Oct 10

Mac’s day in the spotlight

Well, it was interesting (and refreshing) to see a little love lavished on the Mac side of things yesterday. As is the tradition around these parts, some random observations on Wednesday’s event:

FaceTime for Mac. Cool — even though we could see this one coming for miles.

Mac OS X Lion. The philosophical direction of Lion is consistent with everything we’ve heard in recent months: Mac OS X meets iPad. Expect these meetings to intensify in the future.

Mac App Store. This one is beyond huge, and exactly what Apple should be doing. In fact, I rambled on about this one here back in 2009. Imagine being able to buy your Mac apps the same way you buy your iPhone apps. Instant purchase, auto-install, auto-update. Customer reviews too. This is another gold mine for Apple, although it won’t come without controversy. Apple is injecting itself into the developer/customer relationship and demanding a cut, and surely some are going to buck. There are many open questions about how this will work, but it will happen — and it will make our lives way better.

Launchpad. Wow, convenient. I currently use third-party utility Overflow to do something similar. We may have to move them from the Happy Developer Column to the Swearing Eternal Revenge Column.

Misson Control. My secret confession: I rarely used Exposé and Spaces. I now realize that I hesitated for all the same reasons that Apple just combined both of them — along with Dashboard — into one convenient location. Thank you!

iLife ’11. Some cool additions, but the ground beneath my feet wasn’t exactly trembling. Love Movie Trailers in iMovie. Great price at $49 — but that’s just Apple’s way of saying, “Don’t expect $79 worth of upgrade.” I appreciate the honesty.

The black sheep. Poor iDVD. Nary a mention during the festivities. However, this is hardly unexpected, given Apple’s passing-over of Blu-Ray in favor of Internet delivery for video. Prepare for iDVD to be moved to hospice within a year or two. [Update: In all the excitement I glossed over the absence of iWeb — which is truly a mystery. It’s not like people are less interested in making personal websites and blogs these days. This is an unfortunate omission, as it makes a statement about what Apple thinks is important, and how it allocates its software engineering manpower.]

The missing app. I had a secret wish, but it didn’t materialize. I was dreaming of new iLife app called iMagazine. It would allow mere mortals to use their Macs to create personalized, Apple-designed iPad magazines. Imagine combining your vacation photos and movies from iLife into a standalone iPad app that presents your whole story in gorgeous magazine format, as a series of articles. This could be uploaded and shared with friends and family around the world. In business, iMagazine would utterly revolutionize the idea of the “leave-behind.” iLife already empowers ordinary people to create and present all of these elements separately. Why not put them all into a Wired-quality magazine?

MacBook Air. This was needed. MacBook Air was starting to feel a bit like a hobby — a breakthrough idea that’s gone almost three years without an eye-opening update. This is looking cool enough that I’m starting to get the itchy trigger finger that often results in unbudgeted charges on my credit card. Believe Steve when he says this is the future of notebooks.

MacBook Air video. This is where I start to get cranky. It is not in Apple’s DNA to be formulaic. Yet these product videos haven’t varied in years. Same look, same feel, same cast of characters. Understood that normal consumers are not nearly as close to these things as we are, but honestly, it wouldn’t hurt to try a new format once in a while. There’s no chance they’ll drive people away — but there’s every chance they’ll make more of a stir. The product videos need to be just as creative as the products.

Missing in action. ’Scuse me, but where’s the new iWork? For every year that both iLife and iWork have existed (the last four versions), both suites were updated at the same time. This year, iLife went to the ball while iWork stayed home to scrub the floors. Curious.

Shipping dates. Wow. Either I missed something, or pretty much every product introduced today (except Lion, of course) is available immediately. Nicely played.

Last, I will note that this event shined the spotlight on a legion of Apple leaders. Probably more than we’ve ever seen in any one event. Even more interesting was the lead role given to Tim Cook at the start. Those making guesses about the secret line of succession have some good fodder to work with here…

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  • Tim W.

    Although I’m as amazed an thrilled as you are at the idea of a “Mac app store”, I do wonder what will happen to the pricing strategy of participating developers. Will they increase their current price tag by almost 50% (to make up for the 70/30 revenue split), or will they try to make up for the initial “loss” with volume?

  • Sorry Ken but while the Mac App Store might look a good thing for users and developers (easy way to install and buy applications). With its Disney World style curation seems another step away from freedom.

  • Scott

    Your magazine app is an interesting idea. Since you can export from Pages in e-Pub format, you kind of have this ability now, but not in the magazine format you desire. I wonder how hard it would be to create a Pages template that would do what you’re thinking.

  • Taxi

    @TimW – developers are unlikely to increase prices by quite that much, since the cost of credit card transactions and hosting will be absorbed. For some companies those charges could represent a substantial fraction of the purchase price. Probably not 30%, but certainly not 0%. My guess is that this will be a tide that lifts all boats, and that application developers will probably leave their prices as-in.

    @christian – Setting aside the fact that Apple will not stop us from installing regular applications on our Macs, we all have the ability to install whatever software we want to install on our IOS devices. All we need is XCode.

    Those who make this specious “freedom” argument in reference to the curated App store are actually conflating freedom with convenience – but that’s not a moral argument, it’s just laziness.

    The freedom that I and many others crave is freedom from crapware. If you want to install whatever you want, get the source and do it the old fashioned way. Not only is it possible, but only with the source can you truly say that you’re free to do what you want.

  • David

    I’m sorry I just can’t see the point of the Macbook Air at that price point. If you compare the 13″ models of both you get– For a $100 less you can get a Macbook Pro with the same size screen, a faster processor, double the hard drive space, double the memory, and longer battery life. Not to mention the additional ports and optical drive. I understand the desire for a lighter device but let’s be honest for that much more power the Pro is only 1.5 lbs heavier. There probably is a market for the new Macbook Air but it’s just not me. To each his own though, I guess.

  • Paul

    I can’t wait to buy Adobe Creative Suite from the Mac App Store!

    Ya think?

  • ken segall

    Yeah, that’s one of those tricky areas that I have no idea how they will solve. Huge sprawling apps and suites with hundreds of parts aren’t going to work that way. More likely the Mac App Store will be a place for mainstream apps, utilities and games. The pros may not exactly get their fill there.

  • @taxi

    1) Freedom can be taken away 1 step at the time, so today you can install what you want, let’s see in the future! (ever heard of the boiling frog story?)

    2) I have always considered programming a very powerful creative tool. I can’t see how Apple’s curation won’t impact that.

  • Jimi

    Tim Cook: Light blue denim, Black jumper. Sold.

  • Jay

    I’m guessing that there will always be high-profile apps that aren’t sold through the app store. Adobe CS, AutoDesk stuff and the like. They won’t be for the masses, and their price point makes the Apple skim off a burden. The math of increased sales compensating for the 30% wouldn’t work for Illustrator, for instance.

    I welcome the Mac App Store, but it won’t be as big a deal as the iOS one. It will, however, support a market for $1—$20 apps that would currently be released as free- or shareware. That’s good for small developers.

  • bryan Birch

    iMag is a great idea. I guess i should use iNag to implement it. I’ve already sent off a note to apple, oops forgot to give you credit.

  • Don’t forget the news about Apple deprecating Java. Of course that was only announced in the software update notes pushed out that day. Hurm.