Macworld San Francisco 2005
Ok, so it was already pretty clear that Macworld SF was going to be big when Thinksecret broke the Mac Mini, iPod Shuffle & iWork rumours, but the actual event itself was still pretty amazing even with the removal of surprise. Maybe it was just Jobs’ showmanship & the much famed Reality Distortion Field, but it seems as if Apple have kicked off 2005 doing more of what they do best, making great hardware and software.
The Mac Mini is the answer to the long standing cries of people like the Slashdot readership, claiming Macs are too expensive, and a $500 Mac would be the item to get them to switch. It seems like a pretty powerful piece of kit, although severely limited by its small size in its hardware design, such as having only one RAM slot (which as far as I know is NOT user installable). Given the way OS X likes a hefty chunk of memory, such a configuration may not stand up to heavy usage very well, leaving some of the more demanding users disappointed (but hey, that was never the intended market for the device, so fair game). Its size leaves the shuttle mini-pc’s looking distinctly bulky, and the price point is extremely aggressive. I’d say its the ideal computer for people who currently browse the web, check their mail and word process the odd document using windows, and given that it ships with iLife, I could see Apple making significant headway in this market.
A low cost flash iPod.. not something most people would have expected given the earlier comments coming from Apple about flash players being too small and useless, but they seem to have an interesting take on it. I’m not convinced about the usability without a screen, as I find my 3rd Gen iPod’s screen and interface invaluable, but then again this product is targeted elsewhere. Apart from that it seems to be amazingly small and well designed, with the traditional hallmarks of Apple products. The pricing is again very aggressive, I’m not exactly sure of the current prices, but it must compete relatively favourably with USB memory keys of 512MB and 1GB. However, I’m not sure if it lacks too many of the familiar qualities that people have come to associate with “iPod”, most noticeably the user interface.
iWork ‘05 & iLife ‘05
iWork, the beginnings of an Apple office suite? It would certainly seem so. After Thinksecret’s reports I was hoping for more of a Word-competitor in Pages, but it appears to be slightly more on the DTP side of the spectrum. The updates to Keynote are very welcome, and the academic pricing on the bundle makes it worth picking up for Keynote 2 alone (since I find Keynote infinitely more bearable than PowerPoint when preparing presentations). iLife features some interesting new functions, but since I’m an occasional user of everything except iTunes I found them only really moderately interesting. The Sony HD DV cam that was shown as part of the iMovie HD demo seems to be an extremely nice piece of kit, and when the price drops to a more consumer level (currently $3500) it would be a very nice thing to have.
Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger
Ok, so this wasn’t strictly released, but it was nice to see some further peeks at the new revision of OS X due in the first half of this year. There was nothing spectacularly new in the spotlight demo as far as I could see against the WWDC 2004 previews and I still have concerns that as Spotlight, as a purely document-based solution will still need to run alongside something like QuickSilver for application launching. I already have QuickSilver indexing my home directory and document folders, and it performs the same kind of thing as Spotlight, if even a little more rapid to find things. (obviously without the in-document find abilities, but still extremely useful)
The Dashboard preview showed a lot more polish in the widgets and demonstrated the polish that Apple plan to put on the stock widgets that ship with Tiger. The weather widget with an animated title depicting the current weather conditions was very cool, and the Core Image enabled ripple effect when a widget is placed is nice eye candy. Apparently the winner of the WWDC widget development contest was a personal desktop wiki widget, so here’s hoping that ships with Tiger, as its one of the uses of Dashboard that’s captured my interest the most. Mail.app looks to have had a big upgrade, which should be nice as I spend a not-insignificant amount of time in my mail client at the moment. The smart folders for grouping together mails about specific topics are good, and the new theme looks polished (although it does stick out quite a bit against the updated Aqua).
There were various other announcements and demonstrations, but none of them were really significant to me in the way the four above were. I’m really looking forward to getting hold of 10.4 Tiger sometime in the next four or five months, as it promises to be a significant step forward for the OS X operating system. Notable by the absence of any news was the PowerBook range, which is kinda annoying as I’m waiting for a significant bump to pick one up, but there seems to be indications that there is a minor speed-bump coming in the next few weeks, so I guess its just a case of waiting it out. In terms of a significant step forward for the PowerBooks’, I’m hopeful that WWDC should bring a major revision, whether it be to dual-core G4 or G5 970FX/GX chips, but there is the Rev. A issue cropping up in buying on those timeframes. Suffice is to say, getting a new laptop anytime soon seems unlikely. At least the iBook I’m using now is lasting quite well with the additional memory, and should do until something new and great comes along.