Last week, Apple made its last-ever keynote presentation at MacWorld Expo in San Francisco. We thought you might want to know what they had to say, but first…
LAST MACWORLD — AND NO STEVE
The biggest news was the announcement Apple made shortly before MacWorld: This would be the last they would participate in, and Steve Jobs wasn’t going to give the keynote. MacWorld Expo has been something of a holy ritual for the last 23 years, so this came as a shock, and fueled the rumors of Steve Jobs being dangerously unwell.
My take is that it doesn’t in fact make sense for Apple to participate in MacWorld any longer. Apple doesn’t control MacWorld; it’s an IDG event, not Apple’s, and Apple is all about control of message and timing. By participating in MacWorld, Apple is forced to make major product announcements on someone else’s schedule. They’re not having a hard time getting their message out, through their stores, ads, and news media. The brand is about as valuable and visible as it can be, without MacWorld.
But I think there’s another reason. A couple of years ago, I attended MacWorld Expo, and I had a minor revelation: it no longer serves the purpose it once did. In the 1980s and ’90s, during MacWorld’s heyday, it was truly a celebration — Mac fans from all over converged, shared information, geeked out, and did business. The show floor was bursting with vendors with innovative products, unlike the half-empty floor I saw. What’s changed? The internet. Events like MacWorld used to sustain a community around a product. Today, communities are online, and information is shared constantly. It’s expensive to attend trade shows, and vendors have no real need to do so, given the power of the web to let people know they exist. MacWorld Expo is a relic.
As for Steve’s health, the day before MacWorld, he put out an odd “public letter” in which he declared that he had a hormone imbalance that was causing him to lose weight, but it’s not impeding him from running the company. Is this accurate? Who knows — but I do think Apple is wisely trying to figure out how to not be defined by a single individual. Some of Apple’s most innovative products came during the 1980s and ’90s, when Steve Jobs wasn’t at the company. The color Mac, the PowerBook, the Newton (a failure, but a visionary product), inkjet printers, the digital camera, and lots of other good stuff were pioneered without him. The company wasn’t especially well run as a business during that time, but there was no shortage of excellent and creative products. I believe that at Apple, there will be life after Steve — but hopefully it won’t be soon.
So what did Apple announce at MacWorld? Product updates, and one introduction.
iLife ’09 ($79), iWork ’09 ($49) and Box Set ($169)
iLife is the latest version of the suite comprising iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, iWeb, and GarageBand. All get updates; particularly cool is iPhoto’s new FaceBook and Flickr integration, facial recognition to group photos by people, and usage of cell phone GPS information to organize photos by where they were taken. Also, GarageBand can now teach you to play piano or guitar, courtesy of Sting, Sarah MacLachlan, and John Fogerty. iWork is Apple’s alternative to Microsoft Office, and gives new capabilities to its suite of productivity applications which do things the “Apple Way.” Box Set is Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard,” iWork ’09, and iLife ’09, in one box, for about $90 cheaper than if you bought them separately; it’s a good way to get your Mac current.
MacBook Pro 17″
The largest Mac laptop has been given the “aluminum unibody” style of the current 13″ and 15″ models. It has some capabilities those don’t, including an “eight-hour battery” and an option for a non-glossy screen. It’s $2,799 in its standard configuration.
Songs from the iTunes music store will now be priced at 69 cents, 99 cents, or $1.29. By mid-next year every song in the iTunes store will be available, at the $1.29 price, without any copy protection — meaning you could easily put iTunes music purchases on a player other than an iPod, for example.
This release brings the venerable database up to date with the look and feel of modern Mac applications. It’s a major update, but happily doesn’t have compatibility issues with your existing FileMaker databases, as has sometimes been the case in the past. New capabilities include the long-desired ability to trigger scripts when you click fields, pick things from menus, and so on.