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Focus on the Rest of Your Life

by Daniel H. Steinberg
01/08/2004

Think of the time that you are at work or at school. You use your computer to respond to email or to check the Web. You might be using your calendar to schedule more into your busy life or just posting stickies all over the screen. There are spreadsheets, text editors, presentation tools, and productivity applications for the work side of your life. This year, Apple CEO Steve Jobs centered his Macworld San Francisco keynote on what Apple is doing for the rest of your life.

When you have free time to play or to create, how do you spend your time? Whether it's listening to music or playing it -- Jobs had announcements. Whether it's organizing photos or making movies or DVDs -- there was something for you. It all started with a look back at the launch of the original Mac twenty years ago. In a way, Apple's strength then remains their strength now: Apple focuses on the needs of the people using their machines and software and explains how their offerings fit into these people's lives. Apple didn't invent the mouse, or the idea of windows, or the power of point and click, or the ease of cut and paste. They did package them into the original Mac and helped millions to understand these new paradigms.

Jobs re-ran the Super Bowl ad that launched the Mac. You can view the ground-breaking ad yourself. It's the original 1984 clip of the woman being pursued as she runs to hurl her sledgehammer at the big brother on the screen. Click on the link to see the subtle update to the classic ad that signaled the iLife focus for this year's keynote.

Preliminary Business

Jobs announced that there are currently over 9.3 million active Mac OS X users. This represents 40% of the Mac install base, and yet Jobs declared that "the transition is over, we've made it." He smiled as he noted that "Microsoft is copying us again -- it feels great." He ran through a list of some of the new applications joining the ten thousand existing native apps, including Apple's new version of Final Cut Express 2.

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Jobs introduced Roz Ho, the General Manager of Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit, to show off some of the new features of Office 2004. Kris Barton joined her on stage to show the new notebook view, which looks like a notebook with tabs and integrates nice search features that highlight the tabs where results have been returned. You can also add note flags to the left of your notes and record audio to accompany the notes you are taking. In Excel, Barton showed an improved page-layout view that lets you see how the table will appear when it is printed and allows you to tweak it to look better on the printed page.

Jobs set up the hardware announcement by talking about Virginia Tech's supercluster that is built from 1100 dual G5s. You can read more about the story of the building of the cluster in " Confessions of the World's Largest Switcher ," or view the QuickTime movie at Apple's site. At the moment, the Virginia Tech cluster is ranked third with over 10.28 teraflops. During the video shown at Macworld, Dr. Srinidhi Varadarajan smiled at the camera and said "Anyone could afford one now." After the video, Apple announced a new set of G5 Xserves, available as singles or duals, and a corresponding upgrade to the Xserve RAID series. Jobs started to carve out where Apple is heading by announcing that the pricing on these machines is "Far lower than Dell, Sun, HP, EMC. If you're in the market for storage, we're selling at about $3 per GB."

Video

In October at a Mac OS X Conference panel discussion, I wrote: "Mac DevCenter editor-in-chief and conference co-chair Derrick Story chimed in: 'I'd like to be able to take some of the photos I've taken here, organize them into an album, and share them with all of you the in same way that I can share my iTunes music.'"

With iPhoto 4, you can share your photos in a similar way to the iTunes mechanism. Jobs doesn't believe there are the same copyright issues and so people you share your pictures with can either view them remotely or can download them. The new iPhoto also includes better time-based organization so that you can see the last roll or several rolls, the last 12 months (or some other time unit) and the last several years. You can rate pictures and create smart albums the same as in iTunes.

In addition to photo sharing, the biggest enhancement to iPhoto is the ability to view "twenty-five thousand photos with zero waiting." That was a much-needed feature. As Jobs explained, when iPhoto was introduced, they never anticipated people having more than 500-1000 digital photos on their machine. I use my wife and my mom as measures of the Macworld keynotes -- both are going to love this feature. There are also small additions to the slide show that are nice, including adding playlists instead of a single tune, various transitions, and being able to rotate, move forward, or back during the show.

If you produce movies or DVDs, the enhancements to iMovie and iDVD are nice but not earth-shattering. iMovie provides alignment guides similar to those in Keynote, you can easily share movies to your .mac page or to other formats, and you there are new title types. The big addition to iMovie is the ability to import video directly from iSight.

iDVD has added more themes, enhanced the menus with some nicer transitions, improved the slideshows, and added a DVD navigation map. You will also be able to build your DVD on one machine and then burn it on a different one. This is particularly nice for homes and classrooms that have multiple Macs, not all of which have DVD burners.

Music

Jobs announced that the iTunes music store has sold more than thirty million songs since it was launched last April 28. The current weekly rate is just shy of one hundred million songs per year. Apple currently has a 70% market share of all legal downloads. Jobs paused and smiled that "it feels great to get above that 5%, doesn't it?" Recent addition to the offerings include audio books, gift certificates, and access for AOL members. Each of these is doing well.

The new addition was Billboard charts (U.S. readers probably remember Casey Kasem saying "Billboard ranks 'em, Top Forty counts 'em down") and twelve thousand classical tracks. This brings the current offering to "five hundred thousand songs for purchase and download today. iTunes is the largest online music store in the world."

iLife launched a year ago and at this point in the presentation, Jobs had outlined the updates for iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, and iDVD. Although this is a healthy set of updates, the new and cool addition to the iLife suite is GarageBand. When it ships January 16 as part of the $49 iLife suite, I'm going to buy a copy.

With GarageBand, you can plug in a USB or MIDI keyboard and go nuts. You can digitally mix up to 64 tracks, using the keyboard to play any of the 50 instruments on top of a foundation you can build from the thousand professional audio loops. You can adjust the pitch and tempo of the loops to fit what you're playing. Guitarist John Mayer joined Steve Jobs on stage to demo GarageBand. Mayer began with the keyboard and demoed a variety of instruments that included grand piano, upright jazz bass, and guitar. He explained that this is the "first time I've ever heard a guitar sound like a guitar. You can hear the string noise, the attack, and the sound."

GarageBand also features half a dozen guitar amps, so you can plug in your guitar and hear it with classic sounds such as British invasion, a Hendrix-like sound, and one seventies amp, to which Mayer nodded and said that it "sounds like an amp with a mike on it."

Jobs added that "instead of lugging your amp around, you can lug your PowerBook around." Mayer added that "I just wish I'd had this when I was thirteen or fourteen and I would have locked myself in my room forever." Jobs said, "that's our new marketing campaign." Mayer took time to explain that when he was younger he had to play against a record and pretend the lead guy wasn't there or play against nothing.

GarageBand is an "oh yeah" app. It fits with the other iApps because it supports people experimenting with creative expression. Apple is also selling companion products that add more instruments, loops, and guitars for $99, and a 49-key USB keyboard for $99.

The final piece of the music offerings was the new iPod mini. Over seven hundred thousand of the current iPod models sold in the October to December quarter. The two millionth iPod sold some time in December. For October through November, the iPod had 31% of the market share and 55% of the revenue. Jobs first announcement was that the low end will move from 10Gb to 15Gb for $299.

Then Jobs looked at the rest of the pie and estimated that 31% of the market is high-end flash-memory players, 31% of the market is low-end flash players, and the remaining 7% are the other hard-disk units. When Jobs carves up a market, he is explaining where the soon-to-be announced product will fit in. He dismissed the low-end flash players as not holding enough music. At the high end, he explained that the players hold about 60 songs and sell for around $200. This is the market that the iPod mini is competing with. It is a hard disk-unit that holds 4Gb and costs $249.

This is the announcement that caused the biggest disappointment at this year's show, for a number of reasons. Apple is positioning the new device as competing with memory-constrained devices. He explained that for $50 more, you could get a thousand songs instead of sixty. Audience members asked why you wouldn't pay another $50 to get almost four times the storage. In addition, there had been rumors of a low-end inexpensive iPod to attract kids. Jobs highlighted this piece of the pie in the same way that he highlighted quadrants of desktop/laptop offerings that he later filled with products.

Final Thoughts

The keynote included announcements of updates of the iLife applications and the introduction of GarageBand. Hardware announcements included the G5 Xserve and the new iPod minis. Media members grumbled that the offerings weren't that interesting, but Jobs also made it clear that there will be other announcements throughout this year as Apple celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the introduction of the Mac.

Daniel H. Steinberg is the editor for the new series of Mac Developer titles for the Pragmatic Programmers. He writes feature articles for Apple's ADC web site and is a regular contributor to Mac Devcenter. He has presented at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, MacWorld, MacHack and other Mac developer conferences.


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