With all due respect to Marc Canter, thank god for Apple. As Microsoft's DRMForSure juggernaut rolled out of Vegas with a full head of cartel-fired steam, even phone guru Russell Beattie was ready to bow before Bill Gates and that personal video device vibrating in his pocket. Though Bill's message was marginally diluted by some demo misfires in his CESdex keynote, the gathering force of Media Center extenders, Scoble's Smartphone, and the tantalizing prospect of being able to watch the West Wing in letterbox format on a one-inch screen at 50,000 feet all conspired to create a surprisingly vivid re-innovation of Steve Jobs' patented reality distortion field.
With all due respect to Robert Scoble, thank god for Apple. When Steve strolled out to center stage with the Mini, he got more applause for the box than anything Bill showed Conan O'Brien. Actually, there was a collective gasp over the size of the box, as it drove home the nuanced multi-threaded message of the Apple play: less is more. The ThinkSecret leaks didn't take the power out of the punchline--they amplified it.
With all due respect to Dan Gillmor, thank god for Apple. They don't call them trade secrets for nothing. Personally, I think they sued for the same reasons Gates called us communists: to protect their business model. Thank god for the EFF, too. Personally, I think the gasp in the Moscone Center should be used as Defense Exhibit A for the fact that no secrets were exposed.
The biggest secret of all was the word not spoken in either Vegas or San Francisco: podcasting. Nowhere to be seen was the rumored Firewire audio breakout box, the reported subject of several subpoenas issued in December. But add up the rest of the announcements, most shipping by the end of the month, and you may notice that Apple has restructured itself around the iPod platform.
1. The iPod Shuffle
Though most of us boomers can't fathom the idea that "life is random" is a feature, the Shuffle's secret sauce is its Playlist mode, turned off by default. Attention: iPodder developers--if you develop SmartPlaylist functionality in your aggregators, you can use attention and other explicit metadata to program iTunes to download, sort, and sequence podcasts while you sleep. Remember, the iPod is the delivery system, the data cache at the end of the pipeline. Of course, if some smart 3rd-party vendor adds a microphone that clips onto the Shuffle, it's a data recorder hanging around your neck.
2. The Mini
For podcasters, this is a $500 studio-in-a-box. GarageBand now supports multitrack recording (eight channels each with their own eq and effects) and the ability to create your own loops. Combine GarageBand with Smart Playlists and slice and dice your podcasts up into "songs" that you can sequence and, more importantly, pull "quotes" for inclusion in other podcasts. Once again, remember that the iPod is the endpoint of the production environment. The Mini is the studio, the mastering lab, where you cut the virtual grooves between the tracks of these next-generation podcasts.
The next version of OS/X will load just fine on the Mini, too. It comes with Automator, which, if hooked up to GarageBand, would provide an automated way to refactor existing long-form podcasts into this new track model. Automator could also build consoles to automate real-time, radio-style production with multiple audio inputs, taking advantage of Tiger's enhanced ability to handle multiple virtual audio devices.
4. iWork and iLife
Keynote, Pages, and iMovie are morphing into a podcast-to-video porting environment. Use Automator consoles to load in podcast segments and annotate them with links, iPhoto transitions, and attention-influenced intelligent caching of related pod- and Mini-casts, and you're well on your way to a read/write version of the RSS-powered multimedia Web. While DRMForSure coddles the cartel, the iPod Platform plays to the customers in the seats.
With all due respect to Bill Gates, thank god for Apple. If Apple didn't exist, Bill, you'd have to invent them. Perhaps you did. It's the real Bill and Steve Show. Two peas in a Pod, that's for sure.