Apple: How to bury an important announcement

A lot of people, Steve Jobs probably among them, were disappointed in today’s MacWorld keynote address. Lackluster new iMacs and another two months for Mac OS X 10.1 (including DVD playback and speed boost) were the “highlights.”

But Dave Winer pointed out something very important I missed (primarily because I joined the webcast after it had been announced. Give me a break, it started at 6 am PDT): Apple will embed SOAP and XML-RPC in Mac OS X and make it accessible through AppleScript.

Why is this so important?

Someday I’ll write a good description of what a major turning point XML-RPC represents. For now, the best way to describe it is this: It’s a universal protocol that works over the web that describes how applications talk to one another. It’s the basis on which this web server and the engine I use to edit it operate. As SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), it’s the basic syntax that Microsoft is using throughout their .NET initiative.

It’s the most important thing on the Internet since HTML. HTML allowed people to share information easily and enabled people to get connected to each other on the Internet. Just as HTML described how to allow people to access information in an intuitive, graphical way, so XML-RPC describes how to allow different computer programs to talk to each other across the Internet. It’s scalable and robust, it’s an emerging standard. And Apple is baking it into the OS at a very low level.

Microsoft’s vision for .NET is information access any time you need it, on any device, in any format. Dave Winer’s vision, along with the other folks working with him on XML-RPC, is the same, only they want the core services to be distributed across the community rather than all running in Redmond. And Apple wants its Mac users to be able to use AppleScript, its intuitive programming language, to wire programs running in Mac OS X to web services speaking SOAP and XML-RPC anywhere on the Internet.

Why is this important? Because this is where the next generation of killer apps will live. Bill Gates thinks so: he’s staked the future of Microsoft on it. And Steve and the gang have taken that bet and ensured that Mac users won’t be left behind.

So am I mad at Apple after the keynote today? Yes, but not because of hardware or because I have to dual-boot into OS 9 to watch DVDs until September. I’m mad at Steve because he spent time in the keynote showing screensavers and talking about the megahertz myth instead of articulating why this is so important. It’s something that’s hard to demo, but I guarantee this will make more of a difference to your life as a Mac user than the hardware will.