January 06, 2009, 1:31 PM — Note: Your humble blogger followed this thing blog-style -- that is, not from San Francisco's Moscone Center, but from his home office, in his pajamas. Good liveblogged resources for the blow-by-blow of the keynote are at Macworld, CNet, the Unofficial Apple Weblog, and Macrumors.
CNet's Tom Krazit says the lines were a little shorter than usual, but the auditorium was packed for Phil Schiller's substitute keynotery at last Apple-attended Macworld Expo in San Francisco. Schiller actually started the keynote with a hint at why Apple is feeling ready to cut itself off from the IDG trade show dedicated to it, pointing out that, with its increasingly omnipresent retail footprint, it gets the equivalent of 100 Macworlds worth of patronage every week.
Schiller made things handy for writers and their bullet points by laying out up front the fact that there would be three new things to talk about. And those are...
- iLife '09, shipping late January. New iPhoto includes facial recognition (FACIAL RECOGNITION!), which will be pretty sweet, if it works. (Phil says it isn't perfect.) The facial recognition thing also can center photos on specific people and build slideshows around them. Also can sort by places, with pics being geotagged -- many cameras will do this automatically now; otherwise you can enter the tags manually. Facebook and Flickr support has also been added ... and this might be enough to get me back to iPhoto, which I have been ignoring more and more as I get further into those two services. iMovie has been updated too -- Schiller acknowledged folks' dissatisfaction with last year's total revamp -- and the engineer who was behind the revamp, Randy Ubillos, was brought out to demo the update (and receive the scorn?). Not being a video guy, I'm not really equipped to assess the new version, but it includes automatic image stabilization, which seems cool. And you can add animated Indiana Jones-style maps, which is cool and entirely gratuitous. GarageBand '09 has also been updated ... the keynote-worth new feature was a mode that actually teaches you how to play an instrument. There are basic lessons from some guy named Tim, and there are also "Artist lessons" from famous people (Sting, Sarah McLachlan, etc.). There's also a GarageBand store from which you can buy $5 lessons from others. (Personally, I would pay $5 to keep Sting off of my monitor, unless it was cool, Police-era Sting.)
- iWork '09, shipping today. The new version of Keynote has animated objects and text in its transitions, a feature dubbed "Magic Move". There's also a new 99 cent App Store app that turn your iPhone or iPod Touch into a Keynote remote over Wi-Fi. Pages gets some important but not terribly thrilling updates (outlining, MathType and EndNote support, new templates). Numbers gets more formulas, better charts. Ho hum. Slightly more exciting is the new online collaboration site, iWork.com, still in beta. It's not a full-on Google Docs clone, it seems -- mostly allows you to upload docs to a central server, and have other users comment on them online, but to edit you'll need to download them. Phil says it will eventually be a pay service.
- Finally, hardware! A new unibody 17-inch Macbook Pro, in line with the other updated laptops. 6.6 pounds, less than an inch thick. Snazzy graphics options, glossy screen. Battery as predicted is non-removable, but Apple is really trying push that by saying it allows the battery to be larger and thus last longer -- 8 hours, and for 1,000 charges. They even ran a video about how awesome the battery was. Same price as last model. Ships late January.
And then there really was One More Thing! The iTunes Store will offer variable pricing for music -- $0.69, $0.99, and $1.29, starting in April. Also, 8 million songs will be DRM-free as of today -- all 10 million by the end of the year. And you can purchase all of them on your iPhone, over either Wi-Fi or a 3G connection.
It was about 10:20 or so Pacific -- during the battery video -- that I began to get the sinking feeling that I was not, in fact, going to get the shiny new Mac mini I had been dreaming of for my living room. Does this mean that the now thoroughly lame-seeming old minis would still be sold at the same just-a-shade-too-high-for-what-you-get price? Will they discontinue the thing entirely? Stay tuned! If nothing else, stay tuned for a little research about how the one rumor that was almost universally agreed upon leading up to this keynote didn't pan out.
As a bizarre side note, folks from 4Chan managed to hack into the Macrumors.com live feed, adding notes about Steve Jobs's death (which the editors had to keep reiterating didn't happen) and other puerile nonsense -- including replacing the ads. By 9:30 or so Pacific Time, the feed had basically been reduced to a string of obscenities, after which the whole site was taken down.