Steve Jobs and Apple made some New Years Resolutions. This year Jobs took a new approach: rather than introduce new and exciting products, Macworld 2008 was simply dedicated to new features and rehashing old ideas. Unlike previous Macworlds, Jobs' keynote speech at the annual Macworld Conference and Expo was an attempt to capitalize upon Apple's past success.
Kicking it off was another accessory to the Mac Lifestyle called TimeCapsule. TimeCapsule is essentially a wireless external hard drive that comes in two sizes: big (500 GB) and way too big (1 Terabyte, equivalent to 1000 GB). The hard drive works in conjunction with the new Mac operating system's "TimeMachine" back-up system, which saves copies of your machine's data at specific intervals. At $299 and $499 respectively by size, it's a good value for your money (if you plan on pirating five hundred movies) so you might upgrade for the future of computing.
Jobs next detailed how exciting the iPhone will become once every user installs their new updates. I mean, it's already the best selling cell phone out there, but apparently it's not so good that it can't be improved. Among the features Jobs exhibited in the new iPhone was a positioning system (using triangulation, not GPS) that appeared to be accurate to within a few blocks, judging by the circle Jobs' iPhone drew on the map of the Macworld building. By my reckoning, that same circle might have put me anywhere from the Kline to Old West. Jobs never told us why they opted for triangulation, but I'm sure he has some good reason he won't waste on us, the consumer.
Tired of only taking down the record companies and television, Apple has decided to go after Blockbuster. iTunes has struggled to make movie sales, stemming from people not wanting to pay loads of money and use up memory space for movies they'll watch once. The new factor in the Apple strategy is (duh) rentals. Jobs claims that they have figured out how to vanquish Netflix and Blockbuster. Using iTunes' new movie rental feature, you won't have to go to the store or even your mailbox, you'll just plop down in front of your computer. Once you pay for a movie you'll have within 30 days to begin watching it, after which you'll have 24 hours to finish it. This will cost you three dollars for old (or 'library") titles and four dollars for new releases. And iTunes will stock new releases 30 days after Netflix and Blockbuster get theirs.
Along with this, Apple released AppleTV, a little box that looks like the Mac equivalent of cable On-Demand (it puts iTunes on your TV). So, along with Blockbuster, Apple's going after your cable company. But Apple believes that you'll dish out a few hundred bucks to get what your cable company charges a ten dollar monthly fee for, just because it might be more "user-friendly."
In fact, Apple makes a few assumptions about its consumers. An excellent example is Jobs' last speaking point: the new MacBook Air, their ultra-thin laptop. While it is an achievement in micro-technology, the Air continues a trend Apple started with the iMac: the phasing out of features. While the Air is remarkably thin (the "world's thinnest," according to Apple) it has eliminated every piece of hardware that we recognize as a computer. The system has no disc drives and provides only three jacks: headphones, a USB port, and a special Mac-only connection for displaying on a separate monitor. Jobs stated that Apple doesn't think users will miss these pieces of hardware. The only compensation for lack of a drive is that the Air can wirelessly borrow the drives of nearby computers.
It became apparent that this wasn't a tech expo. This was a rock concert. Every new Jobs speaking point was another song. But because the audience at Macworld doesn't toss their bras onto the stage (they're 90% male), they politely clapped instead. As if to drive home the point that this was entertainment not technology, Randy Newman played a few songs at the end. And when the final bars of his piano playing trailed off, the Jobs' keynote ended.