The MacWorld 2004 Keynote


Steve was on at http://stream.apple.akadns.net, and the video will loop on for a few hours with demos and shots of the new products.

So, in brief, what we saw was:

  • The legendary 1984 commercial as a reminder of the Mac's 20th anniversary
  • The Mac OS X transition phase is officially over.
  • The launch of Final Cut Express 2.0 (a US$99 upgrade, it seems)
  • A demo of Microsoft Office 2004 (more eye candy, nothing revolutionary)
  • A nicely done Virginia Tech G5 Cluster video (1100 dual-CPU boxes)
  • The launch of G5 XServes ("unlimited client licenses like Linux, unlike Linux you can use these as a mere mortal")
  • The companion RAID storage (also certified for Windows compatibility, which is a neat touch)
  • A lot of iTunes Music Store stuff:
    • 30 millions of iTunes song downloads (70% of current legal downloads, and someone actually spent $29500 on music... wow)
    • Billboard charts
    • Classical music (making for a total of half a million songs in the Music Store)
    • A 100-million song giveaway, courtesy of Pepsi
  • The new iLife'04 suite ($49), with:
    • Revamped iPhoto, with better support for large photo libraries (up to 25000 photos with "zero wait"), time-based organization (ha! what I do already...), smart albums (with photo ratings) and... Rendezvous photo sharing ("guess what, there are no copyright issues with sharing photos" :))
    • iMovie 4 (at last, clip trimming in the timeline...)
    • iDVD 4, with enhanced menus (and an impressive menu map editor), slideshows, Pro encoding (2 hours' worth per DVD), plus the ability to run on Macs without SuperDrive for authoring
    • GarageBand, a "pro music tool for everyone" based on Soundtrack. Now that's interesting, because it's likely to eat into the market share of things like Reason:
      • 64-track digital mixing
      • 50 software instruments (including the Yamaha grand piano samples - wheeeee! these are a classic.)
      • 1000 professional audio loops
      • Live Recording (plus the über-gimmick of plugging in a guitar directly to the Mac and changing the amplifier "feel"...)
      • Expansible with the instrument and loops Jam Pack and a 49-key USB keyboard.
  • 730000 iPods sold over Xmas, 2 million total sold so far. The 10GB one is replaced by a 15GB, and we have a new headphone set.
  • The iPod mini. Guess what, it's not just white. :)
    • 1000 songs target capacity (4GB), the size of a business card, chargeable via Firewire or USB 2.0
    • $249 (plus a lenghty comparison with the target market segment), available worldwide in April

And this time, no "One last thing...", although the rumor sites are going to try to wring every bit of meaning from Steve's mention that Apple is just starting out in 2004.

All in all, a great keynote. GarageBand is every bit as revolutionary as iTunes, and Apple is positioning iLife as "Microsoft Office for the rest of your life", which is a nice way to say they're focusing on home rather than business use (for now).

As to the iPod mini, it's sure to generate a lot of controversy. Initial opinions like Todd's - in short, that $249 is still too much and that Apple's positioning of the 15GB iPod makes the iPod mini look too small will find a lot of support, but for the wrong reasons (Todd himself has reasoned that the price has to be about $249 anyway, but most people will just skip over his reasoning).

People have unrealistic expectations and forget that the thing has 4GB of storage (which is eight times what you get in the box in most players in the target segment) and that Apple is in this to make money, not to hand out cheap toys. People also forget that the iPod sells like hot cakes despite its current price (yes, even the 20 and 40GB ones)

My guess is that the iPod mini will sell very well, because (like the original iPod) it is an extremely "sticky" piece of hardware. The user interface is miles beyond what the competition is making (for now), and most attempts at duplicating it fail due to "feature fever" instead of coming up with an equally intuitive design. People don't buy iPods because they're cheap.

No, they buy them because it's something they know they want after handling one for five seconds flat.

Or, in the case of the iPod mini, probably two seconds and a half.