The Bullet Point Macworld Expo Keynote Report

January 15th, 2008

In recent days, the tech media has been struggling to lower our expectations about what Steve Jobs might reveal during his Macworld Expo keynote. Despite getting less buzz than last year’s iPhone roll-out, there was still plenty of meat and potatoes to chew over.

Here’s a brief summary of the keynote announcements, and I’ll have more to say in later commentaries:

  • Some five million copies of Leopard have been sold so far, meaning almost 20% of the Mac user base has upgraded. Despite the claims of some that Leopard has been a disappointment because of a spate of early-release bugs, the sales figures, at the very least, don’t seem to bear this out, though I bet a lot of those upgrades are simply the result of buying lots and lots of new Macs this quarter.
  • Apple announces a new companion product for Time Machine, Time Capsule, a combo AirPort base station that includes a built-in “server grade” backup drive that’ll work without a wired connection. It’s priced at $299 for the 500GB version and $499 for the 1TB version and will ship in February.
  • After 200 days on sale, some four million iPhones have been sold so far. This is somewhat ahead of industry analyst estimates, by the way and it means that approximately 20,000 are purchased every single day. Jobs said it gave Apple a 20% share of the smartphone market in the first 90 days. The figures for the December quarter will be announced later this month.
  • Jobs confirmed that the iPhone SDK, which allows third-party developers to create software, will be out as previously announced in late February.
  • Version 1.1.3 of the iPhone is, as expected, becoming available. It sports such new features as maps with location (employing technology from Google and Skyhook wireless), the ability to send text messages to different people at once, and a new “Add to home screen” feature that does what the name implies. The new Web Clips feature sort of mirrors what you can do with Safari and Leopard now. In this case the “clip” of a favored site can be put on your home screen. You should be able to download the upgrade, which will, naturally, kill any unsupported software you’re using, as of today.
  • iPod touch owners can now get five new applications for their players: Mail, Maps, Stocks, Notes, and Weather. For existing owners, it’s a $20 option, and it just moves the touch that much closer in feature-set to the iPhone.
  • Jobs announced that sales on iTunes of “125 million TV shows and 7 million movies” simply didn’t meet Apple’s expectations, although it’s more than other services combined. As predicted, he announced new features and content alliances. Chief among them is iTunes rentals, along with support from pretty much the rest of the movie industry, including Fox, Warner Brothers, Disney, Paramount, Sony Studios and, surprisingly in light of the recent public spat, Universal. Over 1,000 movies will be available at the start. You’ll have 30 days to start watching a rented movie and 24 hours to finish before it self-destructs. Pricing is $2.99 for existing catalog and $3.99 for new releases. And, you’ll be able to transfer the movie to a different device even after you start watching, so you can begin on your Mac or PC, and finish on your iPhone or iPod. Add $1.00 if you prefer the HD version; 100 titles will ship in this format at the beginning.
  • In keeping with the new product updates, there was a “Take 2” version of Apple TV announced. It will function without a computer, and will let you rent movies direct from your widescreen TV and offer not just HD quality, but Dolby Digital 5:1 surround sound. This is precisely what you can already get with the HD stations you receive over the air or via your cable or satellite TV connection. Even better, the new capabilities will be packaged in a free software update for existing Apple TV owners. The updated units will ship in two weeks and retail for $229, down from $299. Clearly Apple is pulling out all stops to get Apple TV into as many homes as possible, after it received a somewhat tepid reaction in 2007.
  • Oh, and let’s not forget the MacBook Air, the long-rumored thin and light note-book that was also preordained for the keynote. Characterized by Jobs as “the world’s thinnest note-book,” it will actually fit inside a yellow manila envelope. Thickness ranges from 0.76″ at its fattest point to 0.16″ at its thinnest, and that’s no misprint. But it will be full-featured, with a standard keyboard, and 13.3-inch display, backlit courtesy of LED and a new, Multi-Touch keypad. It’ll come with either a 1.6GHz or 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor. Standard setup includes a regular 80GB hard drive, identical to the one you find in an iPod. There’s also a 64GB solid state drive as an option, but it won’t come cheap. How does $999 grab you? I didn’t think so. In addition, a Remote Disc feature will allow you to “borrow” an optical drive from another Mac or PC on your network, since it won’t come with one, nor will there be an Ethernet port. Full wireless connectivity is provided courtesy of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi; hence the reasoning behind the “Air” moniker. The unit weighs a mere 3 pounds, battery life is listed as five hours, and prices start at $1,799. Place your orders now, as the MacBook Air ships in two weeks.

So was this event a bummer or did Steve Jobs meet or exceed your expectations? As always on The Night Owl, your comments are welcomed.

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15 Responses to “The Bullet Point Macworld Expo Keynote Report”

  1. Mark says:

    The MacBook Air is a Fashion Computer sorta like an Air Jordan Sneaker.
    Yes it is light and full of curves but when it comes down to crunching numbers I will stick with a MacBook Pro which can be less expensive and has many more features. If you add accessories to the Air then the weight advantage quickly disappears.
    We still need a Mac Paperback sized portable. That would make sense.
    Less is more Expensive in this case.

  2. Adam says:

    I am glad I won’t have to pay for the upgrade to my 3 month old AppleTV!

    When the iPod started really taking off I heard a lot of speculation that Apple would no longer be a computer company, especially after last year’s name change. With the MacBook Air, though, is it reasonable to think that the iPod has also served as a huge test bed for smaller mass storage? Hmmm…

    I’m pretty happy with what I am reading. Did SJ say whether or not they would still sell video content on the iTunes store? The movie selection isn’t that great but it’s not a bad way to get TV shows that you would end up owning.


  3. Derek Bartholomaus says:

    I’m very happy about the AppleTV update as well. I bought one the first week they went on sale because I had been wanting a way to watch iTunes videos on my TV instead of my computer. I’m much more of a purchaser than a renter, so I’m not too sure how much I’m going to be renting. I’m just really glad that it was just a software and not a hardware update.

  4. mcloki says:

    Keynote was dull. I think Wired popped the ballon last night which was pretty disappointing.
    The Air is nice but it’s pricing gives it the smell of “Cube”. Hopefully the price will be driven lower and Apple won’t abandon it like they did the cube. They are going to need aggressive price cuts to make it work.

    The big issue from the keynote is the $20 they are charging the itouch users. Why go through the negative press, the massive returns under warranty and the terrible taste it’s going to leave in people’s mouths. Just upgrade everyone touch with the new apps and be done with it Apple. Otherwise you just give a reason for people to continue to use Jailbreak. I expect to see plenty of articles on this one thing tomorrow. Apple is going to have a lot of explaining to do. And if they were smart they would have avoided it.

  5. BobS says:

    The upgrade fee for the iPod touch was inevitable – Apple made a big deal last year that they were accounting for iPhone and TV revenue using a subscription basis which would allow them to update those products without any upgrade fees and be in compliance with GAAP and Sarbannes-Oxley Act of 2002. The iPod touch books the full revenue from the sale at the time of purchase rather than using this subscription basis. Apple is doing what it must to comply with the laws in the USA (although you are free to argue that Apple should instead book all revenue on a subscription basis). At any rate, the $20 fee will buy a lot of additional functionality for many people.

    As far as “jailbreaking” goes, this is fine as long as people are willing to suffer any negative consequences for decisions they have made. Specifically, they are using an unpatched security exploit to deliver additional features so they should not be upset if, in the future, they suffer some negative effect from other less benevolent exploits.

  6. Chubad says:

    What a snoozer. A notebook that’s lighter and thinner. Movie rentals. Wow. Thrilling stuff.
    The charge for the iPod Touch software is a real bad PR move. The accounting FUD is just that. We’ve been through all that with the 802.11n debacle. Apple is just money grubbing on this one. Sorry.

  7. javaholic says:

    As much as I like the look of the new MacBook Air, can anyone remind me exactly which market are Apple targeting with it? Considering the coin you need to pony up for one compared to Apples other portables, I think I’ll live life in the ‘fat’ lane for a while with my 15” MacBook Pro.

    Also, finally nice to see more online content and AppleTV bolstered, although honestly, I thought this is what we would have seen at last years keynote.

  8. Tero says:

    “After 200 days on sale, some four million iPhones have been sold so far. This is somewhat ahead of industry analyst estimates, by the way and it means that approximately 20,000 are purchased every single day. Jobs said it gave Apple a 20% share of the smartphone market in the first 90 days. ”

    20% of the smartphone market with 4 million units per quarter? You must be kidding… or then this is not the global figure. Seriously, Nokia alone sells 1.3 million phones a day and a decent portion of those are multimedia smartphones. And they are not the only ones on the market… so, on what math can Apple grab 20% of that segment is beyond me. iPhone, as it currently stands, is relevant only locally, not globally.

    Many, including me, argue that iPhone is too “dumb” to be a smartphone, and ought not to be categorised as one, but I won’t go into that debate here and now.

  9. OK, take a closer look at what I wrote. Apple sold four million iPhones in a little over two quarters, but the smartphone share is based on a single quarter; the first.

    You can play with the numbers as you want, but you can’t dismiss the fact that this product has taken off in a fairly big way, coming from a company that never produced a wireless phone before.

    Smartphone, feature phone, whatever. Let’s give credit where credit is due.


  10. Spencerian says:

    The keynote was what I expected over the years, although you can never tell what Steve has, ultimately, up his sleeve.

    We just received their two finest inventions after some delays…the iPhone and iPod Touch. We’re now seeing the same “lackluster” keynote as we saw in 2006. Naturally, at the time Apple was in the midst of several major software and hardware projects: Leopard, the unannounced iPhone as well as managing the Intel switch.

    So I read this keynote as: “Just you wait: I have something special for you later.” Jobs doesn’t like tying rollouts to MWSF, although he knows it’ll get lots of attention if he can do so. How many other companies essentially have their own trade show?

    Just WHAT Jobs has in mind I don’t know. The “3G” iPhone will be a summer release at the earliest just to avoid frivolous lawsuits from the silly early adoptees from a year before. But something I suspected would appear did, albeit expensive: Apple’s first solid-state drive and available for a notebook.

    The only thing that could make the AppleTV better would be to add PVR abilities.

  11. The only thing that could make the AppleTV better would be to add PVR abilities.

    Do you really need it? The cable and satellite companies already provide reasonably capable products that perform that function, even without TiVo. And both Comcast and Cox are in the process of adding TiVo software to their customers.

    So does it really make any sense for Apple to duplicate this function?


  12. Pete Sawchuk says:

    Just to clarify the 20% smartphone marketshare point; Jobs referenced q3 2007 US, not worldwide, marketshare in his keynote.

  13. Just to clarify the 20% smartphone marketshare point; Jobs referenced q3 2007 US, not worldwide, marketshare in his keynote.

    It wasn’t even for sale outside the U.S. during that period — at least officially. 😉


  14. Dana Sutton says:

    Three points, one small and two big. First, presumably Time Capsule is going to be a SMB device, so Apple had better put out a SMB-friendly version of Time Machine (there’s a bug in the present one – if you fill up your volume you suddenly lose all your data, this is why the current version can’t be used with a networked server). Second, this version of Apple TV is at least better, now there’s an identifiable reason to buy it. But I’m not sure that as long as it is essentially just a box for downloading and playing video rentals it’s going to be a smash hit. What I want is one box hitched to my TV that can a.) replace a TiVo or DVR, b.) route recorded material from my TV to my Mac, so if I want I can archive them by burning DVDs or whatever, of course with prescheduled recording, c.) route material from my Mac to my TV, so I can play back the stuff I have archived and also so I can edit home movies and then watch them in comfort, and d.) download and play rentals (but for more than 24 hours, please). Such a box would be tremendously compelling I’d rush out and buy one (I’d tell myself that if I saved the rental cost of the DVR supplied by my cable company the thing would pay for itself), and once it was in my living room I’d no doubt pop for some rentals. And, given the fact that there already established players in the video-rental market, that’s exactly what Apple needs — to get this box into as many living rooms as possible. As for the Air, beyond doubt it’s way cool. And this is one of Apple’s weaknesses, sometimes it will put out a product for the sheer joy of releasing something with a stratospheric cool factor without asking such questions as what’s it for and who’s going to buy it. In that way, yes, I think the comparison with the Cube is dead right. We all have a warm spot in our hearts for the Cube. But how many of us bought one?

  15. Doug says:

    I have already downloaded the Update to my iPod Touch, but did they have to drop the price of the unit itself by 10% here in Oz at the same time. I only purchased 22 days ago.

    Incidentally, if this is because of a US law, why do we have to suffer in Australia?

    The software doesn’t even do what it said on the tin….
    Google Maps on the touch could be better if it understood more Australian street names
    Mail only seems to allow one address to be used
    Weather and Stocks seem to work well
    Still no games, although interestingly The January Update downloads in iTunes as a game

    I am very happy with the ability to edit the home screen and ‘Add To Home Screen’ in Safari and create and email Notes

    If it wasn’t for the price drop I would have been happy just with those two.

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