An Apple keynote address is always something of a note in the geek calendar. Whether or not you are a member of the Mac fraternity.
It’s a big deal in the sense that whether you like them or not Apple have always been capable of showing a streak of innovation a mile wide, coupled with their sense of the aesthetic and as a result they have brought products as groundbreaking as the iMac and the iPod to market and left the competition scratching their heads wondering where they went wrong.
So what was the deal today, naturally the rumour sites have been grinding away in anticipation of this event for weeks and I have to give them their due, a good portion of what they indicated might happen actually has done albeit in some cases a little more dramatically than we might have anticipated.
As it’s a keynote speech, there was of course the usual spec data on how the company is performing to get through first, and as the markets have predicted the company is doing well. Sales of the iPod remain brisk and Steve was quick to tell the faithful that market share for the Macintosh brand is continuing to rise. But goddamnit, what about the toys!
Well, first out of the gate is the software, iLife the popular suite of apps that comes with most new Macs on the market today has been given something of a makeover. iPhoto has been tweaked under the hood and as a result has been made given the performance hike its been needing for a while (its always been the weak link in the suite in my humble opinion). Garageband has been also been reworked to take advantage of the new podcasting revolution with an inbuilt set of features that enable the home based would be radio jock to compile their own show. iMovie has also been given a functionality makeover with the premise of improved drag and drop features for the budding filmmaker.
There’s also the incorporation of a new app iWeb for the creation of you guessed it web sites. Finally Apple bring the “anyone can do it” approach to the field of web site building and if you’re already a .mac account subscriber then theses apps are designed to integrate with you account just so.
iWork 06 is a reworking of Apple’s productivity suite, still I daresay not the Office killer it could be but Keynote 3 promises “cinema quality presentations and storyboards” with the addition of new theme packs, these are features that are designed to interact with the new version of their Pages word processor. Both application packs are shipping now (cough..yeah right) and at exactly the same price they did before ($79/?49).
In terms of Apple’s actual operating system a further update has been released in the form of 10.4.4. This is presumably to incorporate amongst other things a new set of widgets utilised in the operating system (incorporating Google friendly additions as well as Address book improvements and the like).
On the hardware front the iPod gains another gadget in the form of an FM tuner (what no DAB?, am I asking too much?). Compatible with the latest generations of iPod this device plugs into the iPod and functions pretty much like a remote as well as containing an onboard radio that unlocks a screen on the iPod allowing the user to tune into their favourite station.
Then of course there are the computers themselves…
Welcome to the age of the Intel powered Macintosh.
First out of the gate is the iMac, on the outside it resembles its G5 powered forefather and comes with all the attractive bells and whistles that made it the uber cool all in one machine that impressed the industry not so long ago (iSight camera, tasty 17” or 20” screens etc). However this time round the machine has undergone something of a heart transplant. Gone is the venerable G5 processor of old, replaced by an Intel Core Duo processor that apparently delivers twice the performance of its predecessor. In terms of pricing the machine remains an attractive prospect coming in at under a thousand pounds for the base spec model (?929).
Next up is the new laptop, the new Powe…sorry Macbook Pro (that’s going to take some getting used to) represents Apple’s first generation Intel powered portable. So dramatic was the announcement that Steve figured a name change was necessary. Once again wielding the Intel Core Duo processor with the option of 1.67 or 1.83Ghz configurations both machines support up to 2Gb of DDR2 RAM making them potentially killer machines in the professional markets. Screen sizes are 15” and 17” respectively (prices start at ?1779).
The machines have retained the old Powerbook dimensions (in fact they are if anything slightly thinner than their predecessor). The machines support the wireless remote control that is necessary for the Front Row app and there is a darling little feature in terms of the Magsafe power supply connector round the back. Many laptop owners have fallen foul of broken power connectors in the past, so what Apple appear to have done is make their new adapter sit in place magnetically, as a result if you suddenly yank the cord for whatever reason the connector comes away without taking half the machine with it.
Graphics wise both iMac and MacBook Pro are powered by ATI chipsets (X1600 and Mobility X1600 respectively) which no doubt will not be good enough the whining gamers who always want something better but for mere mortals should prove perfectly acceptable.
Software wise the transition to the new chips is handled by the creation of universal binaries. Effectively an application will load on both an Intel or G5/4/3 machine. If the application is written for the older chips then the Intel machines cope with it via a layer of emulation. Of course this is reminiscent of the days of Classic when OS X was forced to deal with late arrivals from various software houses by running an emulated version of its older software to cope with the apps that hadn’t been updated yet.
How this new emulation (or Rosetta as it will more commonly become know) will cope is anybody’s guess, however for now it seems Apple are pretty confident that it will handle pretty much anything thrown at it.
In essence what we are seeing here is a new age of the Macintosh computer, a name change here and a heart transplant there not to mention a few aesthetic nips, tucks and tweaks thrown in for good measure. I daresay there will be teething troubles because as with any new introduction there usually are. However for now why don’t you join me in looking at the new kit and lets all drool together.