Macworld '06: An overview of Apple's big day

New hardware wasn't the only thing Steve Jobs talked about

SAN FRANCISCO -- Today's Macworld San Francisco keynote by Apple Computer Inc. CEO Steve Jobs was filled with the same twists and spectacular announcements we've come to expect, including his now infamous "One more thing…." The biggest news: New iMacs are shipping today and running on Intel Core Duo processors, and the MacBook Pro, an Intel-based replacement for the PowerBook G4, is slated to ship next month. (Apple will continue to sell G4-based PowerBooks.) Other announcements included a new version of the iLife suite of applications (which now includes the accidentally leaked iWeb application), iWork, additional video content for the iTunes Music Store in the form of a number of "best of" Saturday Night Live collections and a new iPod accessory that includes a remote control and FM tuner.

Jobs started his keynote address with a review of Apple's retail performance during the past quarter, which turned out to be the first $1 billion quarter for the company's retail store operations. He also reported that Apple had a record-setting quarter, with total revenue of $5.7 billion.

He then turned to the music department, pointing out that 14 million iPods were sold during the holiday season this year (up from 4.5 million in 2004), which works out to 100 iPod sales every minute over the quarter. That brings the total number of iPods sold since 2001 to 42 million -- three quarters of them in the past year alone.

As for the iTunes Music Store, Jobs said 850 million songs have been purchased and are selling at a rate of 3 million songs per day. To date, 8 million videos have been sold, with the top seller so far a condensed version of the Rose Bowl. And despite all the talk about the iTunes Music Store being surpassed as a source for online music buying, Jobs reported that it still holds 83% of the market.

Despite rumors of a replacement for the iPod shuffle, the only piece of iPod hardware announced was a $49 remote control/FM radio tuner device. The device attaches through the dock connector of fifth-generation (video) iPods and iPod Nanos. When connected, a new choice appears in the menu for FM, allowing users to listen to FM stations with their iPods. It also functions as a wired remote control, can clip to clothing and is available now.

Jobs also touted an initiative by DaimlerChrysler AG to offer iPod support across the company's Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicle lines. He pointed out that while Chrysler is the first automaker to provide major iPod support, other automakers will be announcing options throughout the year, with 40% of all 2006 vehicles offering iPod integration options.

iLife '06

Moving from audio to software, Jobs announced the anticipated iLife '06, which includes a new iWeb Web site creation application. iPhoto and GarageBand both got significant updates as well, while iMovie and iDVD got less dramatic enhancements. iPhoto's improvements include better performance, a significant increase the number of photos that can be stored in a library from 25,000 to 250,000, full-screen editing and a new effects palette with one-click access to eight common photo effects. It also includes enhanced photo book options and allows users to order cards and calendars as easily as photo books.

IPhoto also now includes "photocasting" – a sort of podcast for digital photos. The feature allows users to publish a photo album using Real Simple Syndication through a .mac account. Users can subscribe using iPhoto or an RSS reader. When subscribing to a photocast with iPhoto, the published album or photocast is completely downloaded and added to the user's iPhoto library as a photocast and can be worked just like the user's own photos. When photocasts are updated, subscribed users receive them automatically. Users can also subscribe to the RSS photo feed to see a list of photos.

IMovie now includes a series of animated themes, real-time effects and titles, new audio tools and the ability to work on multiple projects at once. It also includes a one-click option for exporting video to the latest iPod and easy-to-use tools for creating a video podcast.

IDVD received new themes, the ability to create widescreen movies and menus, and a new feature called Magic iDVD. This feature allows users to quickly put together a DVD by choosing a theme and dragging and dropping video files or photo albums without needing to do any menu layout. IDVD now supports third-party DVD burners and includes improved slide-show and preview options.

GarageBand received several updates, including 200 royalty-free sound effects, 100 royalty-free "jingle" music clips, an audio "ducking" effect, a speech enhancer and the ability to record interviews conducted via iChat. The new version also debuts a new Podcast Studio that makes creating a podcast with multiple audio tracks and an artwork track very simple. The podcast can then be published directly from GarageBand using .mac or added to a Web site using the new iWeb application. In his demo, Jobs recorded a podcast called "super secret Apple rumors" – which elicited such a round of laughter from the crowd that he had to record the demo a second time, which included a humorous report that the new iPod would weigh 8 lb. and have a 10-in. screen. (A graphic for this fictional iPod was included in his demo of the artwork track.)

IWeb, the new iLife application, is designed to publish only to .mac and to provides an environment for easily making general Web sites, blogs, podcast pages, video pages and photo albums. Think of it as .mac on steroids. Despite its reliance on a series of templates, iWeb offers a good deal of customization of pages and is worth checking out for those interested in sharing their media or in creating blogs and podcasts without having to worry about the technology or design behind them.

ILife '06 is available today for $79 for a single-user license or $99 for a family pack. It also will come standard on all new Macs. The integration with .mac is becoming much more prevalent in all the applications, and it is clear that Apple now views much of iLife as an extension of the .mac service, which currently has 1 million subscribers.

Jobs talked briefly about iWork '06, which includes updated versions of Pages and Keynote. The new features include 3-D charts and graphs, image editing and reflection, the ability to use freeform shapes for selections and masks and advanced table and calculation functions. It is also available at the same pricing as iLife.

Perhaps most importantly, both iWork and iLife are now universal binaries, as is Mac OS X 10.4.4 (which was released today) and all of the applications associated with Mac OS X. That's important, of course, because Jobs not only announced that the iMac would be the first Intel Mac, but he also said it's shipping as of today.

iMac with Intel inside

Jobs was joined onstage by Intel Corp. CEO Paul Otellini (who walked out in a smoking Intel "bunnymen" clean room suit) to report that "Intel is ready." Both CEOs touted the hard work of teams of engineers from both companies before unveiling the Intel-based iMac, which will use Intel's new Core Duo processor. The form factor, features and pricing structures remain the same.

The low-end 17-in. iMac offers a 1.83-GHz Intel Core Duo processor, 512MB of 667-MHz DDR2 Synchronous Dynamic RAM (expandable to 2GB), a PCI Express-based ATI Radeon X1600 video card with 128MB of GDDR3 memory, and a 160GB Serial ATA hard drive running at 7,200 rpm. It's priced at $1,299.

The high-end model ships with a 20-in. screen, a 2-GHz Intel Core Duo processor, 512MB of 667-MHz DDR2 SDRAM (again, expandable to 2GB), the same ATI Radeon X1600 video card and a 250GB Serial ATA hard drive running at 7,200 rpm. Price: $1,699.

Integer and floating-point processor speed tests show that the Intel iMac will be two to three times faster than the old iMac G5.

All the keynote demonstrations were done on an Intel iMac, with Mac OS X 10.4.4 and iLife '06 running natively as universal binaries. Jobs also demonstrated Word 2004 and Photoshop CS2 to show off the compatibility of Rosetta for emulating Power PC code on the Intel processor. While Word ran without problems, the Photoshop demo seemed a little sluggish but still performed well. At that point, Jobs pointed out that Rosetta isn't strong enough for professionals who use Photoshop all day, but said it will work for most users. No doubt, this is part of the rationale behind holding off on professional products until more developers have shipped universal binaries.

Office Update

Roz Ho, general manager for the Mac Business Unit at Microsoft Corp., came onstage to reaffirm (in a somewhat stiff manner) that Microsoft is "on track" to deliver a universal binary version of Office, but gave no indication of when consumers could expect it. She also reported that updates for Office and Messenger due out in March will include a number of user-requested features including handheld device syncing and Spotlight integration for Entourage. She also reported that Microsoft will offer discounts of as much as 50% off the purchase of Office with a new Mac and said Microsoft has signed a five-year commitment to producing new versions of Office for Mac.

...One More Thing

After announcing that Apple is committed to moving its entire product line to Intel by the end of the year, Jobs pulled out his characteristic "One more thing" and displayed an image of a PowerBook G4 on the screen. After talking about the unsuccessful efforts to put a G5 processor in a PowerBook and the demands of performance per watt for laptops, he announced the MacBook Pro, noting that it delivers four to five times the performance of the current high-end PowerBook.

The MacBook Pro retains a design similar to that of the PowerBook line, but it will be thinner -- according to Jobs, it will be the thinnest laptop produced by Apple. Like the iMac, it will include a built-in iSight camera, and will include Apple's Front Row software and a remote. It will also include the new ExpressCard expansion slot, optical digital audio, and a new magnetic power adapter connection that automatically disconnects if tugged on to prevent damage.

The MacBook Pro will come only in 15.4-in. widescreen models initially, with a dramatically improved display that rivals the Apple Cinema Displays for clarity and brightness. It will come in two models and begin shipping next month. The lower-end model will retail for $1,999 and sport a 1.67-GHz Intel Core Duo processor, 512MB of 667-MHz DDR2 SDRAM (expandable to 2GB), an 80GB SATA hard drive running at 5,400 rpm, Apple's Sudden Motion Sensor, a PCI Express-based ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 video card with 128MB GDDR3 memory, built-in AirPort Extreme wireless networking and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR.

The higher end model will retail for $2499 and offer a 1.83-GHz Intel Core Duo processor, 1GB of 667-MHz DDR2 SDRAM (expandable to 2GB), a 100GB SATA hard drive running at 5400 rpm with Sudden Motion Sensor, a PCI Express-based ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 video card with 256MB GDDR3 memory, built-in AirPort Extreme wireless networking and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR.

Jobs closed the keynote talk by having all Apple employees in the audience who have worked on any of the announced products stand up for applause -- and then showed a picture of himself and Steve Wozniak from 1976 when Apple was founded. April Fool's Day this year will be Apple's 30th anniversary.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

It’s time to break the ChatGPT habit
Shop Tech Products at Amazon