikipedia - look it up in the Wikipedia, but, hurry.

    I guess my takeaway is that you've raised some interesting points which are supported by reportage from a particular perspective, that of the granfalloon of the boozefest, populated by the guys who thought this was the hot ticket and who had the ready funds to plunk down within that two hour window. Many of whom were perhaps hoping to be ringside when the next bit of gee-whiz-kit sprung forth from Cupertino. No hardware. "Bummer, man." to quote my favorite fictional author of the uncompromised Port Huron Statement draft.

    Frankly, innovation is a word overused into meaningless. Stickier glue on the fly-paper may be innovative, as might be cheaper glue, or prettier glue. While the story you got is a reality, I'm not sure it's the overarching reality. My gut feeling is that the big story was delivered under NDA to the folks who went to client/server related tracks.

    And, in researching this talk back, my other gut feeling is that Sinatra's "That's Life" has a real Ray Charles flavor to its arrangement. I wonder if Quincy Jones was involved. Off to the wikipedia before it changes!
    • RE: WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent

      No. The track was produced by the late organist Ernie Freeman who has some amazing credits. Its year is 1966, so it could have been informed by Ray Charles' style.
  • RE: WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent

    This is one of the worst pieces of crap I've ever read. I guess you didn't bother going to any of the sessions. If you did, you'd be excited about the runtime improvements like automatic reference count, Xcode storyboard, and iOS graphics improvements including facial recognition.
    Mike Cohen
  • RE: WWDC 2011: No Innovation From Apple, Developer Discontent

    Well, this article is just more punishment for reading a ZDNet article. It never seems to end well. By the way, what the hell does PA mean besides Pennsylvania?