Time magazine actually leaked the iMac story on Sunday night. Here's Steve Jobs on stage with the Time mag cover behind him. Keynote attendees received a free copy on their way out the door. Photo by Derrick Story.
The MacWorld keynote is a different sort of keynote, partly because Steve Jobs is such an engaging speaker. The crowd is different, too. Where else does the audience applaud sales figures? Even the press, which sits stoically taking notes at other shows, stands and applauds for product demos. On Monday, both audeinces came to hear Jobs, who made two big announcements: a new application for managing digital images called iPhoto, and the new version of the popular iMac.
Jobs divided digital devices into two camps: those that are enhanced by connecting to a computer and those that require a computer. The digital video camera and the DVD player are in the first camp. Consider a long video that you've shot, full of uninteresting moments. You probably would watch it once, then never again. But now you can load it onto your Mac and edit it into a tight, three-minute composition, then use iDVD to burn it into a DVD. The Mac adds value to both devices (the camcorder and the DVD player) in its role as digital hub. Jobs said that we can all consume and author the written word, but when it comes to video most of us are consumers. These applications help us become authors. He then demo'd a short piece on skateboarding produced by a thirteen-year-old followed by highlights of motion backgrounds and other new features of iDVD2
An MP3 player is in the second camp. It needs MP3's. You need to connect the player somehow to get the music. Apple looked at this and reasoned that if an MP3 player needed a computer to function then they had to provide the best computer experience for interacting with these players. This led to the combination of iTunes and the iPod. Between November 10 when the iPod was released and December 31, Apple sold 125,000 iPods. When you multiply that by the $399 price tag, that's a nice amount of holiday revenue. One the other hand, iTunes is free. Apple reports that 8 million copies of iTunes have been distributed. It works great on your Mac and it works better with your iPod. Move music from your CDs to your Mac to your iPod. As Jobs said when the sync wasn't happening during the iPod demo, you know how this works.
This brought Jobs to iPhoto, the application that, he said, completes Apple's digital hub strategy (for now). The digital camera falls into the category of digital devices that require a computer. Jobs reported that last year 6 million digital cameras sold in the US alone, submitting these poor souls to the so-called "chain of pain," the cycle of using different applications to import your pictures from the camera to the computer, edit the images and then print them out. Apple wanted to simplify these three steps.
Apple's iPhoto provides an easy import feature that feels much like syncing your iPod or Palm. The new pictures are easily imported and identified as coming from the same "roll". You can choose to leave the images on your camera or to delete them after they have been transfered. The editing was also easy and powerful for users looking to perform basic tasks. Cropping is done by clicking and dragging. If you are printing pictures that need to be a certain ratio then you can constrain the cropping to keep this aspect ratio. With a mouse click you can convert images to black and white. Jobs points out that you don't need to use the editor that comes with iPhoto. For example, he explained you can choose Adobe's Photoshop for editing. He paused, looked thoughtful and then said to the audience, "Unfortunately, I don't have Photoshop running on X yet." The point that Photoshop hasn't yet shipped for Mac OS X wasn't lost on this audience. They applauded loudly for this dig.
Apple has also made printing a picture pretty easy. When you decide to print an image the print dialog asks you to select your printer and to set the margins. It also allows you to print contact sheets to paper and greeting cards. In addition you can share your pictures electronically by creating a slide show under which you can play music. You can also interact with iTools to publish your pictures to a web page with the click of a button. This page also has a built in slide show feature so when your friends browse to your web page they can select the slide show and easily move through your pictures.
Once you start moving all of these images to your Mac, you're going to want to organize them somehow. Jobs used the analogy of a digital shoebox for your pictures. Just as you can create playlists on iTunes, you can create albums using iPhoto. You can search through your pictures in various ways and you can view the entire set of them, resize the images, or scroll back and forth through them very smoothly.
The final touch meets the arguments of those people who want to hold a photograph in their hand. There is something special about a stack of pictures that you can look at without turning on your computer. It's nice to page through a scrapbook. iPhoto allows you to order prints from Kodak for your pictures. You select the pictures you want and click a button and you connect to an Apple server where you order various prints to be sent to you or to one of your friends. Not fancy enough for you? You can produce an album by selecting a collection of pictures, putting them in order and deciding how many will appear on each page. Maybe you want a large version of this image all by itself on one page and these two or three together on the next. You can choose one of the canned themes for your book and then click a button to order a hard cover version of this photo album. It's around $30 for 10 pages or less and $3 for each additional page. But it's a cool idea for a special gift.
Apple has put together a really nice piece of software. It does way more than you might expect it would. Sure, I'd like to see the ability to put together a calendar -- and maybe that's coming in iPhoto2. As we've come to expect (perhaps unreasonably), iPhoto is available for free from Apple.
The big news was the new iMac but there were some changes to the iBook line. Now $100 cheaper, the bottom of the line is $1,199. The top of the line price dropped to $1,499 replacing the old model at that price, and a 14-inch iBook was introduced for $1,799. The 14-inch runs at 600 MHz and has a six-hour battery, a 20-Gig hard drive and 256 MB SDRAM. The top two models have a combo DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive. Jobs went through those details even faster than I just did.
After the keynote, the media was escorted to the Apple booth were we got our first hands on experience with it. Photo by Derrick Story.
Check out Derrick's picture of the iMac. It's kind of cool looking -- and it's a G4. This may get lost in the news about the look of the iMac and the flat panel screen. The entire line of iMacs are now G4 machines running at 700 or 800 mHz. The almost hemispherical base is the computer. The screen attaches to it with a connector that rotates and swivels for putting the screen at just the right position for you at any time. You can't predict how these will age. One of the features of the old iMac is no moving parts. Here you'll want to pull the screen this way and that. Only time will tell how the machine will hold up to stress (say in a school environment). It did seem to run much cooler than the current iMacs.
As the intended center of the digital hub, the new iMac has a third USB port, 2 FireWire ports and two audio outs. By the end of January Apple will offer the top of the line iMac. It runs at 800-MHz with 256 MB SDRAM and a 60 GB hard drive. In addition to the built in speakers, this ships with Apple Pro Speakers. It also includes a DVD-ROM/CD-RW SuperDrive The unit will be priced at $1,799. In February Apple will ship the 700-MHz iMac for $1,499. Other than the slower clock speed, the other differences are a 40 GB hard drive and a DVD-ROM/CD-RW Combo drive. Finally, in March Apple will ship the low end iMac for $1,299. It doesn't come with the speakers and also offers a CD-RW drive.
The details that Apple has put into the screen make it very usable for adults (although I worry about my kids yanking on it). Apple preferred form over function in other respects. I love having the headphone jacks in the front of the current iMac. It is so much easier to plug into the iMac than into the back of my G4 tower. The new iMac puts the headphone jack in the back. You may think this is small or petty but think about Apple's plan. Jobs positions Apple computers as the digital hub and then he makes it hard for you to plug your devices into this hub by putting all of the connectors in the back. Couldn't he put the USB and FireWire connectors on the side and the headphone jack in the front. The modem and ethernet can go in the back because I'm not always plugging and unplugging these.
Jobs announced that Mac OS X will be the default OS on all products by the end of the month. This may be one of the bravest announcements of the keynote. I love X and use it almost exclusively. It is stable and has the tools I want. As Jobs mentioned, Mac OS X has made many Unix programmers into Mac developers and many Mac developers into Unix programmers. On the other hand I worry about my fictional Uncle Bob. You know the one -- he'll mistake the new non-slot loading CD player for a cup holder. What happens when he brings home his new iMac, boots it up and installs old Mac software and has to wait for Classic to start up.
Let me say clearly, unlike other journalists I am not urging you to leave Mac OS X for Mac OS 9 (any more than I'd argue for a return to those horseless buggies like in the good old days). I am, however, a bit worried about Uncle Bob's reaction. This is a bold move by Apple. Moving their users to a better, more stable platform with an unfamiliar UI. Now Uncle Bob can choose to boot in 9 and avoid this situation, but he won't because he's imaginary.
There were two notable non-announcements. Nothing was announced about QuickTime. Perhaps with QuickTime Live next month, Apple is holding all of their QuickTime announcements. QuickTime doesn't get much in the way of mentions anymore and it continues to be a great piece of Apple technology that is not a Mac only product. The other omission was Mac OS X. Sure we heard that it will be the default OS, but we didn't hear what's coming. Jobs didn't sit down and demo the cool new features that the engineers are working hard on. He took us up to the present in his clock analogy. He didn't promise that 10.2 would be released in March but he implied that it would be around that time. Perhaps the details will be covered in Tuesday's presentation by Phil and Avie.
There were very few third party demos at the keynote this year. Adobe's Executive Vice President Shantanu Narayen promised that all of Adobe's applications will take advantage of Mac OS X. He announced that After Effects 5.5 is shipping and that InDesign 2.0 will ship soon. He gave a demo of Photoshop but didn't announce any release plans. Palm's Chief Operating Officer Todd Bradley gave a demo of the Palm 4.0 beta available for free at http://www.palm.com/macintosh. He also announced that all Palms are shipping with a USB cradle. His demo of the Palm software made me wonder how Apple could be done with their digital hub strategy. An Apple application like iTunes or iPhoto for organizing your schedule and contacts would be well received.
The last three demos were fun. Mike Evangelist, Director of Marketing at Apple showed off Final Cut Pro 3.0. He dragged effects into his demonstration movie and replayed the composition with the new effects. He easily added a dissolve and titles using the Realtime effects engine. With a few mouse clicks he corrected the color of an image. The application allows complete video editing in software. Theodore Gray, co-founder of Wolfram research showed off Mathematica. The images were beautiful, the text clear, and the animation incredible. Gray described a calculation that would take days to run. He explained that you "wouldn't do that on any other OS because the calculation needs to run on a machine that can run for days without failing." He said that Wolfram has been waiting for Mac OS X because it really lets Mathematica shine. Aspyr's President Mike Rogers showed off their new Harry Potter video game and announced that Sims HotDate will be available on the Mac soon and that Aspyr is working on Star Wars Galactic Battle.
There are familiar patterns to most recurring events in our lives. The Steve Jobs keynote begins with him walking on stage in a black shirt and blue jeans, waiting for the applause to die down and then saying, "We have some great stuff to announce today." The keynote ends with Jobs' announcement of "one more thing." It's not always a home run but it's an item that will make our list of highlights from the keynote.
Today there was no "one more thing". At the end of the keynote Jobs basically looked out at the audience and said, there's a nice summary of the keynote in this week's Time magazine. There's been much speculation about why Apple moved the keynote up a day. Many assumed that there must be some big announcement. The last minute scheduling change inconvenienced or created additional expenses for many. All this so that the keynote would be delivered before this week's Time (except in Canada, where it was leaked last night).
It's not that there needs to be a great "one more thing". We saw a new iMac, a great new app in iPhoto, and some enhancements to the iBook line. But Apple has been hyping this show. In the past week Apple has taunted the public with daily slogans on their home page. Starting with New Year's Eve, the daily hype included the following.
Looking back on this list in the light of the MacWorld keynote feels like looking back at the height of fashion from the 70's.
When Steve Jobs first returned to Apple he carefully employed the winning strategy of under promising and over delivering. There was evidence of that in this keynote as well. Apple opened 27 retail stores last year. That's two more than what was promised. It is true that Apple never promised anything in the way of hardware or software and that what they delivered in iPhoto is far more feature rich than anyone predicted. But they let us believe that we would be blown away. They are letting critics spend too much time focused on what wasn't announced.
On the other hand, the rumor sites are already speculating about what will be announced at QuickTime Live, MacWorld Tokyo, WWDC, and MacWorld NY. It ties back to an observation that Jobs made early in the keynote. With other PC manufacturers laying off and making minor improvements to their line, Apple is intent on innovating. Whether your were excited, disappointed or merely interested in Apple's announcements today, you will continue to watch Apple to see what they do next. When's the last time you payed this close attention to announcements from other hardware manufacturers?
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