10 January 2007

Worst. Macworld. Ever.

@apple@

Ah, so much for suspense, I gave it all out in the title there. Well, what can you expect? Steve Jobs had been sitting on his hands for a while now, biting his tongue everytime someone said the word “phone,” or picked up their cellphone, in a 100-meter radius around him. So, once the device was ready, they were going to send it to the FCC for approval as soon as they could, and that meant he had to announce and demo it extensively, and he wasn’t going to let the trivial fact that the expo is named “Macworld” slow him down.

This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for two and a half years

I was right about one thing in my predictions: announcing an Apple phone would trump any other announcement (well, I was also right about the unlikelihood of a slide-out keyboard). I was only wrong about which way they were going to solve that. No Mac-related announcement at all, then. Fine, I can live with that. What I can’t just live with, though, is that Jobs has been single-minded about that phone for years. That he (sincerely, no doubt) thinks this is the next revolution in phones, in music players, and computers. That he put up a “The first 30 years were just the beginning” teaser on Apple’s front page to announce a new phone rather than a new Mac. I don’t mind that Apple drops “Computer” in its name (because that made sense ever since the iPod and the iTunes Music Store), I mind that Jobs just doesn’t care about the Mac anymore, and when he doesn’t care about something it might as well cease to exist.

Hawk Wings:

I was speaking to a couple of Apple gurus via iChat today who both told me not to worry so much. The computer side of the business is ticking along nicely, the engineers are churning out the same amount of great software at the same rate and so forth. Just because Steve Jobs is so energised by the digital gadgets doesn’t mean that he is not interested in hard-core computing.

Well, I don’t buy that, as much as I wish I did. As far as I’m concerned, Steve has shown every sign that he was growing out of his interest for computers. He went to create his own computer company, failed, recouped his loss while regaining his place at Apple, earned his stay by making a few computers and promptly proceeded to diversify in the world of consumer electronics. He’s done with computers. Do you hear stories of Steve Jobs lugging his MacBook around everywhere he goes? I don’t remember ever reading recent mentions of him touching a computer at all.

I once wrote about Bill Gates’s inability to realize what actual computer users need because he’s got too many secretaries and assistants shielding him from real world needs; I’m beginning to think that’s also true of Jobs. He doesn’t need a Mac (except, I’m sure, a Mac mini hooked to his big-screen TV for Front Row — which is why Apple’s launching a set-top box) and the iPhone is certainly computer enough for him. Computers are out. Well, not in my world they aren’t.

Sure, Apple isn’t going to close the Mac department; they’ll still design and engineer great machines, and cool software. But don’t expect real innovation anymore, don’t expect huge investments in research and development. It’s all about incremental improvement from here on.

Don’t even expect a Mac tablet utilizing the same patents Apple developed for the iPhone — nobody goes by cannibilizing Steve’s baby.

 

@apple@

Anyway, on to the iPhone itself: it’s a nice device, and you can’t really resent it for being the harbinger of doom it is, can you? So, yes, it is awesome. Well, it actually looks dull and not that pretty when it’s off, but once you turn it on it’s the sexiest thing there is. But, no matter what Steve Jobs might say, it’s just one more smartphone. The best one ever, that’s a given, but it’s nothing more. And, as already established, I don’t care all that much about smartphones.

I don’t know what to make of the actual physical design. Well, I sure do know I don’t like it, but I wonder what that means we should expect for the next Macs. A chrome bezel? And what’s up with the black bottom on the back?

And, of course, it’s thin — thinner than any competitor, Steve says. With a huge, bright high-dpi screen, touch sensitivity, and enough CPU and GPU power to handle OS X (or a special version thereof) and lots of visual effects, and it gets wifi and bluetooth too. Now you better not go on a weekend vacation without your DC adapter (and I don’t even believe the claim you’d get five hours of video playback).

The interesting thing about the interface (besides that it’s many levels of awesome, no contest): we now know what Leopard will look like. And, no, it’s not going to be spectacular: flat buttons with gradients, and the new arrow buttons we already saw in the Leopard previews. Very dark-unified, very iTunes 7. Well, I guess that’ll work (unless we also get the iTunes scrollbars).

 

Random thoughts:

  • Now that iSync is dead, absorbed by iTunes, and Apple makes its own phone, is syncing to other phones from OS X going to be as well managed as syncing to non-iPod music players is?

  • Apple reportedly announced the iPhone before finalizing their agreement with Cisco over the name. Weird way to conduct business, but so Jobs-like. If I were Cisco, I’d say “screw you, you’ve announced it, now you might as well pay double.”
    Anyway, I can’t believe either of the two companies would be okay with both of their products sharing the same name, but the sure thing is that it’s no coincidence that Linksys made sure to announce their iPhone before Apple.

  • I understand much better now why Apple bought CoverFlow — it worked just fine as a freeware iTunes companion, but they needed it most in the iPhone. (Even the Apple TV doesn’t seem to have it at all, which I don’t get.)

  • I was quite surprised, that they’d announce a partnership with Yahoo (rather than Google, and while partnering with Google over other functionalities). And why the hell would they need “free push IMAP email” from Yahoo? Isn’t Apple supposed to have something of an email solution already?

  • If the multi-touch interface is so amazing, why does it seem to be only used when zooming (and possibly typing) — and then you can also zoom by double-tapping? And did anyone else find it funny how often Steve said “oops” after tapping the wrong spot? (Sure it was only a couple of times, but that’s a highly-rehearsed demo of a product that’s supposed to be simpler than any other. To his credit, though, stepping back was always another tap away.)

  • Funny that OS X’s Inkwell handwriting recognition technology had always been considered to be the most potent sign of an upcoming Newton 2.0, and in the end it’s not here at all.

 

And a few links:

  • The genesis of the iPhone [via]: “When [Apple engineers] showed him the touchscreen they came up with [for a Mac tablet], he got excited. So excited he forgot all about tablet computers.

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