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Intel and More Inside

by Daniel H. Steinberg

In "Behind the Magic Curtain," former Apple employee Mike Evangelist says that a Steve Jobs Macworld Expo keynote may appear to be "just a guy in a black shirt and jeans talking about some new technology products. But it is in fact an incredibly complex and sophisticated blend of sales pitch, product demonstration, and corporate cheerleading, with a dash of religious revival thrown in for good measure."

When Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivers his Macworld keynote address, it is some of the best theatre you will ever see. This year, in a little over an hour and a half, he reported on Apple sales statistics, introduced the many changes in iLife '06, rushed past the lack of much in the way of improvements to the iWork suite, and introduced the new Intel-based iMac. Almost as an afterthought. he let the audience know that there was one more thing. Nearly 90 minutes into his talk he just casually mentions the PowerBook is being replaced by the Intel-powered MacBook Pro. Pure theatre.

A Look at the Numbers

Jobs leads off most keynotes with a look at how the Apple retail stores and various product lines are doing. Macworld newbies may find this odd. Instead of bringing out the new toys and whipping the crowd into a frenzy, Jobs begins by talking about the number of people who have walked through the doors of the 135 Apple retail stores. And the audience applauds enthusiastically. "Behind the Magic Curtain" quotes Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing as saying, "Those 6,000 Mac fans out there in the hall aren't against you, they're the best friends you can have."

There were 26 million visitors to the stores last quarter, responsible for $1 billion in revenue during the holiday quarter. Jobs announced that overall sales for Apple for the quarter was a record-breaking $5.7 billion. The crowd applauded. Not in that "whew, we made it through another tough time" sort of way, but in a "rock on, Steve, we're proud to be part of this" way. It is an example of what Kathy Sierra has been writing about in Creating Passionate Users.

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There was no announcement of the rumored media centers or Apple-branded television sets, but Jobs next turned to iPods and iTunes. During this last quarter, Apple sold 14 million iPods. In fact, 32 million of the 42 million iPods sold to date were sold during 2005. Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep have added iPod integration as an option, and Apple is predicting that 40 percent of all cars sold this year will have this option. Apple is also selling a remote and FM tuner for new iPods for $49. In addition, Apple has added collections from Saturday Night Live to their iTunes Music Store video offerings. iTunes was updated several times last year to add support for podcasting and video. Jobs next turned his attention to the other iApps that have been upgraded and boxed together as iLife '06.

Sharing Pictures

It's hard to evaluate speed increases in products during a demo. Particularly, as we later discovered, because Jobs was demoing the new version of iPhoto on an Intel-based iMac. What you could see from the show floor were the enhancements to the editing capabilities. You can edit pictures in full screen mode. The controls above and below appear when you need them and then tuck away out of sight when you don't. In the last iPhoto release, Apple made it pretty easy to make basic adjustments to your pictures with a palette containing slider controls. With this release, you now have eight different popular effects that you can add to your picture, or later undo if you don't like the result.

Every year, my mom takes her favorite pictures from the past year and prints out a calendar featuring her grandchildren. Birthdays are typed in, and sometimes holidays are noted as well. The new version of iPhoto will allow her to put out a much-higher quality calendar. The pictures can be arranged the same way you place pictures into a printable book. You can also import birthdates from AddressBook, calendars from iCal, and holidays for different nationalities and religions. You can drag photos onto specific days to further personalize the calendar. Jobs also showed off the new greeting cards that you can personalize with your own pictures and send off to be printed.

Calendars and greeting cards are great traditional ways to share your pictures, but the new version of iPhoto also offers you the ability to publish your pictures electronically. Photocasting requires that the person doing the sharing have a .Mac account. However, the people you are sharing with don't need to have a .Mac account or even a Mac. You create a new folder, drag pictures you want to share into that folder, and then share the pictures. You can require authentication if you want to restrict the access to your photos, but you are essentially advertising an RSS feed. As you add or change the pictures in the folder, you can push these changes out to any other subscribers.

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