Macworld Expo -- Still Cool After 20 Years|
Mike Pasini, The Imaging Resource
(Tuesday, January 6, 2004 - 16:58 EST)
New iPods (in color) but not cheap, a revamped iLife (with an iPhoto that can handle 25,000 images), G5 server hardware and RAID storage. Just a few of the highlights of the keynote.
SAN FRANCISCO -- It's getting to be like Burning Man, except the guy is cool. Nothing goes up in smoke but the crowd is just as creative. And they want more toys to play with.
Once again Apple's Steve Jobs didn't disappoint them.
He introduced a revamped iLife suite for $49, saying it was "like Microsoft Office for the rest of your life," meaning everything else you do outside Office. And that now includes creating your own tunes with the newest app in the suite, GarageBand.
And just to get you in the mood, he tossed in the new iPod mini, which can hold 1,000 songs in its half-inch thick business card dimensions.
The theme 20 years later is the same. Revolution. This time around the revolution is the operating system, OS X. "The transition is over," Jobs proclaimed. "We made it."
With nearly 10 million people using the new operating system, Jobs claimed it was the fastest operating system transition in history.
He highlighted new features in Final Cut Express 2.0 (based on Final Cut Pro technology), available now with an upgrade price of $99.
Then the crowd got a look at Microsoft Office 2004, which will be available in the Spring. According to Microsoft's Roz Ho, who introduced the product, Microsoft will offer a Technology Guarantee Program to provide a free upgrade to Office 2004 to anyone who buys Office between now and its release.
New Word features include a Notebook Layout View with tabbed subjects and audio recording. Excel gets a Page Layout View so you see how your spreadsheet falls on a page as you design it. A Project Center helps manage your projects as they grow in complexity from simple documents.
Although much of the presentation was devoted to music, Jobs promised a year of interesting hardware introductions based on the G5 chip. Calling it the future roadmap in processors, he claimed it is the fastest PC in the world.
He highlighted the Virginia Tech supercomputer cluster as an example. Networking 1,100 dual processor G5s running OS X, the Virginia Tech team built the world's third fastest supercomputer from a small fraction of what the competition paid ($5.2M vs. $350M).
They could have used the XServe G5 introduced today with an unlimited client Panther license. And to accompany it, the upgraded XServe RAID storage system that provides $3/gigabyte storage up to 3.5 terabytes. The RAID has even been certified on competing operating systems, making it music to anyone's ears.
The updated iPhoto in iLife '04 supports up to 25,000 images "with zero waiting," Jobs said. Taking a cue from Adobe's Photoshop Album, it includes time-based views of your collection. You can view the last 12 months (or however many you set), holidays and a range of dates. Like Smart Playlists in iTunes, Smart Albums automatically collect images according to criteria you set.
You can now preview and rate your images from one to five stars. Slideshows have been enhanced with new transitions and Playlist compatibility so you don't have to listen to the same tune repeatedly.
Finally, iPhoto can share images and albums through Rendezvous. Jobs sighed with relief that "photos [unlike music] aren't copyrighted," mystifying a few professional photographers, no doubt.
There's more to iLife than iPhoto, of course. Every app in the suite got some attention.
iTunes, the jukebox software, has prompted the purchase of some 30 million songs since April 28. The largest individual customer spent $29,500.
But there are 5,000 audio books (with sales of 50,000 units) available, not to mention an iTunes gift certificate (at last) that has sold 100,000 units since its introduction in October 2003.
iTunes now features the Billboard charts from 1946, has 12,000 new classical tracks to up the total song collection to 500,000.
And Pepsi and Apple will sponsor a 100 million song giveaway kicking off with the Feb. 1 Superbowl in which one in three bottle caps is a winner. "We love music," Jobs explained.
You can now trim clips in place (in the Timeline) and there's a new audio scrubber in iMovie. Titles have been enhanced and you can import video from the iSight FireWire cam. You can also easily share a clip on the Web using the new File Share command that can upload the clip to your iDisk.
There are 20 more themes available in the new iDVD, enhanced DVD menus, more transitions, playlist compatibility, a DVD navigation map (accessible from a new button) and professional encoding that can pack two hours of video on a single DVD.
Most interesting to us, however, is the new Archive Projects option which allows you to use iDVD on machines without a SuperDrive. The archived project can be moved to a SuperDrive-equipped machine for burning.
With the new GarageBand, you can buy your kid 50 software instruments for $49, one of which is a $50K Yamaha grand piano. All you need is a USB or MIDI keyboard.
And if you don't have one, Apple will sell you a 49 key USB keyboard for $99. And you can buy 100 more insturments (including a $120K Bosendorfer grand) for another $99.
Or, as John Mayer put it, any 13 or 14 year old kid who gets this will lock himself in his room forever. An intriguing marketing strategy, Jobs observed.
Apple sold 730,000 iPods in the last quarter of 2004, breaking the two million mark two years after the product's introduction.
But here's the thing. The MP3 market divides into 31 percent segments for iPods, high-end flash players and low-end flash players (with 7 percent left over for other hard disk players).
The high-end flash player offers 256-MB storage for 60 songs, is about an inch thick and costs $200 (with a pretty bad user interface, Jobs noted).
Apple thinks the iPod mini can do better. Storing 1,000 songs in a half-inch thick business card box with the iPod interface, it will sell for $249.
We saw some interesting products on the Expo floor. Like Nikon's new scanners, Epson's new Stylus 4000, Canon's Digital Rebel, Olympus' new P-440 printer, as well as the $249 iPod in colored anodized aluminium cases. See our slide show for our first impressions.
But our lasting impression of this show is suite. Photography has been a silent art. But Jobs was drowned out when he showed how you can add a playlist to an iPhoto slide show. That's just the beginning. Having so many tools at your disposal, who could predict just what you can do? It's entirely up to you.
The revolution is over. The creative guys won.