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  • 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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