The Last MacWorld

Yep, the last MacWorld keynote is over. And, across the Internet, everyone is weighing in on “the last MacWorld that mattered”, so even though I’m being pestered to play Mario Kart by every one of my colleagues who got a Wii for , I thought “why not?” and whipped out my laptop.

First off, a note on form. I think that getting Phil Schiller to deliver this was a good way for to show that presence, although important, isn’t mandatory for launching new products. And yet, I’m certain that a good many people will do him the injustice of saying this was “the worst keynote ever” (or other inane and immature ramblings) without even having been there, or (even worse) damn him with faint praise.

Not having been there (or seen the video yet), I nevertheless am compelled to think (from written transcripts and previous appearances) that he did more than just “a good job”. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be an VP.

As to the keynote announcements, I think it was all about as could be (realistically) expected, considering that MacWorld has always been about the and satellite products and that all of the announcements actually made sense (both the software suites and the 17” were in dire need of a refresh).

Of course, I’m already seeing widespread evidence that the news coverage is being anything but realistic. Particularly concerning the 17” , I couldn’t care less about it or the built-in battery.

That boat (pun intended) has sailed, even though we’re sure to have to wade through weeks’ worth of pointless rants regarding it.

The stuff was… kind of predictable if you follow the industry at all, and (of course) none of the stupid netbook/phone/whatever rumors panned out.

On Rumors

Before putting forth my take on what I gleaned from such sources as Ars’ coverage (yeah, we all know MacRumorsLive was “hacked” – life goes on, and people eventually learn to code better management interfaces…), there are a few things that I’ve been mulling.

Every year around this time I wish someone took the rumor mongers to task and published a summary rundown of every rumor published over the past month or so. I’ll even provide a template and a couple of examples:

Rumor Source Published On Target Date/Event Accuracy
iPhone nano some random accessory maker (insert site name and date here) MWSF’09
17” with non-removable battery someone with a clue many more places by tomorrow MWSF’09 ★★★★★
webpad “trusted sources”/wannabe analyst everywhere, by now, around three times every month every year around this time
(for effort)

…etc. You get the idea. If someone actually went ahead and published this nice, clean table somewhere (as the simplest possible thing), we can refer to the rumors, their sources and the idiots who published them, as well as matching any new rumors against the old ones.

I think it would be a pretty popular site1. Maybe would be a nice domain name for it. Or, in homage to the (subliminally brilliant) “Tony Bennet”:Wikipedia:Tony_Bennet song selection for the finale,

The “missing”

Most people whom I’ve been tracking on seem to think this is the (midget) elephant in the room, i.e., they were waiting for a new, revamped .

My personal take is that the refresh makes some sense, even though it is (literally) the runt of the litter and never seemed to be something invested much time and effort in .

Then again, I have long been of there being some kind of (in largely the same fashion I once wrote about what “Apple” could do regarding ), but am realistic enough to acknowledge that that, if it happens, probably won’t rate more than a press release in this new, exciting age of actually managing their own agenda outside the trade show circus trail…

Note to Conspiracy Theorists: mix in any wishful thinking you might have concerning an refresh. Discuss.

I wouldn’t call earth-shattering (especially not considering that with every iteration it seems to make slower in real life), but there are a few things that struck my fancy.

For starters, proper geo-tagging was long overdue. I’ve been hacking away at for years now and am (sometimes painfully) aware of all the little nitty-gritty details that have to fall into place, so I’ll just brush aside the last four years or so and leave it at that2.

And yet, due to the lack of a really simple UI for it, I’ve always been rather lax in adding location information to photos. But I have found it more and more useful since last year, and it’s great to see that they went well beyond the extra mile and that we’ll get some great-looking maps (courtesy of ) and the ability to name locations. I personally find it very, very interesting indeed, for a number of reasons3.

I see and Flickr integration as (finally) acknowledging that there is demand for other photo sharing services than their own. Many people will point out that Picasa is now also available on the , but I personally don’t like it much, and it – regrettably – feels very alien on the due to its use of some kind of WINE-like solution.

Conspiracy Theorists: discuss whether or not MobileMe Gallery will become extinct or suffer an upgrade because of this, and try to draw a correlation between Picasa’s recent port and today’s events, if any.

Still, on a more personal level, I find the Faces stuff as being the most interesting enhancement, both because I am fully aware of how demanding face recognition is and because the most common tag I have on my main iPhoto library (some 30.000 strong) is… the kid’s name.

I (like many others) tag each photo with each person’s name, and if the face detection actually works under the tremendously varying circumstances one comes across, including having many people in the same shot (something which is pretty hard), then I’m sold.

I have three qualms regarding the new as far as my personal needs and wants are concerned:

  1. I have a feeling this will only work properly on a pretty beefy machine, and my current iPhoto repository is… a G4 , which is the house server.
  2. Based on of experience for , I don’t think it will update data on the photos themselves and stick to maintaining metadata separately (which sucks, bigtime). I sincerely hope I’m wrong here, because it’s the wrong way to do things. Metadata belongs on the photos themselves, not in the database.
  3. Getting an album printed and shipped to is (for now, at least) still an imperfect experience (we have to pretend we’re Spanish, which is somewhat ridiculous and, as you may well understand, isn’t generally accepted by the overall populace).

The rest is, huh… Ok, I guess. I don’t do movie editing and I don’t have time to learn to play the guitar (although there’s a guitar and a seldom-used piano in the house), so I don’t really care.

is a bit more interesting, though – at least relatively speaking, since I prefer 2008 and its native(ish) file format handling over ‘lite’ apps.

Sure, the new effects in are (as usual) pretty cool, but… I value clarity and structured content in presentations, and flashy stuff doesn’t add that much value in my neck of the woods. I do believe that a lot of newsrooms are going to have a ball with it, and that’s that.

The rest of the native apps are… humdrum, in a way, even if the Mac Box Set looks like a clever ploy to round up the few stragglers that haven’t upgraded to yet. One purchase, and they get the whole enchilada, so to speak.

Conspiracy theorists: is the Mac Box Set is targeted at “Hackintosh”:Wikipedia:Hackintosh users? Again, discuss, but now without any sharp implements.

The only thing I really want is a equivalent4 of the new Keynote Remote. Even though I favor simple two-button presentation controllers, that little app would be pretty damn useful for addressing big audiences.

The Online Collaboration Gambit

As to, and having worked on all manner of since, oh, 1994 or something, I see it more as take on Sharepoint than (as other people have already gone on about) a more polished Google Docs.

Some theorists have previously put forward the notion that is going for the stuff has been delivering for years at the corporate level (, assorted OS features, etc.) and making it available to mom-and-pop shops. And extending that notion to as a simplified Sharepoint sort of makes sense.

And maybe they have a leg to stand on, although my take is threefold:

  1. has occasionally (and timidly) dipped into (if mostly as research)
  2. They believe having online services matters
  3. They are certain that people will pay for simple collaborative tools that are seamless enough to use without hassle

And let me tell you that is extremely hard to do without hassle.

But everyone is going to ignore all of that and just try to compare it to Google Docs.

Still, I think it’s a good benchmark – sure, let’s wait and see how it stacks up with Google Docs not merely in terms of looks, but in terms of actual functionality (and speed, and compatibility, etc.).

But is bound to be acutely aware that stuff not only has two orders of magnitude more likely users but also still seems to be trying to solve a problem that people in general effectively don’t have – at least not every day.

My point is that isn’t doing this on a whim. Someone worked out the math for a business case and it was cleared to become a product (a decision which isn’t taken lightly there, regardless of what some people may think).

And even if is free, it’s not directly tied (yet) to a native office suite (which, believe me, makes all the difference in terms of usability).

In summary, I like the idea overall, and look forward to watching a demo and/or trying it out (as time permits).

Conspiracy Theorists: Complain that this is what MobileMe was supposed to be according to some rumor or another, and herald it as the office suite for the future netbook/webpad. Pine for the as-yet nonexistent hardware yet again and/or complain about the price.

One Last Thing…

I’ve noticed that most of the people ranting about the matte display option on the 17” not being available on “regular” don’t understand about component sourcing for manufacturing and the hassle that build-to-order is in terms of stocks, logistics, etc.

Yes, sure, deals with component manufacturers in bulk, but it’s not just about an added cost for a different (and admittedly lower-volume) non-default part.

It also has to do with it being easier (and cheaper) to allow for a different SKU in machines that will have lower production volumes (and where exceptions can be handled more easily) than on the higher volume (and less configurable) devices.

Still, I, too, wish it could be done. I hate my black reflective screen with a passion.

1 Who knows, it might even become a better business model than whoring rumors for clicks.

2 I started that particular Wiki node in 2005, and was interested in it even before it deserved a node of its own.

3 In case you missed that bit, , and just gave me a great set of new toys…

4 With the same degree of polish. There are third-party alternatives already out there, but I’d rather have something from Microsoft

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