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Apple State of the Union

1316 words

Don’t read this if you can’t handle irony, haven’t followed recent Apple developments or like full sentences and coherent thinking. And if you do anyway, don’t complain. Turning this into a proper text with explanations and images and so on would’ve taken too long…

A lot of things are happening around Apple these days. That’s quite interesting. And while things are looking very good for the company commercially, I wonder whether they are going in a good direction. I’ll just give a number of bullet points here, rather than going through all details.

All those observations are so last year. But I wanted to illustrate how recent product announcements while being amazing in some ways were far less than amazing in others. I see the attention for detail decreasing there. And didn’t it break Mr Ive’s heart to drill that hole into the iMac’s top frame?

And then we had the January keynote.

So that’s the software side. It’s not like they’ve been lazy. But it’s not impressive either. No groundbreaking new features. And no feeling that any application has suddenly become snappy either. Perhaps the RDF just isn’t what it used to be?

But let’s move on to the big topic: Intel Macs.

You know, I’m a superficial guy. Back in the days our Wintel using friends used to make fun of the fact that an iMac buyer would choose his computer by colour. I just loved that. Most computers you can buy these days (or last year’s days or even the year before that’s days) will do the job for most people. So why not make them simple and pretty?

January 15, 2006, 10:14

Comments

Comment by Dave2: User icon

1) I agree about the iPod scratchability, it’s annoying, but wouldn’t trade my nano for a mini… or any other music player… ever. At least until the next iPod comes along.

2) I’d argue that the “simplicity of the iMac G5 front” is actually PRESERVED by having the tiny camera lens on the front, because now you don’t have to have a giant iSight camera sitting on top, which looks even worse.

3) I thought the keynote was excellent, and don’t know what you were expecting that would have made it “more good” for you. Would a $20 Mac Mini do it? A human genome simulator? Holographic storage? What?

4) iLife gives you 6 amazing apps for $79… I don’t consider that to suck at all. Given the quality of the apps, it is one of the absolute best bargains available.

5) I use iPhoto to organize my extensive collection of 10,000 photos and absolutely love it. The new books you can order (at least here in the US) are of amazing quality. It is “good” right now, and far more than “vaguely useful” to a great many people.

6) Photocasting in iPhoto is a big deal! He should have mentioned it TWENTY times! I am now sharing albums with three friends and it is just killer. I can now create books or photo sets that have not just my photos, but photos from others as well. Sure you could try and collect everything from Flickr or something… but Apple’s solution is elegant and highly useful. I wish iPhoto was available for Windows so I could Photocast with friends who don’t own Macs.

7) Just because YOU don’t use iMovie and iDVD means iLife sucks? Well I DO use them, and find them absolutely amazing. Creating professional-quality movies and DVDs is so simple that even a child could do it. Heck, Children ARE doing it! Apple has taken a time-consuming and difficult process and made it shockingly easy with results that are beautiful to look at.

8) GarageBand is a lot of fun as well, even for non-musicians. I use the included loops to create my own soundtracks for DVD photo shows, and get terrific results. The new version’s podcasting tools are pretty sweet if you are interested in such things, and just shows that Apple likes to stay current.

9) I have been playing around with iWeb and think it’s kind of cool. Sure it creates bloated code, but the results look professional and the pages validate.

10) I have mixed feelings about Apple releasing competition to apps like Sandvox, because it is a shame that Karelia is in the wringer again… but you are missing the point here. iLife is included on all new Macs for free. This way, Apple can say “hey, if you want a computer that can do everything you want… music, photos, movies, podcasts, web sites, blogs, WHATEVER… a Mac can do all that and more right out of the box, no additional software to buy!” It’s a marketing tool that makes for an excellent selling point for new computer buyers. What you SHOULD be mad about is that iWeb requires a $99 annual .Mac subscription. A lot of people aren’t going to realize that, and they’ll be pretty upset when they go to build a page with iWeb and find out they can’t do anything with it unless they pay up. It’s very misleading on Apple’s part.

11) Don’t look at iLife as “having to pay for other people’s hobbies” - look at it as you are getting an amazing piece of photo software that also allows you to do touchups and photo manipulation for the bargain price of just $79… and everything else is just free! Seriously, I would pay the $79 for iPhoto alone.

12) I thought the new packaging designs for Apple’s 2006 lineup is an improvement over past offerings, but this is all subjective.

13) I agree that there is nothing in iWork that’s worth upgrading for, and I won’t be. I want an Apple spreadsheet!

14) You are overreacting to Apple’s new widgets… the main point was that there are thousands of widgets available in a very short time, and that Dashboard has been a big success. The new widgets were like a minute of supplemental information, and yet you make it sound as though Jobs spent a half hour on them!

15) I miss my titanium Powerbook, and agree that the aluminum version is a definite downgrade in looks. If my tiBook still worked, I would have never bought the clutzy-looking aiBook. About the only thing I prefer on it is the hinge, because it seems much more durable than the old “exposed” tiBook hinges.

16) I find it hysterical that you should consider Steve Jobs presentation skills so lame, when people get so riled up about how cool his keynotes are. Sure you’ve seen better… in other Steve Jobs keynotes… but compare this to anything from Bill Gates or (heaven help us) Steve Balmer, and Jobs is positively brilliant.

17) As for “Apple getting their act together and going in too many directions” - I have the exact opposite reaction. Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for the PowerBook to finally break free from the G4 barrier? Way, way too long. FINALLY, Apple is doing something about it. They have a direction. They found a chip to keep them in the game. They have a way to ease the transition to Intel with Rosetta. They have an OS strategy that is (again) ahead of the competition. They are creating compelling software to sell new buyers on the Mac. They are progressing with a retail strategy to expose the Mac to new people. They are continuing to develop cool new gadgets like iPod to bring new people to the Mac. Apple isn’t just talking about the future, they are making it now. Keeping all this in mind, I am as excited about the future of the Macintosh as I ever have been. Once they transition to Intel is complete, they can then move on to the next brilliant level of home computing. The fact that they are running ahead of schedule is just icing on the cake. Given all this, I guess that I am still trying to figure out how you can say that Apple lacks focus, when it seems to me as if they’ve finally found it!

January 20, 2006, 19:01

Comment by ssp: User icon

Thanks for your extensive comments Dave! That’s why I only posted bullet points… because each of them could be replaced by actual facts and arguments and stuff. I’ll just elaborate on a few of your points:

(2) What about people not using an iSight?

(3) Mr Jobs has done better keynotes. Keynotes where I didn’t have to skip entire sections to avoid boredom. Keynotes without tacky 3-D graphs.

(4)-(9) Of iLife I’m currently only using iPhoto and iTunes. the latter is free anyway. It’s only been a few months that I paid for iLife ‘05 with my new iBook. So being asked to cough up €80 for an update to a mediocre photo manager just a little later looks rather steep (compare with Graphic Converter’s pricing, say). Particularly as the money will largely benefit the people having video cameras, DVD burners, keyboards and a lack of HTML skills.

And me not using more than 80% of iLife does mean it’s a very bad deal for me. As I said, if Apple sold each of the apps for €20, I’d be much more inclined to buy an update and they’d make even more generous profits.

(10) What’s my benefit? If Apple think having iWeb is good marketing for them, fine. But it doesn’t help me a bit as I’m just not interested in it. Why should I have to pay for that? [If I could have any say in that, I’d even wish that Apple didn’t become more popular, as the time where they started being all hip and popular seems to be the same time they started being unable to ship devices that ‘just work’ and don’t have to be sent back for being fixed.]

(11) I wouldn’t use iPhoto if it hadn’t be included with my iBook. I strongly disagree about it being a good application and I avoid writing about it because I couldn’t stop once I got into bug listing mode. Because of its fascist way to grab and mis-handle your photos (quite unlike iTunes which leaves you all the options!) I am even less happy with it because it’d be quite an effort to get all the data you stuck into iPhoto back out.

(14) The widgets are just embarrassing. Particularly when it comes to consistency and localisation. I’ve discussed that in detail before.

(16) I don’t think I said that. But I remember keynotes that weren’t boring in between. And keynotes where the slides were much better. Jobs can do much better.

(17) Then what exactly do Apple focus on? Currently it looks like the answer to that question is ‘grabbing as much cash as they can’. And the answer doesn’t seem to include building high-quality hardware or achieving the degree of finish and consistency in their software that they used to be known for. Cool, rather than Good. And that might backfire.

January 20, 2006, 19:03

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