So today Apple dropped a bombshell today: the new Powermac G5.
But more importantly, they introduced the developer preview of OS 10.3, aka Panther. Why would I say more importantly, you ask? Especially when the so-called G5 (built around a chip totally unrelated in composition or even manufacturer to the previous G3 and G4) looks like it really does finally live up to Apple's claims of being the fastest desktop computer ever, defeating PC's in actual benchmark tests rather than just Photoshop filter bakeoffs? When the G5 accepts up to 8 GB of RAM, and has blindingly fast 1 Ghz system buses?
Because computers will always get faster. In the grand scheme, this is inevitable and each upgrade essentially meaningless. What should be important to us as human beings is how we will interact with these computers as their capabilities become more and more grotesque and we become more and more dependent on them for our own creative work and for the infrastructure of our society. As Alan Kay often says, we're still using the same windowing paradigm that he invented over 20 years ago at Xerox, which Apple then "borrowed," which Microsoft then "stole," and which formed the basis for basically every other major system since then (BeOS, KDE/Gnome, NeXTStep, the list goes on...).
Kay's own Open Croquet, built in Squeak, a programming language / development environment originally developed at and still technically owned by our own Apple Computer, provides a notable counter-example.
It's debatable whether a 3-D avatar system is really the next step in interface design, but at least it's something different - something that attempts to rethink the immense computing resources we have at our disposal.
Now back to the topic at hand: Panther. Let's start with Exposé. This handy little fella lets me manage my windows with some cool minimize-in-place, tiling windows, show all windows for a single app, and show desktop features. Any of this sound familiar? It should, because none of it is even the littlest bit revolutionary. These features are all just managerial tools to deal with the current static window paradigm - what about sticky windows, so that I can actually use two apps at once, without having to do the magic dance of rearranging their windows so they don't overlap? How about providing some the focus options that the Linux users that Apple's been trying to convert for so long have been screaming about for so long? Exposé is dope, but it represents a fundamentally stuck in the mud paradigm.
Next: the new Finder. So it looks different (many would say uglier). But what does it do? It's got this funny little Places bar on the left that you can use as a main navigation point. As far as I can tell, thats it! What happened to the rumors of the database file system, the smart folders? What happened to this OS being like nothing we've ever seen before?
On the whole, fast as these new G5's are, what I got from this keynote was that if I want some totally different shit, I'm gonna have to wait it out or just keep playing with Squeak. Cause Apple, creative as they might be, doesn't have the luxury right now of altering the user paradigm.
That said, Xcode is the dopest. I mean, changing code for an already running application?! On the back end, they're making a lot of big changes to desktop computing at large - when do the users get some?