Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Thoughts on the latest Steve-note

Apple announced a bunch of stuff yesterday in San Francisco (watch the keynote here). Some of it is pretty cool, but others left me feeling a bit skeptical.

1. iPod Shuffle: It's small, and the shuffling idea is a nice gimmick. However, it has no screen (somehow, Steve presented this as a plus), the interface is actually a fake click-wheel (a real one doesn't work without a screen), the USB connector cover is gonna get lost, and the lanyard is not only kind-of dorky, but when you use it, the headphone cable comes out of the bottom of the iPod, which is awkward.

2. MacMini: Another tiny piece of tech-goodness. What Steve-O didn't mention is that when you add all the stuff you want (Airport, Bluetooth, wireless keyboard and mouse, big hard drive, and SuperDrive), the price skyrockets to over $900. I like to think of the MacMini as the coolest $500 DVD player you can buy, rather than an actual great deal on a computer.

3. iWork: Basically, they've made a word-processing version of Keynote called Pages. Is it just me, or are all these Apple template-based software packages just not that appealing? Reminds me of preset sounds on my keyboard - fun to play around with, but I'd be embarrassed to actually produce something with them. Plus, without a spreadsheet (what kind of animated, drop-shadowed, watercolored charting monstrosities will Apple come up with for that?), iWork is all-but-useless.

4. iLife: Some neat stuff here. HD video editing (this part of the keynote was marred by an extremely awkward guest-appearance by Sony president Kunitake Ando) is all over the place, with kick-ass H.264 support. GarageBand looks like it might actually become useful, with an eight-track hard-disk recording piece, and iChat looks gussied-up, with fancy 3D-looking videoconferencing.

The most insane thing I heard during the keynote is that Apple now has 65% marketshare for all MP3 players. This is twice last year's number (thanks to the iPod Mini), and is truly mind-blowing, especially since every consumer electronics firm in the world is gunning for them.


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