Apple Leaves MacWorld with a Whimper

by Chris Howard Jan 07, 2009

As we know (unless you are from Planet Vista), this was the last MacWorld at which Apple would be attending. Furthermore, Steve Jobs wouldn't be giving the Apple keynote due to both political and health reasons. Despite that, and despite rumors to the contrary, we still hoped for something significant to be announced in the Philnote. Some will probably say there was; however, I - and most everyone I've read since -  was underwhelmed.

I'd said a few weeks back when Apple first announced Steve's absence:

. . .one rather interesting bit of news has come to light: Steve Jobs won't be delivering the keynote at MWSF09. You can speculate if this is health or political, but the big clue will be in what gets announced. . . I suspect Steve won't get on a MacWorld stage for anything less than revolutionary.

And unfortunately that proved too correct. What was announced was little more than minor updates.

There were no "biggie", nothing revolutionary, no souped up Mac mini, no iPhone nano, no netbook, no online version of iWork (just a place to share and get feedback on your iWork docs) and no Snow Leopard.

This suggests of course those things weren't ready (or not happening at all yet), but also suggests Steve may have held them over for when he's well enough to announce them. Maybe Steve wants the good stuff for himself. On the positive, that's a very strong indication his health issues are temporary.

So instead we got software updates, the last of the MacBook Pro family got updated, and we got a couple of chnages to the ITMS. It's no wonder each feed I read from the keynote has one word in common: "Boring!"

Yes, MacWorld's are notoriously anti-climactic because the rumor mill always works people into a frenzy about what to expect, or because what was shown was rumored anyway. Steve has always found it hard to surprise us at MacWorld, and that's probably one reason Apple is leaving. (I know some folks will be saying "What about the iPhone, it was amazing and exciting?!!" True, but it wasn't a surprise - aspects of it were, but we were all expecting an iPhone of some description.)

Ironically, the only surprises are what isn't announced. And this year that was the Mac mini.

A couple of days ago I even started writing today's piece based on the new Mac mini (which didn't eventuate), I was so sure that it at least would turn up. It must have been within a hair's breadth of being announced at MacWorld, but now we probably won't see it until February. (If the specs floating around are true, that started article will still be valid.)

iLife 09
Get to the good stuff first seemed to be today's plan of attack. The most interesting new features belonged to iLife. iPhoto's face searching looks way cool, and is much better than Picasa, which only shows photos with faces. It will be interesting to see how much age tolerance iPhoto's face search is capable of. That is, can it identify you as a child, teen and adult as the same person?

(On a side note, I have been very disappointed in Picasa. It seems quite buggy still, which is unusual for Google betas.)

The other standout new feature in iLife was in GarageBand with its music tutorials. This one does come as a suprise, as GrarageBand is about constructing songs from loops of music, not from playing the music yourself. Does this mean Apple is going to expand GarageBand to be much more like a recording studio app? Such as a cut down Logic Express. It is interesting that Apple is moving from making new loop packs, to focussing on playing an instrument. Or maybe it sees it as a better income stream.

iMovie also received some long awaited new features to start to bring it back to what iMovie used to have. That said, I still consider it a far superior way to edit video than the old iMovie.

iLife is the one release I know I will buy sooner or later, although it's not compelling.

iWork 09
What could have been the best news in iWork turned out to be a big disappointment. And that is that you can now save directly to MS Office document formats. However, it is only a half-baked solution. I've downloaded the trial version and found that every time you save an MS Office document (and want to keep it in that format) it prompts you, and you have to tell it you want to save as MS Office format and then that you wan't to replace the exsiting document. That will become tiresome very quickly, especially if you like saving every five minutes.

Probably the coolest new feature is in Keynote and that is you can use your iPhone to control presentations.

Besides that though, nothing else caught my eye.
Firstly, don't be fooled, is not an online version of iWork. Not yet. I'm sure it will become this, but at the moment it is simply a way to publish your documents online for people to comment on - albeit with a rather snazzy notation system. It has no editing functionality. However, published documents can be downloaded and edited offline in MS Office or iWork. So it's a half step but certainly no comparison to Google Docs or the like. So if you're a Google Docs user (like me) you'll probably won't change yet, especially if you want online collaborative editing.

Also, it appears a MobileMe account is not required to publish to, but I wouldn't be surprised if that changes once becomes a paid service.

17" MacBook Pro
At AU$4500 (US$2800) this announcement isn't going to appeal to many folks, so from the point of view of a MacWorld keynote, was a minor announcment. Phil just ain't Steve and just couldn't ramp up the Reality Distortion Field to convince us the built-in battery was the best thing ever.

DRM free songs on iTMS
Another yawn, I've been stripping DRM from my iTMS purchases since day one - and at no cost. It's good that it's here but like everything today, with an RDF master, it just doesn't excite.

iTMS goes 3G
Okay, that will appeal to some folks, in fact all up, that will probably end up being one of the more useful announcements as more and more people plug 3G cards into their laptops.

A disappointing end
The final MacWorld ended with a performance by Tony Bennett, a music legend  from days gone by. For most folks, that probably was a yawn too, and yet perfectly summed up how MacWorld, from Apple's perspective, has become passe.

At the end of the day, nothing here to get excited about, nothing Steve would have gotten out of bed for. It's sad that Phil had to deliver this, he deserves better.

Consequently, for the first time ever, CES may trump MacWorld.

What did you think of the last (Apple) Macworld?


  • As a seasoned Mac fan, you still don’t know that it’s Macworld and not MacWorld?

    Good job sir!

    foofa had this to say on Jan 07, 2009 Posts: 7
  • Quite right, MacGlee, some folks have only ever user GarageBand like a four-track.

    Remember when it first came out, though, and it was all about whacking loops together and buying add-on loop packs? Although Apple did call it a recording studio back then, try these quotes from the GarageBand page, early 2004:

    “You don’t have to play the piano. You don’t have to read music. You don’t even have to have rhythm. If you know what you like when you hear it, you can make your own kind of music. With GarageBand.”

    “How easy is it to create your own music in GarageBand? If you know how to click, drag and drop, you’re well on your way to becoming a GarageBand wiz.”

    “Apple Loops form the building blocks for your songs. You can place them in infinite combinations of unique arrangements.”

    Now let’s zoom forward to 2009 and see what Apple is saying about GarageBand:

    “Welcome to the school of rock. A Mac-sized practice space. Your own recording studio. If you want to learn to play an instrument, write music, or record a song, GarageBand can help “

    “Now the application that helped millions make music can help you learn to play an instrument.”

    “With GarageBand, the proof is in the playing. Plug a USB music keyboard into your Mac and you get instant access to over 100 realistic software instruments”

    ” Just plug an electric guitar into your Mac and play through amps modeled after the most revered in the world.”

    I haven’t been selective with these quotes. I’ve just worked down each page taking the opening sentence or so of each section.

    But you can see clearly a totally different focus.

    Of course, that didn’t happen on 6th Jan 2009, going back through the GB page over the years the shift has been coming, but in GB 09, it’s really brought to completion.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jan 07, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • foofa, you’d be surprised at the things I still don’t know! Altho, that is a mistake I shouldn’t have made, thanks.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jan 07, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • “Does this mean Apple is going to expand GarageBand to be much more like a recording studio app? Such as a cut down Logic Express.”

    I really don’t think so.  In fact, beginner music lessons emphasizes that this software is for the vast majority of total novices out there.

    For me, the killer feature of the whole thing was Faces and Places in iPhoto.  I don’t use iMovie or Garageband at all.  I can’t afford a Macbook Pro and wouldn’t get the 17” even if I could.  And the non-changeable battery is the “stick it in your craw” feature that accompanies every new amazing Apple hardware product.

    But I use iPhoto all the time and have been waiting for something like Face recognition for a long time.  I can’t wait to try it out.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Jan 07, 2009 Posts: 2220
  • “‘stick it in your craw’ feature”

    Beeb, you never fail to give me a good laugh. smile

    But aint it so. However, without Steve’s RDF, no one’s fooled this time.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jan 07, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • It’s really a shame that Apple has let you down.

    Maybe you could get a job with PC World and cover all the amazing products at CES.

    LorD1776 had this to say on Jan 07, 2009 Posts: 19
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