Macworld: Apple Rewards The Faithful

In its final Macworld Expo, Apple introduced meaty upgrades to its software, services, and notebook line. But some Apple watchers wondered whether the Mac and iPhone maker has lost its mojo.

Was this Macworld keynote a disappointment?

Adam Engst, writing at TidBITS, thought so. He described it as "lackluster," and philosophized:

What struck us was how the keynote almost felt like the kind of talk we would have been happy to hear from Apple 10 years ago, in an era of lesser expectations before the iTunes Store, the iPod, and the iPhone. Back then, the announcement of significant updates to iLife and iWork would have been more than enough.

Would it have been different if Steve Jobs had been on stage with his Reality Distortion Field operating at full strength? Perhaps somewhat: Schiller's delivery was overloaded with weak superlatives and, at least to me, he never quite connected with the audience. But I think the real reason Jobs gave the keynote reins to Schiller was because there wasn't that much to demo.

PR maven Steve Rubel, of Edelman Communications, was more direct. "What a lame keynote. Apple is losing its mojo," he posted on Twitter. The conversation continued briskly on FriendFeed, where Apple defenders said the keynote was only disappointing if you set your expectations too high.

"It's gotten to the point where if Steve Jobs doesn't fly in with a cape and announce the iTime Machine, Apple has FAIL-ed. I am glad they are done with MacWorld," said Rolf Schewe.

"[T]he timing of Macworld was never good for back-to-school and the Christmas season, which is Apple's bread-and-butter," said Chris White. "You need about 6 months lead time for these, so expect more announcements in March-July."

Other people took Apple to task for missing the boat on social networking and on Web-based apps like Google Docs and Zoho. But Kevin Pendraja, a VP at Sterling Communications, defended Apple. "Apple's model of innovation isn't to be the first, it's to evaluate emerging markets and figure out how to best to dominate them. Outside of e-mail, name one area where apps in the cloud outsell desktop apps. Eventually, that may start to change and you can bet Apple will be there with something that changes the game."

I expected little from Apple this Macworld, and they exceeded expectations modestly. The new applications and service upgrades look promising, and the only thing I don't like about that 17" MacBook Pro is that I don't have one on my desk right now.

Apple's participation in Macworld this year was subdued. The company announced in December that this would be their last Macworld, and Steve Jobs bowed out of the keynote at the last minute, apparently for health reasons. The announcements that came out of the conference were incremental rather than revolutionary -- but they were solid, and they get Apple off to a good start for 2009.