For the past few years, I’ve jotted down some post-game thoughts on Apple’s announcements during their keynote at MacWorld1. I suppose — like the majority of folks, no doubt — I was a bit underwhelmed by this year’s address. Not that Schiller himself did a bad job, mind you. It’s just become clear that Apple has lost most interest in this product show.
iLife & iWork
That being said, I was impressed by a few features that were shown off in the updates to iLife and iWork. I honestly don’t know enough about previous versions of iWork to say much about that office suite, aside from it looks like a reasonably priced competitor to Mac Office 20082. I have considerably more experience with iLife, of course. The updates to iPhoto are much needed. Now with Google’s Picasa (finally!) available on the mac, there exists a very good alternative to iPhoto. Picasa has had some social network website integration already (as has iPhoto with plugins) and I believe Google also even has some of the facial recognition software available. But, having two good choices helps both, in my opinion.
I am especially excited about the update to iMovie, though. As the previous version was a large disappointment to many users (though not me, as I didn’t upgrade yet), this version seems to come with a number of powerful features. I was particularly impressed with the image stabilization feature; especially given the shakiness of our Kodak Zi6.
It appears that the real innovation in the new 15″ Macbook Pro was in the battery. As much as people wish to complain about non user-serviceable parts, I honestly think that issues such as weight and battery life are problems that they will feel more day-to-day. I’ve had my work laptop for over a year now and have yet to take the battery out of it once. One argument is that it is handy to carry a spare battery. However, if you simply double the battery life from 4 to 8 hours, there’s a really good incentive to save your back and not bother carrying a second of the heaviest part of the computer. Equally important is battery life. We have had to replace the battery on Angela’s aging iBook once already. And though there are right and wrong ways to use a battery to extend or shorten its life3, most users simply don’t pay attention to that sort of thing. It’s worthy innovation, if even a bit less sexy than MacWorld keynote announcements of past years.
iTunes Music Store
Speaking of less-than-sexy announcements, the “one more thing” this year was the iTunes Music Store, which of course is now a smaller part of the larger iTunes store4. I think the obvious most significant portion of this announcement was the dropping of DRM. This comes nearly two years after Steve Jobs published an open letter to music labels asking to do away with DRM. Apple has become a huge force in the market and, along with Amazon, show that the tide has turned against DRM. The common, honest music fan now knows what it is and that it only hinders their experience. I think 2008 was the year that DRM died and that future remnants — they will hang on, fighting tooth and nail — are just that.
Let’s briefly look back at some important milestones in the death of DRM during 2008:
- Sony begins selling music on the Amazon MP3 store, becoming the fourth and final major label to do so.
- Spore, which was to be the game of the year, was trashed upon its release for EA’s DRM issues (and also because it wasn’t the perfect game for everyone).
- Ex-EA developers, 2D Boy released World of Goo for WiiWare and the PC without any DRM whatsoever saying simply they trust their fans.
- As EA slowly seemed to learn a hard lesson, many of it’s top games came to Steam — Valve software’s digital distribution system for games — sans DRM. Of course, Steam is still only for Windows.
Also, it’s worth noting that Apple also has finally settled on a tiered pricing scheme for music on the iTunes Store. Apple had argued against this with a firm 99¢ pricing scheme for, well, since the iTunes Music store was created. However, it appears that this was likely a requirement on behalf of some music labels to go DRM free store-wide (it should be noted that the Amazon MP3 has had variable pricing from its inception). As someone who doesn’t tend to buy anything off the top 40 singles list, I’m not as likely to suffer from the $1.29 price that is mostly likely to apply there. I’ll hopefully be tending towards the 69¢ back-catalog items. However, it’s a small price to pay (literally and figuratively) for a better experience.
MacWorld will happen one more time, as they’ve already booked the Moscone for next year. And should anything worth my mentioning happen, I’ll say it then. However, I’d be very surprised if it survives beyond that. Apple wants total control over their announcement and release schedule in the future. They no longer wish to be tied down to the second Tuesday of the year. They’ll no doubt continue to make their seasonal-ish, keynote style press conferences (macs in the Winter, developers in the Spring, iPhones in the Summer, and iPods in the Fall). But they can time them more to their liking and control the event just as they wish. As many of the large expos are going extinct (E3 dead/ on life support, CES now a fanboy convention for gadget lovers, and Apple bowing out of MacWorld), one has to wonder if blogs and online tech-news sites aren’t the ongoing expos of the future.
- With the notable absence of last year. With a new job and pending move, MacWorld seemed less important that usual [↩]
- Though, I have a copy of iWork ’05, I can’t say that I’ve ever used it regularly. As a matter of fact, something on my current mac has corrupted the installation and it hasn’t worked in over a year. [↩]
- Just as Jason Johnson, owner of some mad laptop battery management skillz. [↩]
- Angela is right, they should call it the iStore for consistency. I also think that it is time to re-brand iTunes as iMedia or something less music-centric. [↩]