7 Minute Miles

Thoughts on 2007 MacWorld Keynote

Posted Wednesday, January 10th, 2007 01:27 am GMT -5 in Technology

Another MacWorld in San Francisco that I didn’t attend, but until WWDC moves somewhere else, I’m OK with that. After watching the rumor sites post the play-by-play today and reading some of the media feedback, my initial thought was that this must be one boring MacWorld show floor. With only two iPhone prototypes on display in the Apple booth (under glass no less) and only two other hardware announcements from Apple (the Apple TV and a new Airport Express base station), there really wouldn’t be much new to see. Microsoft pre-announced Office 2008 for the second half of the year, but I’m not sure if they are showing anything at the show. Still, there are lots of things to talk about.

The iPhone is just about everything I was hoping Apple would do with a phone. The size looks good, the screen is a little bigger than the PSP (which I loved when I owned one), battery life seems OK and the feature set is spectacular. It really doesn’t seem right to call it the iPhone–it’s really an iPod Pro with phone functions added. My only real disappointment was the relatively small storage sizes. 4GB and 8GB are OK (and much larger than what the PSP offers with it’s memory card storage), but it’s still ten times smaller than the current largest iPod. I wouldn’t be able to transfer my full libraries (music, video and photos), but I can’t really do that with my current iPods either.

The pricing seems OK to me–the original Treos were in this range. I’m not excited about it being locked in to one carrier and requiring a 2 year contract. It would have been nicer to have an unlocked device sold at Apple Stores that could be used with any carrier, but from what I’ve read, some of the features required changes to the network infrastructure. Too bad Apple couldn’t create or purchase their own network somehow (what is the current market value of the weaker carriers?). Then again, I always hoped Apple would use some of that extra cash to buy Adobe.

My biggest question is how open the device will be to third party developers. They say it’s OS X, but will all of the same development tools work? How is the file system structured? Will there be new APIs to access the new phone-only interfaces? Time will tell. I’d also like to have iPhone versions of Terminal and ARD, a sports score widget and a mobile version of the “real” iChat. I’m assuming there will also be some sort of news feed reader, a calculator and some unique games available by the time it actually launches this summer.

A few other unanswered questions:

  • Is there the equivalent of RAM versus hard drive storage?
  • What sort of processor does it use?
  • How well will the screen last under constant finger contact?
  • How will email and calendar synching work in the Windows world?
  • What’s up with using Yahoo! mail? Isn’t the .Mac framework up to the task?

Even with all of the uncertainty, you could probably put me down today for at least a couple units for work and family (if they were allowed by the FCC to accept orders).

My review of Apple TV is short and sweet: what’s the point? When we bought an HD projector for the office, we bought a Mac mini that does all of this and much, much more. When combined with Elgato’s EyeTV, I have everything I need (albeit at a higher price). If I was able to buy a new HD TV right now for my living room, I’d be buying another Mac mini, not an Apple TV. Maybe I just don’t get it, but it seems that this is a solution in search of a problem.

Lost in the hype was the introduction of a new Airport Express base station. The specs and pricing of this unit are still higher than the commodity wireless gear you find at any CompUSA, but I’ve always liked the easy setup and nice Mac-based admin utility that comes with the Airport line. Three Ethernet ports is a nice improvement, as is the ability to share a USB hard drive. The speed and range improvements are as yet unproven, but I’ll take their word for it. My only disappointment here is having only one USB port–having to add a USB hub just to share both a hard drive and a printer is lame.

Not a bad keynote by any stretch, but it does make you wonder when the rest of the 2007 news will arrive. There are lots of things that need to be done (the “secrets” of Leopard, Mac Pro upgrades, etc.), so it should be a fun year to watch Apple Inc. execute their plans.

UPDATE: From the pictures at apple.com, it already has a calculator widget. Also, some interesting commentary from Chuq Von Rospach, a former Apple employee (and hockey fan).

UPDATE 2: Henry Norr writes at Macintouch that the system is basically closed to Mac developers. In the Macintouch keynote summary, however, there is the quote: “developers who want to do applications [for the iPhone] are welcome to contact Apple developer relations.”

Originally published by DK on January 10, 2007 at 1:27 am

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