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Macworld Wish List for Steve

by David Miller
12/30/2003

G5s and iMacs and Powerbooks and iBooks. Panther and Keynote and iLife and Final Cut. These are a few of my favorite things.

It's been a busy year at Apple's headquarters; the elves have been busy down in sunny Cupertino, California hacking away on the iTunes Music Store, G5, Mac OS X Panther, and countless other offerings, from the 20" iMac and new Powerbooks and iBooks, to Apple's conferencing duo, iChat AV and the iSight video camera.

It's been a great year (arguably, the best in a long time) for the Cult of Mac, although many of us are left wiping the drool off of our chins as we realize that our wallets just aren't fat enough to pay for that trip to the Apple Store to pick up Apple's new toy. And with the Macworld Conference & Expo coming up in early January, there's a strong chance that the bang that 2003 left behind will echo into 2004. Just think of Steve Jobs' keynote speech as a second Christmas; instead of Santa leaving presents underneath the tree, Steve will be unveiling them during the speech.

Related Reading

Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, Panther Edition
By David Pogue

The elves here at O'Reilly's MacDevCenter have spent the entire year trying to keep you, the reader, informed on what's going on in the Macintosh development circles. So forget about sugarplums dancing in our heads; we've been dreaming of what else Steve might have stuffed away in his sled. And so, I'm pleased to present you the wish list of the MacDevCenter editors. But being the Mac-nuts that we are, this list isn't what we'd like for Christmas. Instead, it's a list of what we'd like to see announced in Jobs' keynote on January 6th. Let's just hope he won't be giving socks, underwear, and a tuna-fish necktie as presents to those of us who will be watching the presentation (in person or via streaming broadcast).

Be warned that the list is composed of presents that range from stocking stuffers all the way up to big-ticket items that come with a big bow wrapped around them. Some items on the list might see the light of day, while others are purely pipe dreams; it shouldn't be too difficult to figure out which one is which.

Big-Ticket Items

iOffice

Keynote was released to an unsuspecting public earlier this year. Serving as Apple's first entry into the realm of office applications, Keynote has proven to be very capable and easy to use. But why stop with just a presentation program?

Daniel H. Steinberg would like to see three other applications added to the stable: Document for word processing, Spreadsheet for number crunching, and Account for balancing your books. And like Keynote, each would be fully compatible with their Microsoft Office cousin (or Quickbooks, in the case of Account), and sport a publicly documented XML syntax, akin to APXL, to allow interaction with other XML-aware programs. Since Keynote is already a mature application, the version that ships with Office 1.0 will include new features, such as hyperlinking to other parts of the presentation, in addition to other files such as AppleScripts and web pages.

iPhone

With the iPod, Apple has proven that they can compete in the consumer electronics market. Prior to the iPod's release, many doubted whether Apple would re-enter the market after the Newton was axed.

But after toppling the digital music player market with the iPod, who's to say that Apple won't give the iPod a cousin to play with? MacDevCenter's editor, Derrick Story, would like to see an iPhone that integrates with Mac OS X's applications such as iCal, Address Book, and iPhoto over Bluetooth. And judging by the level of craftsmanship that Apple put into the iPod, the iPhone would certainly be a sought-after item for anyone who is dismayed by the current market of cell phones.

iTerminal

Think of a traditional *nix terminal. Now bring it into the 21st century by replacing the monochrome-green CRT with a touch-sensitive flat-panel, and having it use Airport instead of an Ethernet cable to communicate with nearby Macs. Include Apple Remote Desktop to allow users to create sessions with their main workstations, or to use the iTerminal as a slideshow display for an iPhoto album stored elsewhere on the network.

New Boxen and Hardware

We can always count on new, more powerful machines to be released every year, especially with the first wave of G5 chips hitting the market. 2003 also brought the G4 chip to the iBook, effectively removing the G3 from Apple's product line entirely. Of course, we'd all like to see a Powerbook G5 for under $1,000, but that's just not going to happen any time soon. Maybe some of the following will:

  • A G5 XServe
  • An XServe geared towards small businesses and independent developers, possibly equipped with the G4 architecture to keep prices down
  • A special edition Mac to commemorate the Macintosh 128K's 20th anniversary, complete with retro-styling
  • A 30" Apple Display to allow a bazillion documents to be open and viewable at the same time, and capable of doubling as an HDTV set in a pinch

Medium-Sized Presents

iScan

I would love to see an application from Apple that puts to rest all of the shoddy applications for OS X that are bundled with scanners. Not only do the applications look as though they originated in Windows 95, but they also leave a lot to be desired in the usability department.

Ideally, Apple would use the existing TWAIN standard, and include drivers for as many products as possible with iScan's release. Scanner manufacturers could then provide TWAIN drivers for their own products on their web sites.

iPod Additions

The iPod's feature set has expanded with each upgrade to its firmware; it was originally released as a no-frills digital music player with a secret game of Breakout thrown in for good measure. But now that the firmware has reached version 2.1, the iPod can store your contacts, calendar, notes, and even wake you up with the tunes of your favorite playlist.

And the introduction of Belkin's Media Reader and Voice Recorder accessories proved that the iPod can handle tasks that are way beyond the scope of its original purpose. Whether Apple continues down the road of adding more and more functionality to the iPod remains to be seen. Either way, here's what we'd like to see:

  • A plug-in keyboard for the iPod to add capabilities traditionally belonging to PDAs
  • Bluetooth output and input to wirelessly stream audio to any receivers that may be listening, which would allow a network of iPods to stream music to each other (similar to how iTunes can stream music)
  • An adapter to allow the iPod to use a Powerbook or iBook power cord, which would remove one more item from our already packed bags

Entertainment

While OS X really is a joy to use, it has yet to reach the level of "fun." Just about every other operating system includes a series of basic games to pass the time for a short time while a task runs in the background. Whereas Windows introduced Minesweeper and Freecell to the masses, OS X includes a rendition of Chess to fill the void. Which, while enjoyable, is like playing a cricket match for five minutes: it's hard to enjoy when played for such a short period of time.

ADC Membership Levels

Mac OS X includes, at no extra charge, world-class development tools to create applications for the new operating system. However, support via the Apple Developer Connection is available on four different levels (the details are available here):

  • Online: A bare-bones membership that is freely available to anyone and includes access to SDKs and resources such as mailing lists and example source code.
  • Select: Lodged between the Online and Premier levels, this category gives developers access to everything included in the Online membership, in addition to resources such as pre-release software and operating systems.
  • Premier: This category is the top-of-the-line, no-holds-barred, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink combo, and weighs in at $3,500 for an annual membership.

In addition to the above list, Apple provides a Student category for the annual fee of $99.

Andrew Anderson would like to see a Hobbyist/Independent category that is targeted towards one-man operations, providing resources that are available for students to the small developers who can't justify the Select membership when their budgets are considered. The inclusion of the developer tools package in the box for no extra cost is the major reason why OS X has received so much attention from the developer community. Opening up the Apple Developer Connection to these same people who may come from a Java or Windows development background and are tinkering with XCode and Interface Builder could work wonders for application development on OS X.

.mac Services

Several of the elves here at the MacDevCenter would like the .mac applications to become available without having to sign up for the whole package. This would allow consumers to purchase/subscribe to individual applications, such as Backup and iDisk, since they're offered a la carté. Those who wish to use all of the .mac applications could continue to do so with the bulk discount.

New Versions of iLife Applications

The iLife Applications (iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, and iDVD) really are the top of their class. But there's always room for improvement:

  • While Apple wants people to buy SuperDrives to use with iDVD, it would be nice if the application worked with generic and/or external DVD/R drives.
  • iPhoto's interface for assigning "keywords" from photos is still confusing.
  • As Panther proved, improved performance never hurt anyone.

iLife Framework

Cocoa programmers have had hooks into the system-wide Address Book framework since the application was introduced with Panther. Similarly, the iLife applications have access to each other's libraries, making it easy to place your favorite photos and music into an iMovie project, for example. It would be even cooler if Apple provided an iLife framework that gave Cocoa (and Java) programmers access to the libraries without resorting to parsing the applications' XML library files, as mytunes does.

Stocking Stuffers

Last, but definitely not least, are the small things that we'd like to see from Apple in 2004:

  • A "Create Disk Image From Selection" command available via a contextual menu in the Finder.
  • A "Recent Files" menu item to accompany the "Recent Projects" item in XCode.
  • The ability to enable/disable tracks on a per-playlist basis in iTunes, rather than throughout the entire library.
  • Thorough AppleScript support for all of Apple's bread and butter applications, such as Safari, as they remain unscriptable, for the most part.

Wrapping Up

A huge thanks goes out to the elves here at the MacDevCenter who posted their Macworld wish-lists (in no particular order):

And before we retire for the holidays, we'd like to wish you a safe and happy holiday. But before you put your Mac to sleep for the holidays, feel free to post your own wish-list here; what would you like to see announced at the keynote?

And just remember: your Mac will be patiently waiting for you when you return to your office after the holidays. Enjoy the time with friends and family, and we'll see you back here in 2004.

David Miller is combining his passions of photography and working on the web at iStockphoto; when not hacking away with a text editor and a few web browsers in hand, he can be seen huddled over his laptop tweaking levels and curves for his freelance photography. Keep track of David's latest projects over at his home on the web.


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