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Macworld Aftermath: A Closer Look At iLife, iWork

The most overlooked news at Macworld was about the significant upgrades to iLife, iWork, and the MacBook Pro, Apple's workhorse of a notebook. Our Mac expert hits the highlights.
Numbers '09

Like Pages, Numbers '09 improvements are in the "well DUH" category: formula improvements, table improvements, better charts, better template chooser, etc. What wasn't talked about, and isn't even on the "What's New" section for Numbers on Apple's site is the addition of an AppleScript dictionary to Numbers, so you can finally automate the silly thing. Having had a bit of time to look at the AppleScript implementation, it's a decent 1.0 setup. You can't create formulas or complex spreadsheet operations via AppleScript, but you can do a decent job of setting up spreadsheets and some basic formatting.




Apple's productivity suite, iWork '09 has picked up some new tricks.
(click for image gallery)

iWork.com

Apple's new trick with iWork is the new iWork.com online service. It's billed as a way to "Share your iWork projects online." That's true, but it's easy to misconstrue this as some kind of way to enable multiuser access to iWork documents. That's not what it's for. What it looks like is more of a shared review site. If you think about Adobe's online/shared commenting workflow for Acrobat files, you're more in line with iWork.com's functionality.

The implementation is pretty simple; iWork.com will work with any e-mail address. One issue that needs to be fixed is that updating an existing document is still a fairly manual process, and you can't upload an update. Instead, you have to upload an entirely new version. Other limitations include the fact that you can only use Mail.app for notifying people about your shared files. IWork.com is not going to be perfect for everyone, but it's not a poke in the eye, either, and I can easily see a lot of benefit to it.

17" MacBook Pro

The third keynote item was an update to the 17-inch MacBook Pro. Yes, I know, it's huge, it's unwieldy, but for those of us who use them, they rock. The new models continue to rock as well, only just a little harder. The update gets them the new unibody construction, a better screen, with a higher resolution, 1,920 by 1,200, better color gamut, the new trackpad, and an antiglare option. Maximum RAM has been doubled to 8 GB, and there's an option for a 256-GB SSD drive. (Double that again, and it gets useful even for my insane needs.)




The updated 17" MacBook Pro delivers a unibody construction and a longer-lasting battery.
(click for image gallery)

The bigger question is what does the 17 inches give you over the 15 inches: One additional USB port, bigger screen, much higher resolution (1,920 by 1,200 vs. 1,440 by 900), optional antiglare display, more VRAM standard on the Nvidia 900M GT card (512 MB vs. 256, although you can upgrade the 15-inch to 512 with a faster CPU option), faster standard and optional CPUs (the 17-inch model is 2.66 GHz standard, optional 2.93 GHz; 15-inch is 2.4/2.53 GHz standard, optional 2.8 GHz), more supported RAM (8 GB vs. 4 GB, although you can actually get 6 GB into the 15-inch), a longer-lasting battery (8 hours max vs. 5 hours max) and a bigger optional SSD drive (256 GB vs. 128 GB).

The disadvantages vs. the 15-inch model are: 0.03 inches thicker, 1.1 lbs heavier, 1.12-inch wider, 0.69-inch deeper, no user-replaceable battery, and swapping the hard drive/RAM is a bit harder. For people who use and love the 17-inch model, those are minor issues. For the people on the fence, those could be deal breakers.

One More Thing …

Of course, it's not a Macworld Keynote without the infamous "One more thing …" announcement. In this case, it was about the iTunes music store. ITunes is getting tiered pricing, with songs now going for 69 cents, 99 cents, and $1.29. However, by the end of the first quarter of 2009, all songs on iTunes will be DRM-free. If that seems like a trade to you, you're not alone -- I think so, too, although I have no proof either way. But it seems logical, and by going DRM-free, Apple neatly handles its DRM-related problems in places like Norway. Finally, the iPhone Music Store is accessible via 3G too, not just Wi-Fi.

Conclusion

So, as keynotes go, it was a bit muted, and noticeably shorter. Schiller skipped the usual financial/sales shtick, and got right down to business. Considering some of the marathon sessions Jobs has led, the Philnote was a huge improvement. As far as content goes, it was no worse than your average Jobs keynote, most of which have been fairly mundane. Face it, not every Steve Jobs keynote was the iPhone, or an entirely new product line. Schiller did a solid job, and I have to admit, closing out the keynote with Tony Bennett? Live? No complaints from anyone there.

Editor's Choice
Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer