MacWorld Surprises Again With Steve Back To His Best

by Chris Howard Jan 10, 2007

This year I decided to follow MacWorld live. Being Down Under, that meant I had to get up almost as early as Hadley and Chris. I got up at 4am, although I suspect their day started even earlier than that. Fortunately for them, as easterners, their body clocks would have thought it 6am, which is much saner. Myself though, 4am really meant 4am. And it hurt!

After struggling with the lure of a return to a comatose state, I sat bleary eyed in front of my iMac and started refreshing the feeds I had readied the night before. (The Apple Matters one revealed Hadley and Chris had been sitting outside the Moscone Center since at least 4:25am. Our guys are keen!)

I monitored three feeds: Apple Matters; MacRumors; and Engadget. Leter I checked a few others out, but none were better or added anything. Apple Matters was good because it had the most personal reactions; MacRumors had the most responsive updates and refreshed automatically; and Engadget’s was the most thorough, with extensive quotes, and had the best photos.

Predictions must have been easy this year as I got four out of four that did show up. i.e. Sales, iTV, iPhone and additional movie studios on iTMS (granted, only one). If you were picky you could say I didn’t get any of the guest appearances.

What I didn’t get though was everything Steve left out: iWork, iLife; third party demos; and especially Leopard.

The other thing I got right was the balance of big announcements. We got one minor (sales), one medium (Apple, Inc), one major (Apple TV) and one huge (iPhone). With the iPhone being so huge an announcement - the biggest since the original Mac in 1984 - no room was left on the agenda for much else.

Interesting too that Apple announced these two products at the same time as CES. I suspect that was more than a bit deliberate to steal as much attention as possible from what’s been announced there. The iPhone and AppleTV will wipe any CES stories off the front page. In fact, so many stories of the iPhone circulated on Digg, it nearly brought it to its knees. At last report, there’d been over 36,000 Diggs of Apple stories in the first half day or so.

Apple TV
When Steve announced the Apple TV so early in the keynote I wondered if I was wrong about its significance. But then considering what followed, it’s early arrival was understandable. The Apple TV name suggest a push to further raise the Apple consciousness among consumers, as well as trading off its reputation.

The device though is possibly over hyped. Especially for those outside the US who don’t have any movies on their iTMS. I don’t have any use for it. I can already connect my Mac to my TV. I also can’t quite determine if you can only use a widescreen TV.

I’d prefer it if Apple had released a media center Mac that could double as an Apple TV. That’d be much more useful.

Haven’t seen the keynote stream yet, but was pleased to read on the feeds that one of my fave films, Zoolander, got a showing. But I doubt if the clip was the one where Hansel (Owen Wilson) destroys the tangerine iMac.

My ten year old daughter said “That is so cool! We have to get one!” but again for an Aussie, a letdown. No mention of availability here. It doesn’t even get a mention on the Aussie Apple homepage.

Although I could feel the RDF all the way Down Under (or Up Over if Chris S is right), I still didn’t get quite as excited about the iPhone as the audience did. My first impression was “ugly” and in some way familiar. It’s certainly not as visually impressive as the iPod nano. Fortunately it is saved by it’s impressive looking GUI. A glimpse of Leopard maybe?

Unlike everyone else on the planet, I think the name is a masterstroke by Apple.  What else could it have been called? ROKR-II? Some have suggested because it’s more than a phone, the iPhone moniker doesn’t apply. But it is first and foremost a phone. That is the market Apple is after.

The name is good because, firstly, it trades on Apple’s almost ownership of the “i” prefix. But more importantly, the iPhone has been an unofficial Apple brand for years. It already is so planted in the consciousness of people, that changing it would have been dangerous. People have been waiting for the “iPhone” for years, so why not give it to them? (On the iPhone page, it’s actually the Apple iPhone (with the Apple logo, not the word. ditto the Apple TV. Hope we’re not expected to write it that way. Apple is certainly going to push its brand now.)

Functionality wise, I was initially stoked with the iPhone. Many expected a two in one device of a music player and phone; however, I’m not sure anyone predicted it would be a widescreen video iPod and a PDA - of sorts. But true to Apple form, it does seem to be missing some things.

The main problems I do see though are as a PDA. I’d have to get my hands on one - which is never going to happen - but I’m most curious about how easy data input is. Can I write a memo on it? Steve says styluses are “yuck” but he also clung to the one-button mouse for twenty years. He may be right on both counts, but you’ve also got to give the public what they want - as Apple finally conceded with the Mighty Mouse.

Ironically, watching the demo of SMSing using the onscreen QWETTY keyboard, and knowing my own experience of the Palm and finger versus stylus, I’d think typing on that miniscule keyboard would be much quicker with a stylus. Amusing too as it’s generally considered that the QWERTY keyboard is an inferior input device. Nokia’s pre-emptive texting is one of the best input devices I’ve come across. I note the iPhone’s text entry is predictive also, but I’m still concerned about my fat fingers on it.

With Inkwell a part of OS X, surely inclusion of a stylus and handwriting recognition would have been easy and greatly enhanced the usefulness of the iPhone. Or is this another one-button mouse pig-headed thing? Or is there a worry about the screen scratching? Or is it never going to be much of an input device?

With OS X on board, the iPhone’s future is unlimited. I hope to see an iPod only version, a full PDA version and/or a “micro Mac” version with stylus and handwriting recognition for those who want it.

If the PDA functionality is enhanced, then I’d be tempted. If it can run desktop applications and an external keyboard and mouse, then I want one!

In the past, I’ve written several thousand words using a foldable keyboard and a Palm. Even back then, the screen size wasn’t a big issue. also, I can even write hundreds of words at a time with my stylus on a Palm, but it is much slower going than an external keyboard.  With the resolution of the iPhone, I could almost see it replacing my computer altogether for most of the work I do if it had an external keyboard and if it ran desktop apps.

So I am wondering if external bluetooth keyboards and mice can connect to it, and if I can install l desktop apps such as iWork or MS Office. (Late reports a coming in suggest no third party apps.)

But this thing is still six months away, so Apple has plenty of time to determine and meet some consumer wants now it’s out in the open.

Apple, Inc
The Apple, Inc. announcement, although only rating a medium on my scale, is the most intriguing of the keynote. The attachment of the Apple logo to the name of the iPhone and Apple TV clearly suggests Apple is going all out to both trade on its name and further raise awareness of it. However, until now, the Apple vs Apple fight had seemed to prohibit that, especially in the music arena.

So, the BIG question of course is, has an agreement with The Beatles allowed Apple to go all out in the use of its name?

The Beatles
Regards The Beatles, this was the biggest surprise of all. Well, the lack of any mention of them. Despite several not so subtle references to them via album covers and music, there was no mention of any deal with them. As the keynote progressed, I expected this would be the “One more thing…” and maybe with Paul McCartney performing and/or a Beatles iPod.

Stay tuned though, I suspect an announcement on a Beatles deal is imminent.

Also while on The Beatles, high-five to our own Chris Seibold who was the first to spot them in the keynote when he spotted one of their album covers flashing by while Steve demoed music on the Apple TV.

iWork and iLife
This was the first MacWorld San Francisco since 2000 that didn’t have a new software announcement. The previous six MWSF’s have seen among others: iTunes and iDVD; iPhoto; Final Cut Express, Safari and Keynote; GarageBand; Pages; and iWeb.

It’s not surprising then that many are feeling a little letdown that iLife 07 and iWork 07 with new applications didn’t get a run. Surely these will be announced before the end of January, if not the end of MacWorld.

In all the hoo-ha about the iPhone, Leopard does feel a little stale and unable to compete. It’s no real surprise then Apple didn’t talk about it. As I said last week, Apple is careful about its major announcements that they don’t steal each others publicity.

Other observations
Here’s some other notes of interest I made during the keynote:
- iPhone. 3-in-1. “Revolutionary” oooooh! Can feel the RDF! It’s strong today. Will make interesting watching. Better go make that coffee. (4:49am)
- Looking at those iPhone icons and thinking about Dashcode, something tells me we’re going to see a design app today - probably in iWork.
- Almost awake now. smile Coffee smile (5:11am)
- Get the impression folks will say this is Steve’s best performance in years. The old Steve back. Cheeky, effusive, excited, energetic. (5:20am)
- RDF working. Heart says this will make Apple number ne; everyone will want Apple gear. Head laughs.

Although the keynote held nothing for me personally, as an Apple fan it had a bit to get excited about. But without Leopard, iWork and iLife being mentioned, I’m going to have to take a computer with my on my beach holiday for the next two weeks. I won’t be writing for AM during that time, but will certainly be keeping my ear out for Apple’s next big news, which I do expect while I’m away.

Here’s hoping it’s iWork with spreadsheet, database and image editor.


  • I would think by now that the software for touch screen virtual buttons would easily identify what button your fingertip is centered on. So if you’re mostly touching ‘D’,say, the software would disregard the minor encroachments into the surrounding keys.  Why is that so hard to do?

    I bet the eraser end of a pencil would work much better than a stylus on the iPhone.  More traction and less scratches.

    tundraboy had this to say on Jan 10, 2007 Posts: 132
  • I think the reason they didn’t talk about anything else, regards to iLife, The Beatles and Leopard, is not only because lack of time but because the announcement of the iPhone was so huge that it would have surely over-shadowed the other great products Apple have to show us.

    I think it’s fair to say there will be another keynote taking place late next month or early March with an update on everything else.

    Aaron Wright had this to say on Jan 10, 2007 Posts: 104
  • Anyone identify the TV used in the keynote and all over thier site?

    xwiredtva had this to say on Jan 10, 2007 Posts: 172
  • Xwiredtva, not sure about during the keynote but all the TV’s on display at the Apple booth were Sony Bravia…they looked sweet too!

    Hadley Stern had this to say on Jan 10, 2007 Posts: 114
  • I believe the keyboard was designed for dual thumb input as well, and not just as index finger as Jobs was doing.

    I used a virtual thumboard on my Palm T5 (same res as the iPhone) and to be honest - it can be fast as a physical one.

    Apple has added the visual cues and audio cues. In my experience those to cues (to compensate for tactile) is enough. Take one away, and it stinks. So if on a noisy bus/train you may have a hard time without the sound.

    The basic gist is that the two addition cues make up for the lack of tactile buttons.

    Without any hardware buttons, it will require the user to always look at the interface and then act. With hardware buttons you can do common things without looking, such as call answering and dialing. But I believe the tradeoff of these is overwhelmed by the flexibility and efficiency gained elsewhere in the UI.

    Nathan had this to say on Jan 10, 2007 Posts: 219
  • I am used to using Graffiti on my Palm-based smartphone using a stylus or my digits. I also use the PDA’s virtual keyboard (a la iPhone’s) and just tap away my thoughts.

    Since the iPhone is now core OSX-based, it is not impossible for Apple UI designers to implement Inkwell handwriting recognition by this June release or soon thereafter. After all, the whole screen is a touch-sensitive panel and can be infinitely configured.

    Robomac had this to say on Jan 11, 2007 Posts: 846
  • I find graffiti and any handwriting recognition very difficult to use… and its not because of the software.

    Its a hardware problem: using a stylus without something to rest your hand on is deeply frustrating.

    Nathan had this to say on Jan 11, 2007 Posts: 219
  • I reckon there’ll be a huge market for (rubber tipped) styluses for the iPhone. I’ve now watched Steve and Phil typing on it and it looks just as awkward as typing on my Palm with my finger.

    I love my stylus and handwriting on the Palm. However, I MUCH preferred Grafitti 1, but I believe Palm had to change because of copyright.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jan 11, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • Watching Phil Schiller’s close-up demo of the iPhone multi-touch screen’s “hover-stroke” feature makes the virtual keyboard a genuinely original idea and should be a good proxy for the missing tactile feedback using physical buttons.

    Here’s the YouTube video from CBS:

    And here’s David Pogue of the NY Times 1-hour hands on experience with the iPhone:

    Robomac had this to say on Jan 12, 2007 Posts: 846
  • Page 1 of 1 pages
You need log in, or register, in order to comment