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  • The Night Owl’s Instant Keynote Commentary — What Happened to the Mac?

    January 9th, 2007

    The Steve Jobs keynote is over, and you’ll be able to read what’s going on at lots of Mac Web sites, so I want to do something different, and that is to provide instant analysis on some of the information you’ll be hearing about. You may think that’s a little irresponsible, but consider that the cable news networks have been doing the very same thing for years.

    This particular event was moved to Moscone West, across the street from Moscone Center, which is where the WWDC is held. I rather suspect that’s because of the larger crowds expected to storm the keynote auditorium.

    To keep to expectations high, Steve Jobs took the stage a few minutes late to say they’re going to “make some history today.” A lot of his company-status information, about the speed of the Intel transition and so on, is just old news, however. And it’s all you’ll hear about Macs specifically, as Jobs quickly moved onto other stuff.

    Despite published reports that iTunes sales had tanked, Jobs says they are selling five million every single day, and 58 each second, for a total of two billion songs. Although only 1.3 million movies have been sold so far, Apple has signed up Paramount as the second movie vendor, which increases the roster to 250 films, including such mainstays as Star Trek.

    Where are the rest of the studios? Good question, although Jobs promises that more are coming.

    The Microsoft Zune got extremely short shrift, with Jobs saying that it earned just a 2 percent market share, and then, with the image of the Zune bursting into flames on the screen, he moved onto the iTV — now renamed Apple TV.

    Now let me bask in the glow of a winning bet here. You see, I said that the product now known as Apple TV would include support for the new 802.11n draft standard (plus the older standards naturally). And it appears I’m right, so I can now collect my $1.00.

    The rest of the features are pretty much as expected, such as USB 2.0, Ethernet, connections for HDMI, component video, audio and optical audio. The specs include support for 720p high definition video, which is the lower-end of the HDTV spec, and there’s a 40GB internal drive that’ll store up to 50 hours of video. But I’m sure he means standard definition. Other DVRs can get barely 20 hours of HDTV on a 160GB drive.

    The product will ship in February at the previously-announced price of $299.

    And then there’s a widescreen iPod with a touchscreen — make that the long-rumored iPhone — all in one package! The touch feature, dubbed “Multi-Touch,” is supposed to be far easier to use than previous interfaces of this sort and, according to Jobs, “works like magic.”

    As with other members of the iPod family, you can sync it with iTunes. And that includes your mail, contact lists and all the rest. This is in sharp contrast to the pathetic interfaces and connection schemes most wireless phones provide. The operating system, by the way, is essentially a slimmed down or “light” version of Mac OS X, and that’s also in line with expectations.

    This means, for example, that you’ll use Safari as a Web browser, plus free IMAP email, courtesy of Yahoo In short, the iPhone is really a miniature personal computer with all or most of the features you need in an all-in-one product. Jobs called it “The Internet in your pocket,” and the makers of so-called smartphones need to run for cover.

    In addition to the expected features, there’s a built in speaker, automatic detection of portrait and landscape positioning, plus a two megapixel camera at the rear.

    The phone is also quad-band, which makes it a so-called “world phone” that can operate on most parts of the planet where wireless phone service is available. There’s also support for Bluetooth and — get this — Wi-Fi.

    Despite all the gear, the iPhone promises five hours talk time, which is one or two hours above that of the standard wireless phone. Audio battery life is 16 hours, in line with current iPods.

    All right, do you want one? Well, you have to wait until June in the U.S. (or the fourth quarter in Europe), and, for now at least, Cingular is the exclusive provider in this country. Your price for all this joy is $499 for the 4GB version and $599 with the 8GB version — with the usual two-year contract.

    There was one other development, although it wasn’t mentioned during the keynote. Apple introduced a new AirPort Express base station that adds support for the draft 802.11n standard. The major new feature is support for sharing a USB 2.0 hard drive, and it’ll ship next month for $179. At the same time, there will be a software update that’ll harness the “n” capability of the AirPort chips in recent Mac hardware.

    In keeping with Apple’s emphasis on consumer electronics gear, the name “Computer” has been zapped from the company name. It’s now just Apple Inc.

    So where’s all the expected new information about Leopard? Not a peep on the subject, or on the expected updates to iLife and iWork. It appears that we’ll have to wait to a later date to learn more. So how do you call this a Macworld keynote?

    Indeed stay tuned, and don’t take anything for granted…



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