Friday, January 09, 2004

Unholy alliance...

Reports are pouring in from all across the net of a new - and intriguing - business deal between two very unlikely partners: HP and Apple.

The two tech giants have forged an unusual alliance. Apple is going to develop an HP-branded iPod while HP is going to bundle iTunes on all new HP and Compaq computers (HP owns Compaq).

According to Phil Schiller, the HP device won't carry the iPod name, but will have the same form factor and features as third generation iPods and come in a color titled "HP Blue." The iPod's start-up screen will still feature the Apple logo, though.

Obviously, Apple feels secure with the current iPod's power in order to start branding it out to other companies. Of course, having iTunes bundled on new computers is also a great achievement for Apple, exposing even more people to the iTunes Music Store and the overall Mac interface.

Remember, Apple's long term isn't to make its money selling music or even selling iPods. The iTunes/iPod for Windows strategy is designed to eventually get people to consider buying a Mac (which is where Apple's big profits come from).

It's kind of like a deal with the Devil (of course, we're not sure which one will wind up being the devil).

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Is video the next audio?

Maybe not (and never mind that the title really didn't make much sense to beging with).

In an interview with David Pouge (link to Mac Rumors article), Steve Jobs was asked about portable video players (video iPods have been speculated by some for a while now, though no rumors have ever backed such speculation up). Jobs said that he doesn't think video players will catch on any time soon, citing the fact that "there's no equivalent of headphones." He also pointed out that people watch movies differently than they listen to music, and that Hollywood already does a good job distributing content.

Steve brings up some good points about the cons of portable video players, specifically the tiny screen. One point not considered is the lack of available content for such a device. With music, you can rip a CD or download some songs (legally or otherwise) and toss them on your iPod (because you wouldn't have another mp3 player, would you?). Video doesn't work that way. There's no easy or practical way to get video off of a DVD, and there's no real movie equivilant of the iTunes Music Store. Sure, there's file sharing, but have you ever actually tried to get a TV show or movie through file sharing? It's very unreliable, downloads can take forever, and you've got no idea what kind of quality you're going to get until you actually open the file.

Steve ended up finishing his comment with a teaser: "Now, I'm not saying we're not working on something like that, Who knows what we've got in our labs?" But he does make a very well-reasoned case for Apple - and other companies - to not make personal video players (right now, at least). The first iPod wasn't introduced when mp3 players were really new, it was introduced when mp3 players were becoming big (and eventually, really big). Don't be surprised if Apple follows similar logic with any kind of video gadget.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Keynote highlights.

(You can check out my posts from the live coverage here)

iPod Mini
4 GB capacity
Half an inch thick
Aluminum body
Comes in silver, gold, green, pink, and blue
Available in Feb (in April outside the US)

iLife 04'
Five applications
Available Friday, January 16

New Billboard charts
More Classical music added
Pepsi 100,000,000 song giveaway starts Feb 1
Part of iLife '04

Faster with more pictures
Enhanced slideshows
Ratings and smart albums
Quick controls
Rendezvous sharing
Enhanced and faster effects (including sepia)
Endorsed by Mr. Frodo
Part of iLife '04

Supports video from iSight
Audio scrubbing in the timeline
Edit and trim in the timeline
Easier sharing options
New, improved titles
Part of iLife '04

20 new themes
Transitions between menus
Enhanced slideshows
"Map" of DVD
Pro-quality encoding (from Final Cut Pro)
Now burns movies up to two hours long
Part of iLife '04

Make, mix, and record music
USB or MIDI keyboard (as in piano) input
Mix up to 64 tracks
Over 50 software instruments
Professional loops
Guitar amps
Audio effects
Export completed music directly to iTunes
Very cool
Even Sheryl Crow can do it!
Part of iLife '04

GarageBand Jam Pack
Add-on for GarageBand
Over 2000 loops
Over 100 software instruments
Over 100 audio effects
15 more guitar amps
Available Jan 16

10 GB model updated to 15 GB
Prices and other models unchanged

Final Cut Express 2
Real-time effects
Optimized for Panther and the G5
Based on Final Cut Pro 4
$299 or $99 upgrade

Xserve G5 and
Xserve RAID
Both updated
G5 model available with single and dual 2 GHz procs
All sorts of new server-y features
Single 2 GHz Model: $2999
Dual 2 GHz Model: $3999
A compute node model is also available

Also announced:

Microsoft Office 2004
Available in the Spring

Apple In-Ear Headphones

Apple to sell audio keyboards
$99 and $199 models by M-Audio and Edirol featured

iPhoto hardcover albums
Coming to Japan this month
Europe in March

"We're going to make something of this year."
- Steve Jobs

MacUnderground's Live MWSF04 Keynote Coverage (CLICK HERE!)

Monday, January 05, 2004

Apple New Year's Resolution #1: More Applications with Great Names

Mac Rumors is confirming that Apple will be releasing an application called "GarageBand" (no space between garage and band) in tomorrow's keynote. This could be a rumored consumer music application (though there's no confirmation on what this new app is).

And let's face it, "GarageBand" is a cool name.

In other last minute news, Mac Rumors is also confirming rumors that the Xserve line will be updated tomorrow (previously and currently predicted in the Rumor Watch).

Also, as reported last night, Apple has finally announced a Quicktime stream of the keynote, as well as Apple Store broadcasts.
I'll be providing live MacUnderground coverage of the keynote starting at 9 a.m. PST (that's 11 CST for me) from the Apple Store North Michigan Ave. Be sure to remember that coverage is at, not at the main page. I'm keeping it off the main site in order to keep the many, many short posts involved in keynote coverage out of the main archives (which are messy enough as is), and for a minimum of images (particularly these animated GIFs I've become somewhat addicted to).

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Keynote a go-go...

Just FYI: Apple's official keynote stream is finally ready to go at this page.

The Best and Worst of 2003

Well, 2004 is officially upon us, but there's still some time to look back at 2003. So, I've taken the entire year and packaged it into a short awards ceremony that's bound to leave many people out. But, that's what these "Look Back" and "Year in Review" things are all about.

Now, I'm not saying that Konfabulator is a bad application. I personally like and use it (though I can't say I've registered it). That said, it definitely didn't meet the expectations created by its own hype. Rather than being a revolution in development and the user interface, many just saw the app as a glorified way of doing things you can already do, and many others just couldn't see why it was worth $25.
Konfabulator is definitely improving, and may some day trigger that revolution that we're still waiting for. But until then, it can be known as the Most Overly-Hyped Application of the Year.

The explanation for this is short and simple. You don't have to like the brushed metal Finder, and you don't have to have a brushed metal Finder. Go download an application like cliché software's ThemeChanger or Unsanity's ShapeShifter and stop whining.

Sure, iTunes 4 for the Mac was revolutionary. Still, it lacks the simple genius that wins this honor for its PC counterpart: Let's take our best, easiest to use iApp and give Windows users a taste of what they're missing out on. When you look at it like that, the amazing iTunes Music Store seems secondary (and considering how little profit it generates even as the number one digital music store, it is kinda secondary).
On the PC, iTunes helps bridge the gap for potential switchers. If they've got their iPod and their iTunes, they just might look at an iMac or a Powerbook next time they're computer shopping. Simple, but genius.

Back when we were just speculating about Panther's features, now neglected rumor site LoopRumors reported that the new OS would feature a "System-wide metal interface." Within days, the site was claiming that people had misunderstood and that the Finder would stay aqua.
Guess what? They were right the first time around!
As we all know now, Panther features a fully brushed metal Finder. If LoopRumors hadn't recanted under pressure, they would've been the first major site to predict the big move. Kinda funny when you think about it...

Ambrosia Software's WireTap isn't a fancy application, but it's free and it's useful (what more can we ask for?). WireTap let's you record audio being played by your Mac into a .aiff file. It might be a bit light on features, but it does what it's supposed to do (and it does it pretty well). It's great for recording audio from a DVD, amongst other things.

It might have been rumored for months before Panther's WWDC unveiling, but "Piles" still can't be found in any copies of OS X. This fancy new feature was supposed to allow users to pile up their documents, but all we wound up with was Exposé and a new Finder (shucks).

Sure, there are plenty of things with worse names than AirPort Extreme, but we expect a bit more from Apple. It's better than AirPort 2 or iAirPort, but you'd think they could've come up with something - anything - better than "Extreme" to tack on the end. Hell, it sounds like a skateboarding move on the half pipe ("Dude, that was an awesome AirPort Xtreme!").

Another honor for another Apple application. "Safari" is definitely not the name we expected for an Apple web browser, but it's a good name. In fact, I'd say most people were so relieved it wasn't named "iBrowse" that they didn't care what the actual name was. Here's a resolution for Apple in 2004: Let's see more of these creative names (and please, nothing else with "Extreme" in it).

Sure, the first iTunes Music Store campaign (you know, the ones with the people singing along to their favorite songs on their iPods) was good, but this one was even better. It had funky colors, cool visuals, and better singing. These eye-catching ads helped sell iPods over the holidays and push the iTMS to number one on the online music store charts. Rumor has it that it took quite a bit of convincing to get Jobs to agree to the colored backgrounds (instead of that ol' "Switcher White" look), but it was a good move. Another great campaign by Chait Day.

and finally...

The latest, greatest Powermacs with the super-powered, 64-bit G5s is the winner of dual honors (along with dual processors) this year. The new machines were highly anticipated and even highlier rumored as the World Wide Developers Conference keynote approached (so highly rumored that it can only be described with made up words). Even with all these rumors, nobody knew the specs for the next generation of Powermacs. But then, days before the keynote, the most unlikely source let us in on a big secret. Yes, the Apple online store actually posted the specs on the Powermac page, accidentally (or so we think) revealing the top-end dual-2 GHz model.
Still, even though it was the year's biggest leak, the new Powermacs still made a huge splash at the WWDC keynote. To put it simply (and in terms of an overused cliché), we were shocked and awed (most likely due to a powerful reality distortion field around Mr. Jobs).