MacWorld San Francisco


AppleInsider has a blow-by-blow account of Steve Jobs’ keynote at MacWorld SF. The announcements did not contain too many surprises partly because of ThinkSecret and Apple’s legal action against their site.

iPod Shuffle – this is Apple’s attempt to enter the lower end of the MP3 player market, It is also more suitable for physical activity like jogging or the gym. It looks nice, if a bit Fisher-Price in its asthetic. I am particularly interested to see that it can be used as a flash drive for moving data around as well. The battery life is a surprisingly low 12 hours and it comes with a white lanyard, facilitating muggers who want to throttle their victim and steal their iPod.

Mac Mini – despite the hoopla this is an iBook specification PC for the home, it looks like a stack of large coffee coasters and allows existing PC users to through away their old beige box, keep the keyboard, mouse and screen and get something suitable for home computing and surfing the web without the bulk. It would be also ideal for thin client applications such as bank tellers, newspaper artworkers, retail situations and kiosks because of its size. For the price point users may also want to consider an eMac. I would not expect the Mac Mini to be upgradable in the future like a PC.

iWork – is the next generation AppleWorks (the child of Claris Works, the integrated spreadsheet, presentation and word processor that I used for my college course back-in-the-day). It comes with a new Word compatiable word-processing application and the latest iteration of Keynote. At 79 USD Stateside, it is worth it just for Keynote as its formatting capabilities eats PowerPoint for breakfast.

Next year’s colour for living rooms? Lemon

Thanks to VNU for their Consumer Electronics Show coverage blog we have a blow by blow account of Bill Gates’ presentation on the living room of the future. Like a dysfunctional family there were the inevitable breakdowns in communication (between the PC and a Nikon camera), relationships got a little icy (when an XBox froze into the blue screen of death) and some family members decide not to turn up at all (like the MSN Remote service when the onstage internet connection failed and they could not show how a Microsoft PC can be controlled remotely to record a TV programme).

With great marketing chutzpah Microsoft hid these inevitable faults by having the the presentation co-hosted by Conan O’Brien – heir apparent to the Late Show mantle. Microsoft is used to having product failures mar marketing exercises at events such as Comdex, so was well prepared with a metaphoric roll of wallpaper and bucket of paste. It would be a mistake to think from these errors that the company is not serious about invading the living room, be afraid.

Power Pizzas

Power Pizzas

One of my colleagues Dave used to say that the security experts at his former employer advocated carrying a laptop outside in a sturdy carrier bag rather than the dull holdalls that come free with Dell laptops as these gave a subliminal message to career criminals, drug fiends and listless teenagers that said ‘Take me please, I’m all yours’. So they would approved of Humanbeans ‘Power Pizza’ box, a pizza box with foam and securing straps to securely hold your prized PowerBook.

There is also a certain symmetry as pizza boxes are often left lying around as IT people solve network problems and do all-night coding sessions fueled on slabs of pizza and the most highly caffeinated beverages of their preference.

Winter Wonderland

The San Jose Mercury News has a great preview article covering the Consumer Electronics Show which starts tomorrow in Las Vegas. Apparently Bill Gates is doing a keynote to try and justify the existence of a monopolistic software company in a wireless living room through Microsoft Windows*, a similar song-and-dance routine is expected on the following two days by Carly Forina and Craig Barrett – yawn, why not just get Michael Jackson or Siegfried and Roy instead? *Microsoft Windows is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation (and they are welcome to it!). According to the article the big themes this year in new products are:

  • Portable devices: Sony’s tombstone like PSP portable games and media console gets its US launch, portable DVD and video players, satellite radios
  • Cell phones featuring WiFi internet access
  • WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity for televisions and other home entertainment equipment in place of reliable and inexpensive cabling
  • HD-DVD versus Blu-Ray: battle of the future DVD standards for even more commentaries and subtitle languages
  • iPod accessories: no sh!t Sherlock?
  • Bigger flatter TVs: CRT – RIP maybe

Volksmac

When Hitler got Dr Porsche to design the Volkswagen in the 1930’s, he had a vision of Germans free to drive the length and breadth of the Fatherland on autobahns. Rumour sites including Think Secret and newspaper Apple watchers are speculating on an uber-cheap ‘peoples’ Mac to follow the iPod into Windows homes. Charles Arthur’s piece in The Independent (UK) that looks to be based on ThinkSecret is here, ThinkSecret’s speculation is here and Charles’ related blog entry is here.

I am inclined to be skeptical about this, since it goes against Apple’s strengths at the present time, their computers typically enjoy a 25 – 30 per cent margin, but then iTunes Music Service is a volume rather than margin business. If it does go pear-shaped it would be a far more high profile failure than the Apple Cube.