Keynote Intermezzo


I ended up following the MSWF 2005 keynote via IRC and the Web near close of business today (my desk was surrounded by colleagues wanting to follow the event, which made it a trifle difficult to work once people got wind of the Mac mini).

Since it might take a day or so for the keynote video to be up (it will likely be posted here and in the homepage), I jotted down a few notes on what I think of it so far.

Realistically, in the grand scheme of things, this is just one more set of product launches. But it was a particularly fun one, and I bet that pundits will be discussing this one for months to come, raving about how it "marks an important turning point for Apple" and suchlike drivel.

For me, it sure beats watching TV. Steve Jobs is one heck of a showman no matter what he presents, and I will be grabbing the video as soon as I can in the highest resolution possible.

But here's my take on the new launches (or lack thereof):

iPhone, Where Arst Thou?

Lots of people will be ranting on about the iPhone "not being there", or will completely miss the fact that the Motorola iTunes "integration" is simply USB access to the filesystem and a skinned media player.

I see it as a way for Motorola to rekindle interest in their handsets (which are, quite honestly, some of the least intuitive devices I have ever used) and try to increase their market share. Apple's closeness to them helped a lot, I'm sure, but I really hope that other phone manufacturers (like SonyEricsson, for instance) get into the game.

And don't forget we still have to see whether or not carriers will bundle these handsets with their service offerings.

Nobody Looks When Shuffling

Even more will complain about the iPod Shuffle's lack of a display and the fact that it's a trifle more expensive than, say, a MuVo (I happened to buy a1GB one to give as a Xmas present, and it was eerily like the Shuffle - except that it had a display and ran off a single AAA battery).

I can't begin to imagine how many of these Apple will sell, despite the negative hype. Even before they lower prices oh, say... three months from now.

Of course, the Ogg Vorbis and WMA crowd will rant on regardless. Most people won't care and fill it to the brim with MP3.

The Cube, Reborn

As to the Mac mini, people are drooling all over it. Cringely must be especially pleased. Steve did it.

Like I posted earlier it is not going to win any performance awards, but it will be more than enough for the vast majority of people. And a lot of power users will like to own a small second machine.

Plus, it puts an end to all that whimpering about the Cube's demise. Now you can stack three of these and cluster them into a real Cube.

Plus, it looks much better than your average Mini-ITX box. And is just as expandable.

Heck, I'm seriously considering getting one to replace this server - it's an inglorious purpose, I know, but would save me a lot of hassle. And the packaging is glorious - it's the sort of thing that you can see yourself carrying out of a store, and that is one of the cleverest pieces of marketing around it.

iWork

The peanut gallery will rant on and on about Pages and the new Keynote and the fact that it makes iWork a less effective Office suite than Microsoft's own. Or, if you're in the Linux camp, than OpenOffice.

Let's get real here for a moment. OpenOffice on the Mac is a joke. One that is being valiantly ported to Mac OS X and which badly needs help, since it has been repeatedly delayed and is not one of the parent project's priorities.

But the bottom line is that it is nothing that you could (with a clear conscience) set up on a relative's Mac. Not even NeoOffice/J, which is better, but still bordering on usable - and by usable I mean not only a native look, but also stability and speed.

iWork steps in at a time where AppleWorks was due for a replacement, and provides what home users need the most: a capable word processor. Come on, Excel isn't exactly an application for the home - or, in Apple parlance, it's not a fun application.

Yet. My bet is that we'll see something along those lines sometime in the future. The timing will be highly dependent on when Apple feels like it's on good enough terms with Microsoft, and even then it won't be anything like Excel. Or, by that matter, Access (which is conspicuously absent from Microsoft Office for the Mac, but also not something you'd use at home).

Of course Keynote sticks out like a sore thumb. It might have educational uses at home that I'm not aware of after years of doing PowerPoint presentations (which, as anyone dealing with cognitive psychology will tell you, are simply the worst possible thing you can do to present anything). Or it might be just the right thing for teachers. Nevertheless, the presenter view spins rings around PowerPoint's, from what I can see.

H.264

Last, but not least, the most understated upgrade of iLife will probably turn out to be the biggest thing. I could not care less about the iPhoto upgrade, but the QuickTime 7 upgrade that underpins some of iMovie and iDVD's features will make video look much better and at smaller sizes.

Of course I'm more interested in the 3GPP/mobile side of things (and things like streaming media creation and 3G-to-iChat videocalls are going to be one of the things that I will be investigating closely when Tiger comes out), but like I predicted, 2005 is going to be the year of H.264 - and video is going to be even more popular.