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At MacWorld, Jobs Shows iPhoto & New iMac

by Daniel H. Steinberg
01/08/2002

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.

iPhoto and the Digital Hub

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.

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