Steve Jobs's Macworld Keynote: An In-Depth Look - InformationWeek

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1/15/2008
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Steve Jobs's Macworld Keynote: An In-Depth Look

The presentation lacked the revolutionary fervor of previous years, but the Apple CEO did introduce a slew of useful and sexy products.

It'd be a cheap shot for me to say that Steve Jobs's Macworld keynote this year was a little bit of a let-down. It'd be true, but it'd be a cheap shot.

I think Jobs himself was aware this isn't a revolutionary year for Apple -- he omitted his characteristic "one more thing," the statement used in past years to signal the introduction of game-changing technology.

Still, Jobs introduced a slew of meaty and attractive new products and services at his keynote Tuesday. The ultra-thin MacBook Air is guaranteed to be the notebook computer of choice for the fashionable geek this year. Updates to iPhone and iPod Touch software will make the devices more easy-to-use, useful, and fun. New wireless backup technology will make it a lot easier for users to protect their data.

And one of the announcements might prove revolutionary after all: The package of movie rentals over iTunes, along with upgrades to Apple TV. But it's too early to tell whether movie rentals will transform home theater the way iTunes and the iPod transformed the music industry. iTunes movie rentals will launch with a very limited selection -- although the business could prove formidable indeed if Apple can ramp up its catalog rapidly.

Everybody's talking about the MacBook Air and iTunes, so I'll run down the keynote in chronological order, which will let me highlight some of the less prominent -- but still interesting -- announcements, and describe what it was like to be there.

Introducing Time Capsule

The keynote kicked off with a viewing of a recent I'm a Mac/I'm a PC commercial, with a "Happy New Year" theme. The Mac guy was happy because he had a great year. The PC guy... not so much. But the PC guy was looking forward to a great 2008, copying what the Mac did in 2007.

Jobs took the stage dressed as always in black mock turtleneck sweater and jeans. "Thank you for an extraordinary 2007," he told the audience, and then trotted out the statistics: Leopard shipped 5 million copies in 2007, making it the most successful Mac OS ever. Nineteen percent of the Mac OS X installed base has upgraded.

He introduced Time Capsule, a hardware companion to Leopard Time Machine backup software. When Leopard shipped in the autumn, Time Machine required backing up to an attached external or internal hard drive, which is especially inconvenient for notebook users, who need to be able to take their devices with them. Apple introduced the Time Capsule home backup server to allow wireless backup. The Time Capsule includes a built-in 802.11n Airport Extreme base station, with a server-grade hard drive. "You can back up every Mac in your house to one server," Jobs said.

The Time Capsule will come in a 500 Gbyte configuration, priced at $299, or 1 Tbyte for $499.

Jobs broke for another I'm a Mac/I'm a PC commercial. This one showed the Mac guy duplicated many times, to illustrate Time Machine, which the PC guy found annoying. Oh, that PC guy, how put-upon he is!

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