2007-06-09

Apple keynotes: Christmas twice a year

I'm too old for Christmas, and I'm too old for birthdays. I vaguely remember the excitement, though. And I get to relive the feeling a little even now, thanks to the MacWorld keynote every January and the WWDC keynote every summer.

The funny part is that the keynote is usually pretty dull. It's not very technical, and the technical aspects are usually distorted anyway. I might pay (a token amount, like you'd pay for a movie, not the ridiculous amount you'd pay to attend WWDC) for Apple's touring "tech talk" days, the NDA for which probably doesn't prohibit me from saying "it was good". But the keynotes rarely tell me anything I care about as a developer (other than OS release dates), and I can't remember rushing to order anything announced at a keynote. And still, they're about the only two events of the year where I feel any kind of anticipatory build-up.

Maybe, as much as anything, it's because Apple is one of the few sources of information I deal with that don't like to spoil things by telling me everything too soon.

The cover of the edition of Heinlein's "Farnham's Freehold" I just read tells you the ending, in words, on the front cover.

Apple does not discuss forthcoming products.

The DVD of Barton Fink shows you one of the final scenes of the movie, on the completely useless "menu" screen that I have to navigate around just to play the damn thing. I hate whoever decided to put UI on DVDs in general, because it's just shit that only adds fake value and actually costs me something, if only in usability. Let there be some defined way of handling multiple soundtracks, multiple subtitle languages (don't get me started on how badly they implemented subtitles!), and episodic content, and then get the fuck out of the way. But, yeah, I hope the company that transferred this to DVD go out of business. Forcing the user to watch the end before they can watch any of the movie? Madness.

Apple does not discuss forthcoming products.

The trailer for Hot Fuzz showed a scene that would probably have been really effective in its proper context, but which didn't work in the film because you knew where it was coming, and how it would be resolved.

Apple does not discuss forthcoming products.

Back on DVD menus, the first season of Deadwood has an animated menu screen that, in amongst stuff whose significance would be hard to guess in advance, gives away what happens to Alma Garrett in the last episode. Brilliant.

Apple does not discuss forthcoming products.

Another TV series, Battlestar Galactica screws you even if you don't watch it on DVD. Instead of spoiling things at the menu screen, next to the titles at the start they run through all the action of the episode you're about to see. When you know, as soon as you realize what you're seeing, you can look away. But still... WTF?

Apple does not discuss forthcoming products.

Canonical's Ubuntu releases and Sun's Java releases would be the other technological highlights of my year, but both of those companies keep me fully up-to-date with their progress. By the time they release, I know what bugs they've fixed, what features they've added, and what bugs they didn't fix or actually introduced. In both cases, I can have been running many builds in between their releases.

So although I jokingly say "Thank the lords of Kobol for Apple", I really wish the media companies would learn to keep secrets that are fundamental to my enjoyment of their products, and I wish Apple would learn to share more information that's fundamental to my use and purchase of their products. I don't see Apple changing, because the way they're doing things seems to be working for them, but I wish the media companies would get a clue.