Something in the Air : New Apple products and Steve Jobs Keynote

Macworld Keynote
Come every january, on a certain tuesday in the middle of the month, you’ll find me frantically reloading a bunch of tabs in my browser while actively avoiding answering any email or phone call. On that day is the Macworld Keynote with Steve Jobs, and the whole webisphere is frantically speculating, rumoring, commenting the rumors, and generally freaking out about whatever Steve is going to present. The very strict secrecy aspect, as much as the jaw-dropping amazingness of the products he tends to announce has everybody paying attention. The iPhone, the iMac, theMac Mini, the PowerBook G4, etc. Most of the attention-getting designs are launched at these keynotes.

So what about this year? How was it?

Well, it sure wasn’t a disappointment. Most of the rumors turned out to be spot-on, the products are really cool, and the livebloggers are getting better and better – although I sure miss the days where it was a live video webcast. So read on to learn what I thought of all the shiny new Apple toys.

Time Capsule

Macworld Keynote
Time Machine is a concept I can’t get behind. I cannot see the usefulness of such a scheme in a professional context. I design websites. When I’m done with a project, it usually weighs a couple of gigabytes, more if there is video. I back it up to DVD, catalog it, store it, and clear the space on my external drives. It’s a project, and it’s over. I don’t need to have it on my drives anymore. And I certainly don’t need Time Machine to keep 2 or 3 versions of it. Anywhere. Even if it’s on a 1 Terabyte drive, it adds up fast and to me it is a waste of resources.Maybe I’m weird, but I have only very rarely deleted something that I needed to get back. I mean, in 15 years of doing gaphic design on Macs, maybe 10 times, at most. Yet Time Machine acts as if this sort of thing happens all the time, and yay! this will save you from that. Well it doesn’t, and it won’t.I use Backup, do a full backup once every couple of weeks, and incremental backups in between, and that also is done automatically. I feel like I’m covered.

Besides, I updated to Leopard without a hitch, but I could never get TM off the ground, and I don’t really have the time or motivation to scour the forums in search of an elusive answer for this problem. I have a pretty simple setup (MacBookPro 15, not a lot of add-ons) and it should run out-of-the-box. It doesn’t. For something that is supposed to «just work», it’s a failure.

So, a useless failure. And on top of that I should ditch a perfectly good wireless router, which I already own? Maybe Steve sould have presented only 3 thing last tuesday and skipped Time Crapsule. 

iPhone updates

Macworld Keynote
I’m in Canada. No iPhone. Next question. 

iTunes movie rentals

Macworld Keynote
Yadda yadda yadda. As I said, I live in Canada, so no renting for me. And judging frome the dismal selection of TV show on the canadian portion of the iTunes Store (to wit : 11 hockey games, Corner Gas, South Park and some other filler) it doesn’t bode well for whenever the service rolls out here. But then again, there is no sign that the iPhone is getting anywhere close, either. Probably around the time we reach the Kyoto protocol objectives. Maybe we could get Greenpeace to lobby Apple for us on this one.

Also, I am part of the 7-million-small french-speaking population that no one in the tech industry seems to know what to do about. Remember that something close to 75% of canadian box-office revenue comes from french movies that only 25% of the country’s population can even understand. There is also a very large chunk of the canadian music industry that is based in french-speaking Quebec. Yet iTunes music store seems to have never heard of Ariane Moffatt, Pierre Lapointe or Jean Leloup.

If you don’t live in the States, you know what I’m talking about.

So basically, to me, what the iTunes Store movie rentals highlights it the incapacity – or unwillingness – of earth’s local movie industries to transform themselves into a global industry. Everyone has their closed commercial borders, and BitTorrent is dancing on their early graves. 

Apple TV

Macworld Keynote
BitTorrent + TVRSS + Miro = only my daughters watch the TV anymore, and my brother who doesn’t have cable, when he comes over to watch a hockey game. I haven’t jumped into the HD giant flatscreen boat yet, as I’m waiting for the prices to reach a more reasonable level – and for the technology to settle down a litte. If you’ve bought a big flatscreen TV in the last 2 years, chances are it’s already obsolete, the black levels are a joke, and the refresh rates make you shed a tear whenever you read a Gizmodo review. And you want me to buy a 229$ box that will allow me to download free podcasts to my TV?

Maybe next year. 

Finally, the MacBook Air

Macworld Keynote
Gahhh… OK Steve, you had us at hello. This thing is beautiful, and as always just a little off from everybody’s expectations. 

Screen size

Macworld Keynote
Not the 12-inch holy grail that everyone was (is still) hoping for. I mean, I just saw a guy typing on a 12-inch PB this afternoon at a trendy cafe! in 2008! The 12-incher is a coveted slab of goodness that has yet to materialize. For myself, I think the 13-inch screen is too small for production needs, but It accepts a secondary screen, so it really doesn’t matter. When you’re out and about you want portability, and in that regard it is a winner.

Keyboard size

You could easily shave 10-15% off the keyboard size, an it would still be very usable. This is not a selling point for me. 

Overall size

Macworld Keynote
The manila envelope idea is one of those flashes of genius that allows Steve to frame the conversation exactly in the angle that makes his products shine the shiniest. It’s small in a way that you can explain to your aunt, and she will understand. 


Macworld Keynote
The thin sides that fatten up to the center, like the back of the iMac and the «current generation» iPods is another smart way to make things look thinner than they are. It’s very effective design. I’ll have to wait to see one in person and hold it in my trembling hands, but it is a beautiful object of desire, and every self-respecting Mac fan should at least lust afer it, if not get one. Even if it does look like a very very large Nano.I think it would have looked even more desirable if the aluminum bezel edge of the screen wasn’t so wide. Come on, Apple engineers, you got so close! It’s twice as wide as the edges on the MBPro, and you KNOW you could do better than that.

MagSafe connector

I love it. Can I get one like that for my current MBP? The current MagSafe plug I have doesn’t like to be rolled on and off and the cable has become a little twisted. Doesn’t degrade well.The black keyboard is a mistake. Yuk. Expect a revision soon. Pleeeease. 


Macworld Keynote
1.6 GHz is a disappointment. You just know that iPhoto or Safari are gonna feel a little sluggish, and that will make you feel like last year’s MacBook. Which in fact this is.

2 gigs standard RAM is good news because it sets a precedent for future models, which will have to come with at least that much RAM.The other good news, in my mind, is the «pencil-sized» motherboard. This means that Apple is now capable of producing a tablet that is paperback-sized, with full OSX functionality. Something, say, Kindle-sized? Maybe they’re waiting for OLED to be more widely available so they don’t have a fragile glass screen for such a device. But at least in the hardware department, they’re covered.

Multi-touch is another sign that the much-awaited tablet is on its way. 

5-hour battery life

Macworld Keynote
Come on, Steve, there is no need to bend the truth. No one believes those numbers anymore. Just give us a credible estimate of real-world capacity. We’ll still buy it, and you know it.

The SSD option is nice, but for that price you can get small car. It’s just not worth the trouble at this juncture. It’s another promise of a glorious future, though.

MacBook Air SuperDrive

Macworld Keynote

This one I’m excited about, because my 1st-generation MBPro does not burn Dual-Layer. And I bought a Dual-Layer DVD spindle a while back, which cost about about as much as this little thingy. But speculations say that it’s only for the Air. Which would suck, although it would not be a surprise. Apparently, speculations seem overwhlmingly in favor of a MacBook Air exclusive scheme. 

General thoughts

Macworld Keynote
The MacBook Air is clearly a 1.0 product, and they are learning as much as they are fronting with this. In a year, multi-touch will have made giant steps from where it is today. People seem to forget how long it took for the iPod to take over the entire music industry – we’re at the 6th or 7th generation already, depending on how you count it. I’m sure that the 6th generation MacBook Air will be a very interesting product. And everything we were expecting last tuesday.

The MacBook Air is also meant to be used as a second computer. One for getting out of the office and writing that novel in a fancy café. Or updating your Facebook status in that same fancy café. But heavy Photoshop or video editing will be best taken on with a more powerful machine. 

The Keynote iself

Macworld Keynote

As always, Steve did a great job, full of «innat amazings», but only one Boom. He was in great shape, and the look of pride when he got that flat little thingy out of the yellow envelope was priceless. I just love to see that gleeful look on his face.Macworld Keynote
He did make a bunch of little mistakes, like the 3.1% that he quoted as 1.3% and such. When the Keynote is the ONLY moment you will get any info about your products, then every. single. word. counts.I have to say though that most of the rumor sites were spot-on with their predictions, and this guessing game – and the frenzied pitch it reached just before the keynote – is getting close to spoiler territory. It’s just not as exciting when you think «Oh, Engadget was RIGHT!» insted of «Ouch, that BLOWS MY MIND!!!!!» Either they’re getting too good, or Apple is just not trying hard enough anymore.

Macworld Keynote
The performance by Randy Newman was funny and cool, a political rant, which was a change of pace from more boring fare like John Mayer or KT Tunstall. He just swaggered his disheveled head and ruffled shirt and ranted about Stalin and Hitler. I though it was very articulate and really funny, but a little surprising for such a setting. “King Leopold, from Belgium. Everyone thinks he was so great“. As Gizmodo put it during their live blog: “This guy is blowing our minds right now “. And for those who might have gotten offended, well you should work on getting offended about more important things.

On a final note, if like me you played Keynote Bingo, then like me you didn’t win anything. And I really missed Phil Schiller.

You can watch the streaming podcast here, at Apple’s website.

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