Tuesday, January 06, 2004

My first Stevenote

Today, I went to the Apple Store in Peabody to watch the satellite broadcast of Steve Jobs' MacWorld keynote. I hadn't been to a keynote since the show was in Boston, so this was the closest I've been in years to one.

(Of course, I hadn't seen any of the last few keynotes because I had a job, but since that's not an issue right now...)

Anyhow, it was an interesting step inside the patented Reality Distortion Field that Jobs takes with him wherever he goes. About 30 or so other folks were hunkered down inside the store with me watching it, too. After taking a step away from it and heading home, I can hit on the big announcements as such:

1 - Xserve G5, and Xserve RAID: Home run. They kept the 1u form factor somehow, and managed to squeeze a dually G5 in there. The only strike against it was that it ships next month, and not today. Xserve RAID now attaches to Wintel servers if you have a compatible FC card. Also good. Lots of neat new features, no price change, more storage for the $.

2 - iLife '04: If it were on the shelf today, I'd have bought it. At $49, why not? Upgrades to everything in the suite (except iTunes), and GarageBand looks awesome. Even I can make interesting music with it. The keyboard they're reselling is a really good deal, too. The GarageBand add-on packs will probably sell pretty well, too, and I think that money's pretty much gravy to Apple.

3 - iPod mini: The only disappointment in the bunch. Not the player - it's a terrific little player, the control wheel hack is real neat, and the capacity is tops in it's size range by a lot. The only real problem is the price - I think $249 is a hair steep for a player that's supposed to take on the better flash-based players. $199 or even $225 would have been a better price point for them to hit, even if it meant halving the capacity to 2GB instead of 4GB. Though upgrading the low-end iPod to 15GB helps better establish the value distinction, I still think the cost of the mini is too much. At $199, you're in the "impulse buy" range, albeit at the top of the range.

I'm not really thinking too much about the Final Cut Express upgrade, even though it was the only item available right there today. It's nice, but it fits in a ill-defined niche - most pros would rather have Final Cut Pro, most amateurs will stick to iMovie (especially the upgraded version in iLife '04). As a $99 add-on to a Mac, it's a good buy, as a $299 stand-alone program it's not such a big deal.

And there were no CPU upgrades announced today. I was kinda hoping to see speedbumps to the desktop G5, and maybe the first G5 iMac - you could theoretically swap a 1.6 GHz G5 CPU into the existing enclosure without screwing up your thermal budget. I wasn't expecting a redesign today, just maybe the existing model with a G5. And I didn't see that.

The other disappointment (such as it is) was that no Safari update was announced. I was really hoping that the improvements that Hyatt is talking about in his blog would have seen the light of day. MacWorld was a good place to release that. Though I still use Safari v.100.1 as my default browser, the latest Firebird daily builds are rapidly catching up - and just a couple of glitches away from taking over the default slot. It already crashes less, and most of the issues remaining are minor UI and scrolling problems. I'll also almost certainly fork over the $9 for OmniWeb's version 5.0 upgrade.

Where does Apple go from here? Well, iLife '04 ships in a week and a half. I'll buy the upgrade, if only for the huge speed improvements in iPhoto and the ability to make a 2-hour DVD (the current version is stuck at 90 minutes). But I don't really see anything on the immediate horizon that Apple will do to extract money from my wallet, especially given the fact that until I'm working again the money supply is very finite. Sometimes they can pull off things that make me pull out the plastic anyways, but not today.

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