Mac Consumers Rewarded for Their Patience

by Chris Howard Aug 08, 2007

After a very lean twelve months for Mac consumers (that is, those Mac users who don’t fall into the professional user category), Apple has finally rewarded their patience with updates across the board to iMac, .Mac, iLife, iWork, and Mac mini. Phew! That’s an impressive list, although it does highlight how neglected Mac consumers have been in 2007 as Apple focused on its entry into the mobile phone market.

The Apple Special Event also gave us insight into why iLife has taken so long, and probably iWork. iLife’s iMovie is a whole new application with a very interesting history. In iWork, Numbers is a new app, and Pages has been re-jigged to finally include a word processing mode.

The new iMacs are aluminum as expected, have a glossy glass screen, and again as expected, are thinner. Interestingly, the 20” inch model has been trimmed by a couple of pounds but the 24” model has gained nearly a pound.

Visually, I’m undecided and will have to see one in the flesh. I’m not yet sure about the black back or border around the screen. But of course, who am I, I didn’t like the look of the previous iMac (G5 then Intel) until I saw it in the flesh, when I was smitten.

It turned out the spy photos of the new keyboard were indeed real as Steve joked about. Of interest, the F3 key is now the Exposé key and F4 the Dashboard key. What this means to existing keyboards we’ll have to wait and see.

A wireless version is also available and notably has a compact, laptop-like design, which Steve says will suit wireless keyboard users’ work habits.

As predicted on rumor sites, Apple has indeed cut the 17” iMac from its lineup. But many also predicted the demise of the Mac mini, which itself saw upgrades, albeit without the fanfare. So if you don’t need, or more importantly want, a 20” monitor, the Mac mini is for you.

In his keynote Steve said there are two 20” models and one 24”. On the Apple store there are in fact two 24” models. As expected, the base 20” model has been price aligned to the old 17” model.

The most interesting piece of news is the inclusion of a FireWire 800 port on all models. It had been strongly rumored last year that Apple was to drop FireWire altogether. The inclusion of FW800 testifies FireWire is here to stay and that Apple is expecting to sell a lot of iMacs to professional Mac users (who currently are the major users of FW800).

Regarding ports, it would have been nice if the iMac had four, not three, USB ports on the back. Even the Mac mini has four. You just never seem to have enough USB ports.

Apple said it would address .Mac’s shortcoming and it has, in part.

- Storage has been increased from 1GB to 10GB and the monthly data transfer limit raised to 100GB.
- Web sites can now be mapped to your own domain name, although you need to do that through iWeb.
- The new Web Gallery feature looks impressive, although I suspect it will be gobsmackingly impressive in reality. It works and feels like the new revamped iPhoto and includes slide show, mosaic view, carousel view, access restriction, and can receive photos from other people and from iPhones. But it does require the latest iPhoto to setup.

But do these changes go far enough? Is Web 2.0 eye-candy enough?  Considering you’re still forking out US$99 for services that are free elsewhere, the jury is still out.

iLife ‘08
iLife finally gets updated, and has skipped the ‘07 version.

iPhoto has been redeveloped to allow you to group your photos by events. When you upload from your camera to iPhoto, it now automatically groups your photos by date. From there you can split or join those groups to form events. This is a great idea and will make managing your photos a fair bit easier. Most importantly though, it will let you get back to using albums the way they should be used, i.e. for collections of events rather than for individual events. This will also make creating photo books easier. You will still use Smart Albums for setting up albums of people (using keywords).

The interface has seen some nice improvement, but one we’ll all rejoice in is double clicking a photo now zooms it to full window view rather than going to edit mode. Clicking it returns to thumbnail view.

Other useful features include photo hiding, improved search, some great new editing tools including a before and after view, publishing to .Mac’s new Web Gallery, and hardcover books now include a dust cover.

Probably the best new feature though, the one that will save the most time, is photo customizations can now be copied from one photo to another, rather than having to recreate them (which meant jotting down the settings and re-entering them). That is sensational.

I did notice one big annoyance of mine still exists in iPhoto—when scrolling, the month still displays in the middle of the window, thus obscuring some of the photos. Interestingly, that does not occur when scrolling the new Events view.

iMovie is all new and looks even easier to use.

Videos are now catalogued in a new video library—although there was no indication if it includes videos that are no longer on your Mac. Hopefully it does (and of course tells you to reconnect or reload them). Like iPhoto, videos can also be organized by event.

It interesting that the iMovie demo on the iLife web page demonstrates illegal use of copyrighted music. The demonstrator attaches U2’s “Beautiful Day” to his video and then says you can upload it to .Mac’s Web Gallery (which he does) or YouTube. Ouch! Bono won’t like that.

On .Mac Web Gallery, you can put videos in multiple resolutions, like Apple does on its videos, which is really cool and professional.

I suspect this new iMovie is going to kick off a whole new round of home movie editing.

iWeb is starting to mature. For instance, it now has web widgets which allow easy addition of Google AdSense and HTML snippets for things like YouTube. I might finally give iWeb another look.

GarageBand has a new “Magic“ feature, which lets you jam along to different music styles which have customizable bands. What’s super cool is that if you set up a record loop, each time the loop restarts, a new take is recorded and at the end you can choose which take to keep.

iLife ‘08 is not an essential upgrade, but is certainly a tempting one. I’ve already ordered mine.

iWork ‘08
The new iWork is here and as rumored, it includes a spreadsheet. But don’t go tossing out your MS Office just yet.

iWork is neither an MS Office killer nor a replacement. It is for those who don’t need MS Office and its bloat of features and who don’t need an Office work-alike.

When Steve said that Numbers is “the spreadsheet for the rest of us” it consequently means iWork is not here to replace Office where it belongs, just where it doesn’t need to be. If that’s you, you might have clicked your last Office icon.

Pages’ biggest shortcoming had been that it didn’t work like a word processor. It was a page layout application, and a very good one at that. Unfortunately, for many people who bought iWork as an affordable alternative to MS Office, Pages often ended up gathering dust because simply writing a letter or an essay was, well, not simple enough.

Rejoice now, because Pages has a word processing mode.

This feature alone will go a long way to helping establish iWork as an alternative to MS Office (again, where it’s not needed).

Pages has borrowed a couple of features from Office though: contextual format bar and change tracking. Not to say Office invented them, but both are very welcome. Hopefully the change tracking will be Word compatible.

Finally, after what seems like years of rumors, Apple has included a spreadsheet application in iWork. And as long rumored, it is called Numbers. And as hoped, revolutionary.

Apple has realized the “rest of us” usually use spreadsheets for smaller works that we include in reports and so forth, rather than massive multi-sheet accounting behemoths.

Numbers is “just a spreadsheet,” but what sets it apart from Excel and the rest is that it is spreadsheeting for publishing. It is WYSIWYG and uses a page layout approach to creating spreadsheet documents. We all knew Apple would revolutionize spreadsheets, and now we’ve seen how.

Keynote has a few new features; the most notable for me was the “Instant Alpha,” which lets you select only the area you want to show in your images.

iWork could become Apple’s software jewel, even above iLife. If I was Apple, I wouldn’t be adverse to porting iLife, or at least some more of its apps, to Windows. However, there’s no way I’d send iWork to the dark side. With Numbers’ revolutionary approach to spreadsheeting and Pages finally being a word processor, it is a killer app in its market space.

Also, importantly, iWork already reads the new MS Office file formats.

In Australia, and possibly other countries, there’s a pleasant surprise with iWork—and iLife. Incredibly, despite the inclusion of Numbers, iWork ‘08 is AU$20 cheaper than iWork ’06. The U.S. price, though, remains the same, at US$79. Ditto iLife.

iWork is finally a must-have for many of us, and is a superb value. Mine will be here tomorrow! I think I’ll have to “play hookey,” as they say in some parts of the world.

Mac mini
The great thing about the cutting of the 17” iMac is it helps keep the Mac mini alive. It has for a while been rumored to be following the Cube into history.

You could almost feel the collective sigh of relief across the Mac community when it was discovered the mini was still a wanted member of the Mac family.

And to top it off, the mini also saw some useful upgrades.

It’s been a long time since Apple delivered so many useful updates to so many of its customers at one event. Thank you, Apple. smile


  • “That’s fine… but at least give us a choice…”

    You DO realize you’re talking about Macs, right?  You like what they give you or you can hit the bricks.

    As for lamenting the lack of adequate gaming hardware.  You DO realize you’re talking about
    Macs right?

    I’m totally on your side here, VB.  You’re essentially echoing what many have been saying for years.  It never really changes and Apple shows no signs that it ever will.

    Even the games you cite and their new found support for the Mac aren’t true Mac games.  They will run in an emulation envelope but are coded for Windows.  It’s the cheap way out for these guys.  They really don’t take the Mac all that seriously, at least not yet.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 09, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • Chris, your headline is a little like saying “Windows users finally rewarded for their patience” when Vista came out.  But knowing you, I’m sure it was at least a little bit tongue in cheek, eh?

    I do think the iWork updates are really nice.  Numbers looks like a great little app.  For most users, $79 isn’t too bad to handle basic word processing and spread sheet apps.  Beats paying for Office if you don’t really need all that functionality.

    The iLife updates are pretty interesting, although the only one I use with any regularity is iPhoto - not counting iTunes which IS free.

    The dot mac update certainly goes a long way toward making that service actually worth what they charge for it.

    The hardware updates don’t really interest me, not because they’re not nice (grey instead of white - yipee!) but because my next computer is going to be a Macbook Pro.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 09, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • ...but because my next computer is going to be a Macbook Pro. Bbx

    Bless you, my prodigal son…

    And you’re always right, the Mac will always be Mac and will never pretend to be a Windoz box, and that is a blessing, indeed.

    Robomac had this to say on Aug 10, 2007 Posts: 846
  • They will run in an emulation envelope but are coded for Windows.

    True… Some of the new games will be using the Transmeta/Cider equation. However, both Epic and Blizzard continue to support native Mac code, and I got the impression that id will be as well (as they have with Quake/Doom). So far, I only know of Electronic Arts being on the Cider bandwagon, though there are probably others.

    You DO realize you’re talking about Macs, right?

    That’s the thing, Beeb. Apple actually had been giving some choices with the previous iMacs. They offered the X1600, the nVidea 7300 AND the nVideo 7600 on past iMacs. There was some built-to-order selection between the mid-tier graphics cards. Now the choice is between the 2400 and 2600 HD… both of which stink.

    It’s just a shame that we have to move backwards with the video card selection on the mid-range machines. I understand that with the Mini, you need to minimize the choices to keep production and inventory costs low… It is the low end machine, after all. But the iMac is supposed to be the more flexible mid-tier model and one expect at least *some* build-to-order selections.

    Robotech Infidel wrote:
    And who are you to tell me the Radeon HDs can’t achieve 30fps with a decent pixel rate for a Sims game or Photoshop or the Net?

    I’m sorry… Since when exactly does “the Net” or “Photoshop”  fall into the category of modern game? You have a very odd view of gaming.

    And you know I was *not* talking about “the Sims” when I specifically mentioned 3D games such as Gears of War and WoW.

    Hell, “the Sims” is so old, it doesn’t even install on Intel Macs… Were you talking about the Sims 2? Have you even played the Sims 2?

    There are already a ton of benchmarks on the net that show that the Radeon 2400/2600 HDs seldom break 30 fps on 3D games, unless most of the options are turned WAY down or off (ie—1024x768 max resolution, no anti-aliasing, fog/shadows, etc).

    If you want, I’ll post the links to Ars Technica, Tom’s Hardware or others.

    I’m not an “avid gamer” as you put it… and like me there are *millions* of non-avid gamers that still occasionally want to play Halo or the like. It’s not too much to ask that Apple put an inexpensive, but reasonable powered video card in the iMac.

    Especially since they did it just last year!

    vb_baysider had this to say on Aug 10, 2007 Posts: 243
  • I’m talking in general not specifics Baysider. >90% of Macintosh owners do own their favorite platform machines. Heck, I own my share of them - PS3, Wii? Heard of them? Yeah, they play acceptable 3D games at or better than 30fps. No need for my Mac to play platform games but it’s decent enough if I am so needing a quick fix.

    Anyhoo, there will be at least 4 million Macintosh buyers this next 12 months that won’t buy your very argument VB. The iMac is damn good enough for them.

    Too bad for you. You might just have to save up for a big daddy MacPro this Holidays. raspberry

    Robomac had this to say on Aug 10, 2007 Posts: 846
  • It’s not too much to ask that Apple put an inexpensive, but reasonable powered video card in the iMac.

    Apparently, it is.  The iMac is no more or less flexible now than it has ever been.  Again, you like what they give you or you can go screw (and face the barrage of fanboys who demand to know why you’d ever want anything Apple doesn’t offer).  That’s the Apple way.

    I visited an Apple store this weekend, and the hardware update is even less impressive in person.  It’s an iMac.  In a way that’s good because I happen to love the previous design.  The new one is just glass/aluminum instead of plastic.  Jobs claims for recycling purposes but I think that’s more of a side benefit than a motivation.

    On the software side, I picked up iLife 08 and I finally had a chance to play around with the new iMovie.  It is drastically improved, but the single greatest new feature is the Youtube upload.  Edit your video and export to Youtube and, after a brief one-time setup, it’s about the easiest thing ever.

    The iPhoto “Events” feature is nice but not nearly as automatic as the demo would have you believe.  The default event preset is one day, so if you have photos that are copies (and thus date-changed) or several events that take place over multiple days (like vacations), you’re in for some manual labor sorting that stuff out.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 12, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • Beeb, got more comments on iMovie?

    Personally I’m totally wowed by the new approach. However, it does lack a lot, such as fine tuning audio volume (for fades etc); individually changing transition durations; no time line info or view; no bookmarks; no chapter markers; no video or audio effects; and iPhoto events and albums are not shown in the media browser.

    But the one *big* annoyance - whenever you move your mouse over the events or project area, the video skims. That is a right pain when you’re playing thru events trying to find the bits you want. Skimming should be keystroke+mouse.

    But after using iMovie, it seems a chore to go back to traditional editing. Though I do feel like I need to use iMovie ‘08 to quickly get the material together, then FCE to iMovie 6 to refine it.

    I plan to review it and elaborate on these issues. But I will be mighty p*ssed if Apple makes us wait til iMovie ‘09 for all these improvements.

    Regards iPhoto, I can’t believe that Albums don’t have an Event view. You could have had an album of birthdays, for example, with each birthday its own event in the album. But nope, they’re all lumped in together.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Aug 12, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • But the one *big* annoyance - whenever you move your mouse over the events or project area, the video skims.

    Totally agreed.  Very annoying.  And as with all things Apple, there are inexplicable absences of no-brainer features, no doubt about it.  Where are the themes?!

    But I am looking at it from the perspective of someone who HATED HATED HATED the old iMovie.  So pretty much anything usable is an improvement.

    That said, I haven’t done that much with it so there could be other annoyances to come.  But since I have Final Cut Studio for any serious editing projects, I will only be using iMovie for stringing together home movies of my family and uploading them to Youtube.  As it happens, the new iMovie is a much better match—for me.

    Regards iPhoto, I can’t believe that Albums don’t have an Event view.

    Yep, I noticed that too.  Another no-brainer feature that somehow didn’t make it into the app.

    Let’s cross our collective fingers about a nice feature-packed .1 update.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 12, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • Yeah, I yeah didn’t like iMovie either. Never found it user friendly and always seemed to taunt, never quite giving you the means to do what you really needed to.

    iMovie 08 does seem aimed at the YouTube crowd. So if you want to do anything more, for now you’ll still find yourself falling back on iMovie 6, FCE or FCP.

    Let’s cross our collective fingers about a nice feature-packed .1 update.

    Okay. But there’s no way I’m holding my breath! wink

    Chris Howard had this to say on Aug 12, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • might just have to save up for a big daddy MacPro

    This is exactly why I bought a Power Computing clone in the mid-90’s. The cloners actually provided decent mid-tier BTO options at a reasonable price. I have no interest spending twice the amount of money for the processing I need. Apple doesn’t appear to have learned anything from them.

    In any case, I’m going to pick up a used “late 2006” iMac model with the 7600 GT. That’s basically a lost sale for Apple since I’m not buying a new machine.

    Apple is riding the iPod wave right now, and it’s paying dividends… But eventually that wave will crest and hopefully Apple will wake up and realize that giving a choice to your customers is not a bad thing, nor is it difficult or costly.

    If Windows didn’t suck, this is the type of thing that would make me consider switching.  As it is, I use Windows every day at work and I just don’t want the pain at home.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Aug 13, 2007 Posts: 243
  • Well some of us have been advocating bringing back clones for awhile now.  But the fanboys really seem to love their incredibly locked-down systems with as much software/hardware provided to them by this single vertical monopoly as possible.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 13, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • I’m not saying the everything about the clones was all fine and dandy. One of the reasons cloning didn’t work is that Apple still did all of the hardware R&D.

    Apple could not defray those R&D cost by simply by charging the clone makers the ~$75 per Mac OS license. It was bad economics and Apple was losing millions of dollars in hardware sales that was slowly driving them under as a company. Instead of bringing new customers to the Mac OS, the clones cannabalized existing Mac users.

    Bringing back cloning would do nothing to solve that problem.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Aug 13, 2007 Posts: 243
  • That’s basically a lost sale for Apple since I’m not buying a new machine. -VB

    In your part, it’s correct but the dude selling his imac will definitely free him to upgrade to the new iMacs or, even better, a dual quad iron.

    As for OSX’s dependence upon a GPU to process 3D & 2D compositing, shading, lighting, and the like, it is no longer true that a Mac has to have the highest-end GPU such as an NVDIA GT/GX and ATI HD 2900/X1950 to perform admirably, thanks to Quartz Extreme, Core Image, Core Video, and soon Core Animation!

    Sure, having “more” GPU performance is a perpetual DirectX-fan wishes. It will never end. Mac users generally admire the whole Mac experience not just pixel-pushin’ prowess.

    As with DirectX is directly coupled to the GPU’s instruction set with the graphic card’s OS drivers and thus Windows actually requires you to have the best GPU for what money can buy.

    Take for instance, Vista requires that you MUST have a DirectX 10-certified GPU for it’s WPF/Aero/Avalon/.Net3 to work. No DX9 or lesser will work with Vista. What gives? I smell something fishy here.

    OSX’s Core Graphics (aka Quartz, Quartz Extreme, Core Image, Core Video, and Core Animation) will gladly take if you feed it an awesome GPU, such as the NVIDIAs and ATIs mentioned but not requiring you to have those. A honorable-mention GPU will do and might even save you $$$ too!

    OSX’s Core Graphics will supplement any boost requirement through the 64-bit Core 2 Duo’s massive integer and floating point prowess to compensate for the inadequacy of the GPU’s shaders and super-pipeline lighting and rendering engines of those high-end GPU cards.

    So, here’s a link to AppleInsider’s review of the 24” iMac with Radeon HD 2600 Pro on its paces.

    If you look at how much progress has been made since the last iMac G5 (like my G5 quad, I suppose). Pictures are worth a thousand arguments. wink

    Robomac had this to say on Aug 13, 2007 Posts: 846
  • Bringing back cloning would do nothing to solve that problem.

    Oop.  You’re back into fanboy mode.  Nevermind.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 13, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • Quite, vb_baysider, curse you for making economic sense.

    Benji had this to say on Aug 13, 2007 Posts: 927
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